Canning and Preserving: A Season’s Reflection and Looking Ahead

by autumn on November 3, 2011

I am reluctant to announce the end of preserving season because, well, it’s kind of a big ol’ lie. I am so looking forward to marmalade-making and it’s a good thing apples will be around all winter because I’m going to need more apple butter to get me through. But. It is true though that high time for putting stuff in jars is coming to a close.

If you’ve been hanging around this space with me for a while, you know that I just properly learned to can and preserve at the end of last summer (from these fine ladies). I fell in love fast because it spoke to all my little obsessions: thrift, self-sufficiency, and good food. Plus, as a person with a super-fun autoimmune disease, it behooves me to know just exactly what I am shoving in my face. As with any good love, I quickly felt like canning was something that I wanted to be a part of my life for a long time.

This year, although I had a full season’s produce at my disposal, I was (am) a complete amateur. I want to share some of my successes and proud moments from this year and some goals for the future. 

Highlights and Successes:

  • A successful no-added-pection jelly: Enough said.
  • Pick your own: I found that, even carless, U-Pick was a viable and relatively affordable option. We tacked on orchard stops to every trip we took outside the city this summer! I picked at the following placess in the Northeast this year: Linvilla Orchards, Greig Farm, Lewin Farms, and Fishkill Farm. Thanks, Zipcar!
  • A good method for getting jars: Like many things in the city, there’s a calculus to finding affordable jars. I feel good that I’ve found a method that works for me
  • Maceration: I learned what it was and saw what great things it can do for jams and preserves. Check out Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber if you want to hop on the macerating bandwagon!
Stuff I learned and goals for the future:
  • Test for doneness: I am fully prepared to blame this on my $3 IKEA digital thermometer, but I learned that (for me) the best way to test for doneness with jams and preserves is the spoon-in-the-freezer method. If I cook things to 221 degrees I get something closer to hard candy than jam.
  • Pomonas Pectin: I love it for jellies. I made the Rhubarb Jelly from Put ’em Up! with Pomonas and was so happy with how it turned out. For jams and preserves, it sort of drives me nuts. I’ve gotten weird gelatinous sets and icky fruit float. Does this happen to you?
  • Preserve in shifts: Next year, for big projects like tomatoes, I want to preserve what I need bit by bit, rather than all at once. This totally bit me in the butt this year. I waited too late to do all of my tomatoes and didn’t get to do any at all.
  • Make more basics: I really love making jams and preserves and experimenting with their flavors. Rhubarb Lavender Vanilla Bean Preserves? Yeah, I made that. However, I have found that kitchen staples like ketchup, salsa verde, and pickles are perhaps a bit more useful than the fanciest jam that I dream up. I hope to spend a bit more time on the basics next year.
Favorite creations: These passed the test and I’m definitely making them again next year.
Your turn! What was your biggest accomplishment this season? Did you discover a recipe or book that you’re going to be using for years to come? 

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Aimee @ Simple Bites November 3, 2011 at 11:36 pm

This made me so happy, Autumn! I always love to hear of people getting bit by the canning bug. And Rhubarb Lavender Vanilla Bean Preserves? I don’t think you can call yourself an amateur any more. 🙂


2 autumn November 5, 2011 at 11:09 am

Thanks so much, Aimee! Lavender is one of my absolute favorite flavors and there’s a great lavender producer on Long Island, so I can even get it locally! I have to stop myself from putting lavender in almost everything.


3 Georgie November 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Wonderful post! I bet you could bottle up the Rhubarb Lavender Vanilla Bean Preserves and sell it at some swank store! I’m not close to canning yet, thought I once assisted in a infomercial in a how to tutorial; I think it scared me!


4 autumn November 5, 2011 at 11:05 am

Thanks, Georgie! You can always make jams and preserves in smaller batches for the fridge. I find that very rewarding too.


5 MsMarieH November 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I had several great results in this year’s canning. One was peach pit jelly (made with the skins and pits of 50 pounds of peaches that I put up). It was PHENOMENAL – a beautiful color and a soft delicate peach flavor. I tried Blueberry Citrus Conserve from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. It recieved RAVE reviews and is definitely a keeper, with requests for the recipe from several non-canners. LOL. Third, I made salsa for the first time and it turned out fantastic. Hubby absolutely loved it and said it was better than store bought. I so love canning! 🙂


6 autumn November 5, 2011 at 11:04 am

I’ll have to look up that blueberry citrus conserve in the ball book. It sounds great and I stashed some blueberries in the freezer this summer 🙂 Thanks!


7 Jay Geneske at Local Me November 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Lavender Fig?! That sounds amazing. I’m new to canning this year, so kept with the basics..pasta sauce, pear butter, etc. Will add this to my list!


8 tigress November 18, 2011 at 7:35 am

so happy the canning bug bit you too! 🙂 looking forward to more jarred goodness coming outta your kitchen!


9 Eugenia December 28, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Your projects sound terrific! I get the floating fruit with Pomona, too, especially with strawberry and raspberry. If you let the cooked jam sit in the pot for a couple of minutes after it’s done, that helps. Pushing down the fruit when you put it in the jar also helps.


10 Sharyn April 20, 2012 at 12:08 pm

My biggest accomplishment is a toss up between spicy dilly green beans and blackberry peach jam. I put up too many tomatoes (warm winter meant less soup made); need work on pickles – most were soft


11 kelly @ kellybakes March 7, 2013 at 5:10 am

YOU WERE AT LINVILLA IN 2011?! Given the fact that I had a car and made frequent trips to pick everything they offered in 2011 (yes, I even stress fruit-pick) I would not be surprised if we were there at the same time before we even knew each other! Oh Universe, you work in such funny ways!


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