One of the best things about summer is all the fresh, locally grown food. It tastes so much better than the stuff trucked in from who knows where that you find in the stores in the middle of winter, and costs much less. It’s healthier because it’s not full of hormones, sugar and other additives. This year, don’t resign yourself to eating from a can when the temperatures drop; save some of summer’s bounty to enjoy later by canning!
Canning has a long history and the Ball brand canning jars have been around since 1884. Great grandma’s jars may have been clear glass, but today’s jars also come in blue and green with matching lids and bands. You don’t have to run out and buy brand new ones; jars from Goodwill, yard sales or Great grandma’s house are safe to use as long as they’re not cracked or chipped. Buying new lids and bands are a good idea, since they can bend and rust.
You can reuse old jars, but unless you have someone who is going to walk you through the process, you’ll need reference materials. Jarden Home Brand’s website (maker of Ball jars) is full of tips, recipes, and just about anything you’d need, short of someone to deseed the jalapenos.
Don’t rely on old recipes, especially if you’re canning tomatoes. The tomatoes we grow today are different than the ones grown in the past and therefore must be processed differently to avoid spoilage. Nothing will ruin your drive to “eat fresh, eat local” year round than a bout of botulism. The Scott County Extension Office has a variety of resources for canning fruits, vegetables and even meat. You don’t have to leave the kitchen to access these resources; they’re free pdf downloads!
Don’t worry if you didn’t plant a garden this spring, or the weather did a number on your tomato crop. Take advantage of the numerous farmers markets in the Quad Cities! Many of the vendors have specials on fruits and vegetables that didn’t grow properly, but taste as good as their neighbors. I recently picked up a big box of “ugly” tomatoes for $8 that might not look nice on a BLT but will taste great on a pile of noodles this winter. The best part about buying from a farmers market is that the money stays locally and won’t end up funding some CEO’s mansion on the coast.
There’s still lots of time before the killing frost shuts down the growing season, so get those jars now, before they’re sold out!