I taught myself to make jams and jellies when I was in high school. My parents had a plum tree that had a tendency to put out bumper crops, and mostly they rotted and went to waste. One year I decided to try making plum jam and jelly, and got a huge kick out of it. I used the "inversion method" for sealing the jars, and in retrospect I'm kind of surprised it all worked out.
20ish years later, I've worked my way up to pickling and pressure canning, still all self-taught. Every summer I get a huge kick out of canning whatever I can get my hands on, whether it's blueberries, blackberries, pumpkin butter or pickled asparagus.
One word of caution: this is one realm where the recipe really does count. These have been tested in controlled conditions by food experts, and are "safe" to use at home. Don't substitute ingredients. Don't add or reduce or replace sugar in jams and jellies, as they may not jell properly! If you want a lower sugar option, search the web for one...they exist. Do not modify an existing recipe if you want to can for long-term storage. (For immediate consumption you'll just risk making a mess, not poisoning yourself.) Most recipes that are high-acid and/or very sweet foods canned with the water bath method are relatively safe from the very nasty bugs and generally will just go off color or moldy. Ones canned using the pressure method may be subject to such nastiness as botulism, which is no laughing matter. If your canned food looks "off", or the sealed top springs back up while in storage, or it smells funny, throw it out. Better safe than stomach pumps, I always say.
Stop at the Canning Tips and Tricks if you've never canned before or you have questions before you begin!
- Aronia Huckleberry Jam: My aronia berry plant only gave me 2 cups of berries, so I had to improvise...
- Pickled Asparagus: Cheaper to make your own in this case, and tasty too.
- Pumpkin Butter:
The latest Extension guidelines recommend against canning pumpkins, as their acid content is too low to be deemed "safe." However, I've been doing it for years, under the old guidelines, and this recipe has added sugar and apple juice, which makes it relatively low-risk.
- Salsa: What to do when you have too many tomatoes.
- Strawberry Kiwi Jam:
A nice recipe if you have less fruit than for a full batch of strawberry jam. Only requires 3 cups.
- Strawberry Rhubarb Cardamom Jam: An unusual, pectin-free jam which would make nice gifts!
- White Chocolate Brownie Mix: Not exactly "canning", but it is a gift you put in a jar, so here it is.