7 Recipes for Preserving Fruits and Vegetables

Chow on 09.09.11
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Photo: Lloyd Alter

I first started my love affair (my family might say obsession) with canning and preserving in 2008 when my editor at Planet Green asked me to do a post on it. I was a bit reluctant, because I was concerned about poisoning people via the internet if I didn't get it right. After a bit of reading, I realized that home canning is about as safe and easy as making dinner.

I didn't can much this summer because I was in France, so I missed the berry season, meaning no strawberry jam in February, but now that September is here, I'm in full swing. Last year, if a fruit or vegetable stopped in front of me long enough, I preserved it. I ended up with about 400 jars of jams, pickles, relishes, chutneys and mustards. My only disaster was the 32 jars of green olives which, one year later, are still so bitter as to be inedible. In fact, my job this weekend is to finally empty all those jars so I can preserve my tomatoes.

Don't think that you have to spend days and days in the kitchen making preserves. These recipes are all designed for small batches, so you can make a few jars for your enjoyment over the next few months. Gone are the days when my great grandmother had to "put up" preserves so that her family wouldn't go hungry during the long winter.

If you like, you can refer to my Planet Green post on the procedure for water bath canning, which these recipes are. Just two very important pieces of advice: Follow the recipe as written. The amount of sugar in jams or vinegar in pickles is crucial and reducing them will make for an unsafe product. If a seal doesn't work at canning time, just refrigerate the product and use it up within a couple of weeks. If a seal is loose after it has been sitting on your shelves for a few months throw it away. The bacteria is odourless and tasteless and you can't see it, but it's there and will make you extremely sick. If your seal is good, you can keep those jars in a cool, dark place for a year.

1. Grape Jelly

I originally made this recipe for grape jelly at the request of my 80 year old mother. My grandmother wasn't much interested in cooking, but every fall she got out an old pillow case and made grape jelly for my mother and her sister. It's so much better than what you can buy, you'll be amazed.

2. Bread and Butter Pickles and Dill Pickles

Photo: Kelly Rossiter

I was never a big fan of bread and butter pickles because I found them too sweet for me. Last year I made this recipe that wasn't too sweet at all and loved it, and it's become a pickle staple in my house. Here's a bonus dill pickle recipe as well. This year I bought a case of cucumbers and ended up with 11 jars of bread and butter pickles and 20 jars of dills.

3. Giardiniera

Photo: Kelly Rossiter

Staying with pickles a minute, this giardiniera is a wonderful recipe for mixed pickles. I gave a jar to a friend, then had to give her the recipe because her 3 year old grandson loved them so much. You can eat them straight out of the jar, or add them to chopped salads, or sandwiches.

4. Pear Ginger Jam

Photo: Kelly Rossiter

Don't worry that you kids won't like the ginger in this pear ginger jam recipe, it's a delicate note in the jam, although you certainly know it's there. This is a very popular jam with my weekend cottage guests.

5. Preserved Pears

I totally get it if you don't want to spend an hour chopping up pears for jam. Here is a recipe for preserved pears that's doesn't require quite so much effort. You can use these in desserts, over ice cream, or just on their own for dessert.

6. Pumpkin Butter

Photo: Kelly Rossiter

I realize it's a little bit early for pumpkins, but I'm giving you a heads up for this terrific recipe for pumpkin butter. This is refrigerated, rather than canned in a water bath. You can keep it in the refrigerator for 2 months, or else freeze it for a year. It makes the most amazing pumpkin bread.

7. Canned Tomatoes

Photo: Kelly Rossiter

Okay, I admit, this one is a bit of work, at least if you make it in quantity, as I do. I use canned tomatoes all winter, and this is the one recipe that not only tastes better, but is really better economically. The first year I canned one bushel and after sharing some with my mother and my kids, ran out. Last year I canned two bushels and ended up with 50 some-odd jars. It takes me all day, and into the evening if I'm working alone, but it is well worth it to me.

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