Tag Archives: canning


I took the girls blueberry picking the last weekend in July. This is becoming a tradition, I remember taking them last year when Willow was just 3 weeks old.

This year the berries were so plentiful there were clean, ripe ones literally falling off the bushes. So that occupied Willow. With Windsor’s help I picked seven quarts.

Next came one of my favorite times of year. The week when we all just eat as many blueberries as we can stand. It’s amazing.

But this weekend,,, whole week out from the harvest some were starting to go soft. So I sorted them, put the best quart back in the fridge for snacks, and put the rest into jam:

Five pints of blueberry cinnamon jam. It’s been a long time since I dug out the canner. It felt good!



Our elderberry bush had a really good year. Which means I had enough fruit to try another batch of jam! In fact I had enough even after Windsor “helped” by picking and eating the berries off two or three clusters of fruit.


I did not, however, have enough berries to try and make a seedless batch. Maybe next time… But the seeds are small like raspberries or blackberries so they don’t detract too much from the sauce.

elderberry mush

Oh yes. I said sauce. Because the jam didn’t set. Again. Anyone have a good tip for elderberry jam that actually firms up? I have this problem every time. This time around I added the amount of pectin called for in the recipe AND I cooked an apple down into the berries (apple adds bulk and natural pectin.) It’s pretty good elderberry sauce, I think it’ll be amazing stirred into yogurt. But the surprise winner for jam this year is the other batch pictured here:

elderberry etc

That’s plum orange cardamom. The plums were going squishy in the fridge drawer by the time I made it*. Also they weren’t very tasty fresh. And I only peeled about half of them. But I didn’t want them to go completely to waste so I made up this recipe without even checking the Internet. I think it was something like 2 cups of flesh and juice from some small, slightly bitter, plums and an equal part sugar. One apple, some amount of pectin, a bit of dried orange peel, and a sprinkle of cardamom.

Ohh myyy is it amazing jam. Bright, tart, flavorful, zesty. I’m very sad about how few jars there are.

*these jams, and these photos, are at least 2 months old. This is just how far behind life I am right now.

Blueberry Sage jam

I’ve made another batch of freezer jam. This time I used blueberries we picked earlier this month. But then we went camping, and they got squished in the cooler. So I tossed them into the freezer for “later.”

blueberry jam 1

I’m glad later came this month, instead of next year! Again I just made up the recipe. Apparently having a baby makes me even MORE unable to follow directions… I mixed the blueberries and sugar: three cups of each. And then I let them sit in the fridge for a week. (I swear, I’m not doing this every time on purpose) Finally I cooked them down, tossed in some pectin, and some sage. That last bit was Neil’s idea – and it’s brilliant! Sage complements the blueberries perfectly, earthy and just a little green bitterness to counteract the sweet, fruity blueberry. I used 1.5 tsp for the 3 cups of berries and I highly recommend it! But possibly you should follow an actual recipe. This jam is delightful, but it never quite set up…

blueberry jam 2


Remember those frozen grapes?


They weren’t the focus of that post or of that photo. But they’re back! For this jelly I put the grapes through the squeeze-o, so it’s somewhere between a jam and a jelly. After all that work I left the juice in the fridge for almost a week… That wasn’t part of plant but it turned out okay.

grape jelly jars

When I finally found time to make jam I started looking for recipes and discovered that I maybe shouldn’t have added water to the squeezo to get all the pulp through (reason #2 this is somewhere between jam and jelly) So I kinda had to make things up as I went along… So, 1 quart of pulp/juice/water, plus 2 cups of sugar. (a bit of a guess, but it seemed a safe amount because that’s about how much puree I had originally.) The pectin was the real trick, turns out buying it in bulk means I never know how much to use when recipes always call for “1 packet.” So I guessed (are you sensing a theme?) and added 3 tablespoons.

grape jelly bubbling

But it worked! After about 10 minutes of boiling we had a successful crinkle test. And once in jars the jam set up gorgeously. It’s a deep purple, sweet and a little spicy from the who-knows-what grapes. It’s not crystal clear, I won’t be winning any awards at the fair for this jelly. But in flavor? It’s perfect.

grape jelly


I bought strawberries at the farmstand last saturday. To make jam.


And I pulled last year’s grapes out of the freezer for jelly. I even managed to get them through the squeezo!

Now they sit in the fridge, waiting for the next step*. But so far, I haven’t found the time to sterilize jars…

*Well, the grape juice is waiting. The strawberries seem to be disappearing…

Finished tomatoes

Remember the 75lbs of tomatoes I got earlier this summer? We did, in fact, get them all put up. It just took awhile. Neil and I made the final batch of sauce over two weeks ago. But I was low on energy and time (being almost due at that point) so the gallon of sauce went into two big jars in the fridge and sat for two weeks.

pasta sauce

Finally this weekend we passed Windsor back and forth and managed to get the sauce re-heated, into jars, and canned. Now we have 24 pints of pasta sauce and another batch of ketchup.

