Canning is one kitchen activity that can intimidate even the most confident cook. The truth is, it's dead simple. Every August I make jars and jars of wild blueberry jam at my parents' house in Maine, and every Christmas I know exactly what I'm giving out as presents. The best part? It takes all of an hour to make the jam, and both the ingredients and equipment couldn't be simpler.
Here are a few tips you may find useful if you're canning for the first time:
• Make sure you have a ladle (metal or plastic), a wide-mouthed funnel, a set of tongs with strong grippers, a large pot or Dutch oven and a rack that will fit inside it, sitting at least 1 inch above the bottom.
• You can reuse jars, but make sure you buy new lids and bands each time you make preserves, or they will not seal properly.
• Run your jars through the dishwasher to both clean and sterilize them right before you start your preserves. Do not remove the jars from the dishwasher until you are ready to fill them. Sterilize all other equipment (lids, bands, ladle and funnel) by putting them in a large saucepan and covering them with boiling water 15 to 20 minutes before you start filling your jars.
• If you are canning anything with low-acidity (vegetables, starches, meat), you must use a pressure canner. If however, you are canning high-acid foods (jams, jellies, most fruits), you can use the water bath processing method (see recipe below). Although some will swear that all you need is hot jam and hot jars, processing in a water bath takes only a few minutes and assures that your preserves will keep safely.
• If you have any further questions about safe canning procedures, this is a helpful site.
Wild Maine Blueberry Jam
Makes 7 to 8 cups of jam
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