Preamble: this is by no means an exhaustive post with everything you need to know about canning and preserving food. Because I absolutely don't know even close to everything, and I rely on people who do this sort of thing professionally. So I'm going to direct you to some of my favourite sources for information, recipes, and inspiration, and share some of the recipes you requested. Because canning is the best of the best. Also, I haven't been paid in any way by anyone to share the links below! You can find the items you'll need at many, many places. And I always borrow books from the library first.
I love canning. It was in 2010-11 that I made my first canned goods, and it was one of the most satisfying things I had ever done. Not to mention one of the most beautiful! I was on maternity leave after having my second son. I canned ALL OF THE THINGS. Peach Lavender Jam, cranberry sauce, rosehip and lemon syrup, salsa, dill pickles, rhubarb jelly, meyer lemon jelly, ground cherry jam, plum jam, green tomato chow (chow chow) and on and on it goes. (Those links are to my old blog where I posted all of these things back in the day. Poking around back there makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and nostalgic, especially when I see the pictures of the boys when they were little. Oh, my heart!) Right now, my heart is happy every time I look in the pantry or fridge - there are sweet pickles and blueberry jam from our neighbour on the fridge door, and grape jam, gooseberry jelly, and an assortment of other beautiful delicious foods made with love from friends. That makes my heart grow three sizes.
Edited to add: I somehow missed including the following two paragraphs when I first published the post last night - that should show me not to publish posts before bed!
Where to begin? For those of you who have never canned before and don't know what any of the terms mean, this is the first post for you: Water Bath Canning over at Food in Jars. Marisa also has an online jam making class that you can purchase for $9.99 and watch to your heart's content, if you prefer video! Most canning books will include instructions for preparing your jars, etc. - read that section carefully. Food in Jars is great, as is the Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving. Absolutely check them out from your library and go through them with a cup of tea!
You will need a few things that you should be able to find easily at your grocery or hardware store. Canning jars. 250mL (1 cup) jars are a good place to start, especially if you'll be making jam (which I think is a great place to start.) They have specific lids that are safe to can with, and are made with glass tempered to handle temperature changes. You'll also need a jar lifter (I have this one and love it - it's much more secure than the one that comes in the starter kit, but that one's fine to start with), a lid lifter (makes it so much easier!), a canning pot and rack. You can buy beginner sets with everything, and you can sometimes find the items at yard sales or thrift stores. Even better if you can borrow everything from a friend to see if canning is for you! (And maybe they'll even help you out your first time.) You will reuse everything except for the flat disc lids that go on the jars, so although the initial investment costs a bit, everything should last you many years. There! Now that you have a starting point...
If it's your first time canning, start with a simple jam that you love. It's an easy way to get the hang of it, and fresh and frozen fruit and berries are easy to come by at most times of year. Pick a recipe from any of the sources I listed above, and you'll do just fine - promise!
The Basic Tomato Salsa recipe that I make and love is from Food in Jars by Marisa McLellan, my favourite canning book. You can find that recipe here. It's really acidic and fresh tasting, which I kind of love; the boys find it a bit too vinegary. You can make the recipe and serve it fresh, if you like. When it's cooked a bit and canned it still has that fresh-ish flavour, waaay better than anything on the grocery store shelves. (Although if you're not going to make your own and want a completely delicious option, Garden Fresh Gourmet makes a terrific fresh salsa that's often in the deli at many grocery stores. It's pricey, but sooo good. And if you were sneaky, you could take it to a potluck in one of your bowls, and no one would ever know that you hadn't made it. Unless it was me.) In fact, if you were not planning to can it, you could certainly make a batch fresh and use a bit less vinegar.
The refrigerator dill pickle recipe that I made two weeks ago is from here. I omitted the garlic initially, but just tasted them and I think they'll be better with it, so I'll toss in a couple of cloves. I love the texture of a refrigerator dill vs a regular canned dill; they're just fresher and crunchier, but still tangy and pleasant.
The whole canned tomato recipe is also from Food in Jars (am I sensing a theme here?) and the recipe is available here. Super simple, but it is a 45 minute water bath processing time to take into account. We use a lot of canned tomatoes as a base for soups, etc. so I love having some of these on hand.
And this pepper relish recipe from my sister-in-law's mother (thank you, Carol!) is amazing. AMAZING. Rather than use the paraffin, I used regular canning jars and lids and did a 10 minute water bath in the canner. I also added two finely diced jalapenos. It's sooooo good. With cream cheese and wheat thins, it's perfect, and it's also really nice on thick salty nachos. This was one of those recipes that I just had to get the recipe for after I tasted it. And peppers are readily available right now!
There are a few other things I do to preserve some of our favourite summer foods. We freeze a lot of berries, which we can then use in smoothies, for baking, to top oatmeal or granola, or to put into jam if I'm feeling like doing some mid-winter canning. That's also a great tip if you're super overwhelmed with produce right this minute - you can freeze fruit and berries, and just use them as though they were fresh to make a batch of jam. If you're super keen and on-the-ball, you can even check your recipe beforehand and measure them out into just the amounts your recipe requires.
I use my dehydrator a lot through the summer, mostly for herbs. We haven't had a glut of cherry tomatoes, but I would like to try dehydrating some of those sometime. I did dehydrate a LOT of rosehips last summer, which I use to make teas. Doesn't that just sound so romantic, and competent of me? A friend of mine has given me some rosehip jelly (a very popular traditional jelly around here, since the rosa rugosa loves our salty coastline) which I'm looking forward to opening.
If you have never canned anything, take heart! It does not require all day, you can make small batches, and if you follow some basic steps and learn a bit about the science behind canning, you will not kill anyone, and even better, you will be confident that you won't. I have a few recommendations for more information.
Theresa Loe has an excellent podcast that outlines in detail all kinds of recipes for canning and preserving. She hosts an online canning academy a few times a year, and I completely trust every word from her mouth. She can break anything into completely manageable and understandable instructions for a beginner without making it sound dumbed-down.
Small Batch Preserving - another great book!
If you've never canned anything, I hope that this inspires you to take a step toward it, even if it's just borrowing a book from the library. Even if you aren't ready to do the water-bath canning to preserve something long-term, you can try lacto-fermenting vegetables in your kitchen! Or refrigerator pickles! Or you can make jam and freeze it instead of canning it. It is soooo satisfying. And you'll be glad you did when you open that jar of salsa in February and taste late summer. Have fun!