The arrival of Home Canning Season always coincides with the start of County Fair Season. This week the weather has given us an extra incentive to be thinking about ‘putting up’ our fresh fruits and veggies for the upcoming winter. Shocking as it may seem, there has been a hint of fall in the early morning air. I’m hoping that this is merely some meteorological oddity, a poke in the ribs to get me checking on my supply of canning jars. For many years good canning jars were almost being given away at garage sales as women swore that they would never again stand over a steaming kettle on a hot summer day. Since I couldn’t bear the pitiful sight of forlorn, dusty, unloved canning jars, my collection has attained massive proportions.
Over the years I have experimented with canning just about everything. One year I even made mincemeat using venison, despite the fact that I don’t even like mincemeat! Now, in order to can any type of meat you need to use a pressure canner. I long for the old days when we had a you-can-it facility on Simpson Avenue. You could take your tuna, salmon, green beans, tomatoes-everything that is harder to can. It was when they closed their doors that I bought my pressure canner. Most of my canning is done using a simple water bath canner, the preferred method for jam, jelly, fruit, and low acid vegetables. My Bible for canning is a dog eared copy of the Blue Book by Ball. Like everything else, you can now find the complete recipe book online. I’ll stick to my stained and tattered copy until it falls apart.
One of the easiest and most satisfying recipes to start with is Concord Grape Juice. I know, you can buy this at the grocery store- but you have not experienced the exquisite flavor of real grape juice until you’ve made you own. My mother would can dozens of quart jars and we tried to stretch the supply as long as possible. We had to let it sit for two months before opening the first jar, as my mother said that the flavor improved with time. What a relief it was when my first batch came out tasting exactly like mom’s! The only problem is obtaining a large enough supply of grapes, and this year they will be much later in ripening. Now that I manage a farmers market, my web of food contacts is pretty large. By early September I hope to be able to offer grapes, and that gives you plenty of time to start stocking up on large canning jars.
Jam is the next easiest way to begin your career in home canning. If you don’t have time to make jam while the berries are ripe, you can save them in the freezer. Even though strawberry season is long past , jam master Nancy bought many extra flats, cleaned, washed, and froze them. Talk with her if you need them, she’s a soft touch. Raspberries are in the final week of the season- I already ate the last berry of the year from our raspberry patch. Marionberries are a popular substitute for the elusive Little Wild Blackberry. I agree that they’re good, but they lack the tanginess of the LWB. Spooner Farms will allow us to buy some, but the supply is low again this year. Washington Peaches are just starting and should be available for at least the next month. Then comes my favorite fruit- Pears. Luscious, buttery, elegant pears. My mouth is watering already.
Barbara Bennett Parsons, manager of the Hoquiam Farmers Market, and home of Nancy’s jams and jellies. 538-9747, closed only on Tuesdays.
Deidra’s direct phone line is 538-5880, closed only on Sundays