Friday, September 4, 2009

Canning swap parties

It's still not too late this season to can some fruits or vegetables--whether it's the harvest from your own garden or the bounty you brought home from your local farmers' market.

But unless you want to embark upon a canning marathon to achieve a nice variety of canned goods, what does one do with 28 jars of peach jam (other than eat a lot of peanut butter and peach jam sandwiches)?

One awesome solution is to have a canning swap party, a very cool idea a friend told me about over at Food Routes. And it's really easy to do. Gather your friends who are canners; have each person bring their canned goods--canned fruits, salsa, pickles, jams, etc; and swap canned items with each other, giving extra credit (i.e., extra jars) for more-difficult-to-produce items.

If everyone can bring enough items to the party, you can even open a jar for a taste test.

Here are some tips for hosting your own swap party:
1. Plan ahead, if possible, and remind fellow canners throughout the growing season to keep everyone motivated.
2. Try new recipes.
3. Be aware of how time-consuming some items are, and trade fairly.
4. Consider including other preserved items, such as dried fruit, jerky, or home-brewed beer.

If you've never tried your hand at canning before, do it this year. It's really quite easy. The Pioneer Woman has great illustrated tutorials on making jam here and here. My only addition to her instructions is to be sure to alter your boiling time based on the elevation where you live. The higher the elevation, the longer you need to boil the jars (i.e., at less than 1,000 feet, boil for 10 minutes, and increase boiling time by 1 minute for each additional 1,000 feet of elevation). When in doubt, check out the USDA food safety page for some guidelines.

Jam 002

And don't be afraid to try new recipes or make your own. For the last two years I've made a wide variety of jams. Shown here in the top row are peach cherry and apricot cherry jams (made from cherries from the husband's uncle's cherry orchard and our apricots), and on the bottom row are spiced peach, orange pear, and plum jam (made from our own blood plum trees). I also created some other recipes including peach almond, ginger pear, and cranberry pear jams, but they were dang good and we already ate all of them.

So, take some time over the holiday weekend and try it out if you've never done it before.

Happy canning!

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