Learning to Can

Radish Relish
I’m trying to learn to can with confidence. To me, canning is a foreign skill perfected by 50’s housewives, pioneer women, and their descendants. I’ve always thought of it as a means to save money or combat scarcity- not as a way to preserve seasonal bounty or enjoy the luxuries of ripe summer produce during the depths of winter.

Maybe the tornado changed my mind. All week, i’ve been fantasizing about filling my cabinets with jams, jellies, pickles, relishes, and other condiments. I want something to spice up boring meals on the nights i’m too tired to cook. I want something to thrown on pancakes when there’s no syrup left in the fridge. So, I made learning to can a summer goal. I ordered a bunch of canning books from interlibrary loan and made a list of all the things i’d like to try.

My first few attempts were slightly nerve-wracking. I wasn’t ready to invest in canning equipment, so I used a soup pot, some metal tongs, an impromptu canning rack made of jar rings, and a ladle. In my first three tries (two jams, one relish), I dropped a jar, I burned myself with boiling water, and I spilled 220 degree jam all over the outside of the container I was trying to put it in. Tiring of the potential for mess and injury, I bought an inexpensive canning set. I hear you can find those for much cheaper, so keep your eye out.

This was the last recipe I made before acquiring canning equipment. It’s a tasty radish relish that’s great on steamed vegetables or fish. The recipe comes from Sherri Brooks Vinton’s Put ’em Up!, which is a great book if you’re intimidated by canning and want to start with small batches. Canning & Preserving with Ashley English is another good title. It doesn’t have as many recipes, but it does a good job explaining techniques.

Over the next few weeks i’ll try to keep you updated on my progress. I have several books and types of jars coming in, and i’m looking forward to experimenting.

Radish Relish

adapted from Sherri Vinton’s “Put ’em Up!”
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole coriander
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed
2 pounds radishes, shredded*
1 cup diced onion*
1 (2-inch) knob ginger, peeled and grated*
2 garlic cloves, minced
(* I grated these in a food processor. Saves a lot of energy)

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients and return to a boil, stirring to ensure that all ingredients are heated through. Remove from the heat.

Use the boiling-water method. Ladle into half-pint canning jars, covering the solids by 1/4 with liquid. Leave 1/4 inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rim clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

4 thoughts on “Learning to Can”

  1. This post is inspiring. I have been cooking and baking for a long time and I can tell you I’ve always wanted to be an expert at canning. I have a friend whose mother canned all her life growing up. It’s really the way to learn…to have someone show you who is very experienced. Anyway, my friend cans vegetable and ham and bean soup every fall in preparation for winter. Her bean soup is amazing. One year she gave me a huge basket-full of canned soups as a Christmas present. I’m really intrigued by the idea of canning soup for the winter. What a great idea, huh? She keeps promising to show me how but I’ve yet to get into her kitchen.

  2. The one thing that is so terribly important when one wants to learn how to can is — get yourself educated ! It is a lot more than simply sticking fruits or veggies into a jar ! The wrong procedure can and will kill you !
    Go to your local Extension office and get yourself a new canning book and follow it to the letter of the law !
    Acid foods can be canned in a boiling bath but non-acidi foods HAVE to be pressure canned in a pressure cooker. Do NOT ever use one of those steam canners that I see are still for sale. You absolutely have to do “A Botulism Boil” or it will get you and or spoil.
    Stephanie made a good point of havcine someone “EXPERIENCED” to show you how.
    Good Luck and please be SAFE ~

  3. I love canning! That way we can avoid sodium and msg that appears on the store-bought items! Welcome to this world. I ‘lost’ all my equipment and books in a house fire…so, replacements are top of the list of things to get. Oh, on the canned soups…I freeze them (be sure to leave room at the top)– nice to have when company shows up 🙂

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