By Pia Hinckle
Peaches! Tomatoes! Blackberries! Oh my! The peak of summer harvest brings an embarrassment of riches to your table. Why not preserve some of your favorite summer tastes for later in the year? Here’s a basic primer on canning, or jarring, that anyone can do. You can jar fresh tomatoes, fruits, and vegetables, or sauces and soups. My family makes huge batches of tomato sauce each September with a recipe from my great-grandmother and then jars it so we can enjoy it all year. Michael Pollan, author of “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto,” wrote in The New York Times Magazine in August that obesity rates correlate with how much time people spend preparing and cooking food. Believe it or not, the more you cook, the less likely you are to be obese. (FYI, putting frozen food in the microwave doesn’t count as cooking!) So enjoy the bounty of summer and preserve some of it for later.
Equipment: Mason jars with lids (wide-mouth jars are easiest to fill). Always use new lids.
Canner or large pot or metal roasting pan to boil jars
Jar tongs and/or potholders
Ladle, clean dishtowel, and an indelible marker
Sterilize your equipment: start by washing all your jars and lids in the dishwasher.
Prepare your food to be preserved. For example, prepare fresh fruit (raw fruits and vegetables may require specific treatments. Consult a cookbook or pickyourown.org or similar website for recipes. Most raw fruits and veggies go into clean jars with liquid and are closed with an already boiled lid, and then the jar is placed in boiling water to seal.) If you make your favorite tomato sauce recipe, keep it at a gentle simmer until you are ready to ladle it into your boiling hot jars.
Boil jars and lids. Get your pot going at a good gentle boil then put jars and lids in. They must be submerged. Boiling kills bacteria and ensures a seal.
Remove one jar at a time and ladle boiling tomato sauce into jar. Leave a little space at the top. Before getting lid, make sure lip of jar is clean of any sauce. Put on lid; tighten ring and set aside. Repeat until done.
As jars cool you should hear a little “ting” as each lid seals. Check within 24 hours by pressing on top of lid. There should be no give and no sound. Label and store in a cool dry place. If jar hasn’t sealed properly, put it in the fridge and eat.
There are many websites that can educate you on the dos and don’ts of canning. See pickyourown.org or organicgardening.com. Most of these sites also sell canning supplies if you need them. Many can be found at your local supermarket as well.