What to do with all the Bounty
“My mom put up lots of fruits and vegetables but never showed me how,” my friend said wistfully as she helped me prepare peaches for the canner. “Even my in-laws canned but always said it was too much work and I wouldn’t want to do it.” I put that sentiment in the same disappointing category as not sharing the European language my parents spoke at home when I was growing up because they didn’t want us to start school “sounding foreign.” Fortunately, we were a 4H family and food preservation was just what everyone did in summer and fall. There were community packing/processing plants that welcomed the public and even provided “seconds” (blemished or off-size fruits) for pennies that we peeled, cut, and placed into cans for their facility to safely process. The local 4H food preservation instructor let my city-raised mother join us kids to learn the art and science of preserving nature’s bounty for the lean times.
Now here is where the wonderful CSU Food Science and Human Nutrition department and Extension experts have really outdone themselves: there’s an app for this! Preserve Smart is available for both Apple and Android platforms and there is an online version as well at . The app focuses on food preservation methods and basics. Users can choose whether they want to preserve fruits or vegetables, and then select their particular type of produce. Preservation options vary depending on the type of produce, but include freezing, canning, drying and making spreadable preserves, like jams and jellies. Preserve Smart differs from any food preservation magazine or book because it allows users to set their elevation before starting the preservation process. Elevation needs to be taken into account when canning, especially in Colorado and other high elevation locations, because if not done correctly, it can be a serious health threat.
Now – jars! There’s a dizzying array of jars out there these days and I’ve seen good used ones at our thrift store for pennies: 4-ounce jelly jars to 2-quart spaghetti sauce monsters. The boiling water in your canner needs to be at least an inch above the jars when you process so take the depth of your canner into consideration when buying jars. There are two choices of openings: standard and wide mouth. Wide mouth are easier to pour and place through. Also consider the serving size of a jar and how long it will take to use the contents once it has been opened. A quart of peaches doesn’t last long at our house, but a pint of jam will go bad because we are only using a tablespoon at a time. I tend to use pints and quarts for whole or sliced fruits and 4-oz and half pint jars for jams and compotes. For gifts – and who doesn’t love a homemade jar of jam at Christmas – smaller jars will give you more goodies.
Finally – rims and lids. Just like the jars, these come in regular and wide mouth and they are 2-piece: the rim is a metal band and the lid is a flat metal disk with a rubber seal that sits on the jar rim. You can reuse jars and rust-less rims, but never reuse lids. Lids and rims and can be purchased together and separately.