Oh yeah, and I picked up 10lbs of cauliflower at the farmstand last weekend. Apparently I believe I’ll have time to freeze it all…

Sauce time!

It’s sauce season! Also known as the time when my favorite tomato farmer calls me up and says It Is Time to pick up my bulk tomatoes

sauce tomatoes

We got 75lbs this year.

What can I say? Neil and I like pasta with red sauce. It’s hands-down our favorite, quick, meal. And why not, when the home-made pasta sauce is so very VERY tasty?!

So the past weekend Neil helped me process half of them into 16 pints of deliciousness.

sauce ingredient prep

It’s a good thing he’s willing to help, because I’m not sure it’s a good idea for me to be on my feet in the kitchen all day right now. So Neil and I took turns manning the squeezo:

sauce squeezo

I’ve told you about my squeezo right? (answer: yes, right here) I still love it. I mean, it’s as old as I am, and it’s been doing yearly service all this time. I’m not going to suddenly stop loving it!

Also on the list of canning hand-me-downs I’ve gotten from my Mom is this giant kettle:

sauce canning

Although it turns out to only hold 14 pint jars (whoops.) But still, it is so large that one burner on my stove will not bring it up to a full boil, not only can it cover two burners, but I actually have to run them both on high to get the water hot enough!

So yeah, that’s the scattered recollections of last weekend. Next weekend will probably look very similar. I have another 35lbs of tomatoes upstairs…

the tomatoes

Since I didn’t grow any tomatoes I knew I would need to find a good source for them in order to make my traditional pasta sauce for winter. A really good source. After all, I usually process upwards of 40lbs of tomatoes, and we usually run out of sauce by March.

pasta sauce a lot of tomatoes

So I put myself on the canning tomato list at Lewis Creek Farm. And when I got the call I drove an hour there (it’s an hour from my work, there’s a mountain ridge in the way…) to pick up my 75lbs of tomatoes.

pasta sauce tomatoes

On sunday I started processing tomatoes. I chopped them up and put them through the Squeezo*. The squeeze pulp and juice came out the other end.

pasta sauce goop

And I squeezo’ed and squeezo’d and squeezo’d some more.

And 2.5 hours later? I’d processed HALF my tomatoes. And I had more tomato goop than would fit into a 4 gallon pot. So I got that simmering, simmered it all evening, and got it low enough that I could add the 2 bottles of merlot** that I needed for this triple-batch recipe.

With the rest of the tomatoes back in the fridge, and the pot on the back burner, I went to bed. I let the whole mess simmer overnight. In the morning I got up and chopped herbs and added spices and drank tea.

pasta sauce herbs

And by lunchtime I had 14.5 pints of delicious, AMAZING herbed merlot pasta sauce. The best (most tiring?) part is that I need to do it all over again soon…

pasta sauce the sauce

*I still love my squeezo, still doing this product placement out of sheer love for the thing!

**This always leads to me wanting to walk into a store and ask for their two largest bottles of cheap merlot.

pasta sauce ingredients

corn and black bean salsa

Good news! When I opened the pressure canner wendesday morning* I had nine pretty little jars of corn and black bean salsa. (I feel like I should note that I’ve never had a jar shatter in any canner. But I have had older jars blow their bottoms off (twice, and some of my jars are decades old) and I had some “limited edition” ball jars where the lids would jiggle off 50% of the time.)

corn salsa3

So YAY! The fresh salsa tastes pretty good (I had half a jar extra which is sitting in my fridge) but I guess I can’t really speak to the texture of the final product, since there is even more cooking during the canning process.

The other thing I should say is that I totally made up the recipe. That’s the great thing about pressure canning. You don’t have to worry about acidity, sugar levels, or anything else. All you have to do is:
Cut stuff up small enough that it heats all the way through.
Cover the stuff in liquid so the heat is distributed evenly.
Don’t add any thickeners that will screw up the heat transfer.
Cook for the full length required for the longest ingredient present.

With those great caveats I’m going to offer up the recipe. I’ll report back when I’ve opened a jar and let you know how the texture turns out.

3C sweet corn
2C cooked black beans
1C diced tomatoes
1C diced onion
1C lime or lemon juice
1/2C cilantro
1/3 of a hot pepper
1/2T salt
9 half-pint jars

corn salsa ingredients

Ingredient Prep
I’m giving all the ingredients in their final proportions. You can use either canned beans, or dried beans from the store. If you have dried beans rinse and soak them overnight first. Next rinse them and cook in clean water for 45 minutes. They were on the firm side of cooked when I added them to the salsa.

