There is almost nothing as rewarding as opening your pantry in December to see neat rows of jam, stewed tomatoes, and dill pickles that you made back in the peak of harvest season. In the age of industrialized food, this sense of accomplishment is the reason many people are still taking the time to preserve their own food. Canning can be a lot of work. However, the rewards of canning your own food are not reserved only for those who have ample amounts of free time on their hands.
For those of us who work, raise children, or attend school, smaller projects such as making jam will preserve your harvest and need not take more than a few hours. Small-batch jam is a great first canning project for someone who does not want to invest too much time or money right away. A few easy steps can be taken to make the canning process even more efficient. To lighten the load, here are a few suggestions for cutting down time and ensuring that your canning experience is positive:
1. Purchase supplies ahead of time. You will need enough jars and lids, pectin, and sweetener for the amount of fruit you have. These items never expire and can be purchased at almost any grocery store.
2. Read the recipe before you start. Find one that you are excited about and read it through a few times before even washing your fruit. If you start cooking before you have read the entire recipe, you will likely skip a step or make a mistake. There are few things as disappointing as a batch of jam that will not set. Save yourself the frustration; read the recipe!
3. Prepare fruit ahead of time. Only the best-looking fruits and vegetables should be used for preserving. Bruised or blemished fruit could potentially contaminate your jam. Cull any overly ripe fruit and cut out any seeds, stems or pits, then be sure to store in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
4. Invite friends to help you. Not only is canning more fun when done with others, you will be amazed at how much time you save.
You do not have to can all of your preserves in one day, or even one weekend. Have fun with it, take your time and work in small batches. Just a few jars every week can turn an empty pantry into one full of delicious jam before you know it.