I think I can say “I can can” now. I’ve done a couple small batches of jams so far, but I think I finally have the hang of it. And I did two full canner loads of pints today – a total of 15 pints and 2 half-pints. And this after helping a friend do something like 15 quarts of pickles this morning.
I’ve got a nice rhythm down: Prepare all the fruit. Fill the canner with water, load with clean jars, and start bringing it up to heat. Put the lids and bands into the electric hot pot (there’s only so much room on the stove) and turn it on. Put the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice into my 2 biggest pots to cook. At this point, I find it makes little difference if the pots have the same fruit or two different kinds. Once the jars and lids boil, turn those burners off.
Simmer the fruit as long as is necessary – I find blueberries will gel if you simmer them 10 minutes after they come to a rolling boil. Strawberries and cherries need more like 15-20 and are often still a bit runny – which is fine by me. I stir constantly and never really leave the stove. When they are about gel, I turn the canner full of jars back on to a boil and plug the hot pot back in.
(Click the pic for a larger, annotated version.) I fill jars one at a time. I place a silicone hot pad on the counter next to the stove and use the jar lifter to get one jar out of the simmering canner. I dump the hot water out of it, place it on the hot pad, and fill it with jam using a big spoon and a canning funnel. Place the funnel aside on a plate, wipe the rim of the jar, place the lid and band on it, and settle it back into the water bath. By the time I’ve done all 9 jars, the water bath is almost boiling again. If it needs more water to cover the jars, I dump in the water I used to sterilize the lids, which is very hot. I pop the lid on the canner, bring it back to a rolling boil, and process the jars for 12-15 minutes.
Any cold, clean-ish water (e.g., from washing the fruit) gets caught in a dishpan and dumped on the garden or fruit trees. Any scalding-hot water gets dumped on the thistles trying to grow in the mulch near the foundation of the house.
Now that I know how it all goes, I don’t feel rushed or hurried. I’m not very worried about gelling, as these preserves will go into yogurt, so it’s pretty no-muss, no-fuss.
And now it’s dinner time. What’s your favorite dinner to eat after an afternoon of canning? I’m tempted to go out, but that seems…wrong somehow.
Yields and recipes:
- 10 lb blueberries = 3 batches of 8c. blueberries + 3.5 c. sugar + 2 Tbl lemon juice = 3.5-4 pints per batch (3 cents per 1 Tbl serving)
- 3 quarts black cherries + 4.5 c sugar + 7.5 Tbl lemon juice = 4.5 pints (7 cents per serving)