For your sweet corn I’d say 3C is going to be between 3 and 5 ears of corn, depending on how big each ear is, and how carefully you cut off the kernels. There are a lot of tips online for cutting kernels off cobs, but here’s what I’ve found works best:

cutting corn

I have a small cutting board inside a big roasting pan. The kernels fall off the cob in sheets and tend to go EVERYWHERE. The roasting pan is big enough to catch them all.

Ok, ingredient prep is the most hands-on, time-consuming part of this process. Once you’ve gotten everything chopped, diced, rinsed, and measured throw it all into a sauce pan. Bring it up to a quick simmer and adjust the seasonings to your own taste. I’m a wimp when it comes to hot peppers, you might want more. Or you might want basil if you can’t taste cilantro properly**. Good news with pressure canning is you can change anything you want. Heck, you could add water instead of the lemon or lime juice, but I think they add to the flavor.

Prepare your pressure canner according to it’s directions. Get the water up to a simmer, heat your jars, lids, bands, etc…
Spoon the salsa mix into your jars leaving 1 inch of head space. Be CERTAIN to add enough liquid to cover all the ingredients. I know fresh salsa isn’t so wet, but for home canning you need that liquid to spread the heat throughout the jar properly. Check for and get rid of any air bubbles. Place in the canner.

Put the lid on so the steam can vent and bring to a hard boil. Let the steam vent for the correct amount of time (varies based on canner size) Then shut the pressure valve/put the weight on.

Once the canner is up to pressure keep it there for 55 minutes. If you’re using larger jars check the time needed for sweet corn in your jar size and use that. When the time is up turn off the heat and let the pressure drop slowly. (This is the part where I went to bed) After the jars are cool check your seals and take pretty, pretty pictures of your new salsa.

corn salsa

Or just eat it over chips. Your call.

(All these photos were taken with the Nikon D60. I’ve quickly moved passed the “I’m so confused and lost!” stage into the “This is such a cool toy and there’s so much to learn!” stage. The prep photos were all taken in the dark of night, so while the quality isn’t quite as good I think it’s MILES better than my point and shoot could do. I’m pretty sure I need one of these for myself. You should all go buy knitting patterns so I can afford one…)

corn salsa2

*It takes a long time for the pressure to let out. I turned that sucker off and just went to bed.

**People who say cilantro tastes like soap are missing the gene that lets the rest of us enjoy it. True fact.

blackberry jam

It took over a pound of blackberries, but I did it! I made seedless* blackberry jam! Smoked cardamom blackberry jam to be exact. I broke out the Squeezo for this process. I love my squeezo** for processing tomatoes and back when my mom gave me hers she included the fine-mesh screen for berry seeds – which I’ve never used before now.

squeezo screens

There is a coarse screen too, for chunky things like squash and apples… Just like with tomatoes it worked like a charm. The fruit goes down into the corkscrew and out comes the juice and pulp

blackberry stuff

While the seeds are pressed out the far end

blackberry seeds

The waste is pure seed, no juice and no flesh. Processing 3 cups of berries gave me 2.5 cups of berry goodness and half a cup of seeds! All this, plus a half cup of whole berries went into the jam pot along with 3C of sugar and half a tablespoon of smoked cardamom.

smoked cardamom

I picked this up on a whim as part of a Penzey’s order. It’s way more intense than regular cardamom and so I’ve been struggling with the best ways to use it. Blackberry jam is so rich, sweet, and strong that it really balances well with the intensity of the smoked cardamom.

Oh! And I have to show you an awesome internet toy I’ve been using. It’s a pectin estimator on the Ball website. You just tell it what kind of fruit, choose jam or jelly, and what sort of pectin you have on hand, and the calculator spits out the list of ingredients! You still have to know how to make jam (aka, what order to mix and cook the ingredients) And it always starts with 1 and 1/3 C of fruit, which is never what I’m using. So I end up doing some math. But since I got my pectin in bulk (from the Mennonite store nearby) I’m grateful for such an easy way to figure out how much to add.

blackberry jam

And this jam is gorgeous, deep, rich purple. I’m very pleased. I think the only fruit I’m still missing from my summer is blueberries. I don’t know how much longer the pick-your-own places will be running either…

*Ok, so I went through all the work of taking the seeds out, and then added a handful of blackberries with the seeds back in. Call me crazy, but I wanted just enough seeds to be able to tell it was real.

**I am in no way affiliated with Squeezo, I just love them.