Holiday Gift Giving, Part 2
There are a few supplies other than Mason canning jars that you really need to get before canning high-acid foods (fruit, tomatoes, and pickled goods). The most useful is a water-bath canner (which runs $20 to $30), a wide-mouth funnel, a canning rack, and a jar lifter (many places sell kits, which pretty much include everything you need and run about $50). If you don’t want to buy online, many local hardware stores sell canning supplies.
If you’re making jam or jelly, you need pectin, your fruit of choice, and sugar. I generally use Sure-Jell Certo liquid pectin, and I recommend buying the pectin first?in every package, there’s a huge page of instructions and recipes for all different types of fruit jams. I then buy the fruit and the sugar after I consult the recipes so that I buy enough of it (trust me?you do not want to run out of sugar in the middle of making jam!).
Once you’ve made basic jams a few times, you can start to get creative. Last year, I made a pomegranate–red pepper jelly, and this year I’ve so far made blueberry–red tea jam, mango-rose jam, and strawberry-plum-ginger jam. Making jam and jelly is not nearly as hard as one might think, and your loved ones will be ecstatic when they receive such a thoughtful present.
When giving the gift of jam, I take a couple of different approaches. If I am giving it to people in person, I generally bake a loaf of bread, wrap the jam and the bread in fabric, and place them in a basket. If I’m mailing the presents to friends, I generally buy some tea and a teacup, box them all together, wrap it up, and send it off.
If you really get into canning foods, I recommend picking up the USDA’s a Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving?it is an extremely comprehensive resource, and no one who cans (other than occasionally making jam) should be without it. Happy canning!