We knocked on her door not sure what to expect. It was Saturday in July and my hubby and I were sans toddler. For the next 4 hours we were in the hands of Cindy Shipp and we were there to can. You know it’s going to be a good experience when you sit down to no less than 10 delectable, artisan “dippers” with appropriate accouterments. Cindy, of SB Canning, is an incredibly gracious host and is passionate about sharing both her knowledge of canning and her loot of homemade goodness (we got to try her Cabernet Wine Jelly and Strawberry Margarita Jam. To die for! Ya, ya…I see the booze connection too).
Canning is something I’ve been wanting to try for the last 10 years. Seeing the plethora of in-season produce at farmers market almost begs you to can. To be able to enjoy preserves made from Vincent Farms Royal Blenheim Apricots in February? Bliss. The class started off with Cindy talking about why she became a Master Preserver and explaining the differences between the two major types of canning: water bath and pressure method. 7 students snacked, listened and prepared, because it was our turn at the stove.
We made peach preserves. Cindy had purchased beautiful, fresh peaches from farmer’s market prior our arrival. Above in the picture are the pitted, peeled, sliced, sweetened and “pectin-ized” peaches cooking in a pot.
Jars, lids and rings must be sterilized prior to being filled. We each practiced adding jars into the water and taking clean jars out. Sounds simple, but a little nerve-racking. You don’t want to be the one person who drops hot glass on the tile floor.
We learned about removing air bubbles, wiping jar rims clean, and magic of hearing the vacuum seal pop. Canning is simple, but meticulous and scientific. There is acidity, pectin levels, and headspace to think about. We were all beginners and our heads were swirling at the amount of things to think about.
When I told my mother-in-law that we were taking a canning class she reminisced how when she lived back East in the 70′s she had a huge vegetable garden. Canning was done all summer long so they would have canned tomatoes and vegetables during the winter. “You didn’t go buy a jar of tomatoes for spaghetti sauce. You went down to your basement and grabbed a jar that you canned yourself.” Wow, how things have changed. Most people don’t have a garden and don’t know how to can these days. Let’s bring these things back!
Cindy sent us all home with a jar of our freshly made peach preserves (see picture at top) and let us pick something yummy from her amazing canning pantry. Hubby went home with chili and I got rhubarb muscat jam. Check out the Kiwi Spiced Tea Jam that a few lucky folks scored (see picture below). Since my hubby and I each got a jar of preserves, we gave one away. Our neighbor, Betty, regularly shares her canned goods with us; she makes amazing concord grape jelly from the grapes that grow on our fences.
Aside from being highly creative, canning is like cooking in that you know exactly what’s in your food and can choose the best ingredients possible. Plus, it is awesome to be able to share and give away your creations! If you are interested in learning how to can, there are many options. Check your community college, adult education, or online for canning instructors. If you are in Santa Barbara, CA, I highly recommend taking Cindy’s SB Canning class. For more information, visit: www.sbcanning.com. Before I end, I will share with you a VERY corny canning song (this is what happens when you blog after midnight):
Ode to Canning
(sing to the tune of Happy Birthday)
ketchup, chutney, salsa, relish
mar-ma-lade, jam and jelly
stew and chi-li, soup and beans
we love can-ing, yes we do