Canning is a great way to preserve vegetables and fruit for the winter months. I started canning three years ago and I started off very cautiously. The first year I canned sliced peaches, applesauce and apple pie filling. Everything turned out fantastic and it was easier than I expected. Since then I have tried pickles, peach jam, strawberry jam, blueberry jam, peach salsa, apple butter and apple jelly. Last year we did not purchase any jam. It was so nice to use homemade jam all year!
When you purchase your fruit, go to your local orchard. Many times they have fruit that is really ripe that they offer at a discount. Ripe fruit is perfect for canning. You can cut the bad spots out and the peeling is easier on riper fruit.
If you are new to canning, it really helps to have someone assist you. It does take time to peel, pit and chop fruit. Blanching peaches and tomatoes makes peeling easier. I have found that cutting an X in the bottom of the fruit before blanching, makes peeling even easier. Having two people during the jarring phase makes it much easier. One person to pour the hot contents in the jars and one person to place the lids on.
The biggest rule for canning is never walk away from the stove! It never fails, as soon as you walk away the blueberry jam boils over onto the stove top! Another thing to remember is to keep your jars hot, so they don’t crack when placing them into the water bath. Follow the recipes instructions on how long the jars should stay in teh water bath. The sweetest sound after removing the jars from the boiling water is…POP! That is when you know the jar is sealed.
For preserving vegetables, I prefer to freeze them. One thing that is usually prolific in many gardens is zucchini. I take a few zucchini at the end of the season and grate them for zucchini bread in the winter. I will measure out two cups of grated zucchini and then place it in a freezer bag. Make sure to express all of the air or use a vacuum sealer. When you are ready to use the zucchini, place it in the fridge to defrost. Then pour the pre-measured amount right into the batter!
You can flash freeze produce such as berries, bell peppers or onions. Flash freezing makes it so the pieces don’t stick together into a big clump. For the peppers and onions, you will want to chop them into small pieces. I freeze berries whole. Place the produce on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer for a few hours. Then place the produce into freezer bags.