Adventures in canning.

Well, I finally made myself return the boiling water canner and racks to their winter home high up on the top shelf of the pantry.

I did a LOT of canning this summer, and I’m not done yet:  once I can get my hands on a few bags of Meyer lemons, I’ll haul the canner back down for another round or two.  (There are a few canning projects that I simply must undertake every year, and making Meyer lemon jelly is tops on the list.  You would not believe how good it tastes).

I had a few canning firsts this year, including the batch of lilac flower jelly that I made in early summer (as you’ll recall in this post).  I also tried lemon balm jelly, because for some strange reason I put three lemon balm plants in one of my community garden beds, and of course – cue the laughter from everyone reading this – they grew to insane proportions and tried to suck the marrow out of the universe.  (I thought maybe our wonky weather would keep them down to a dull roar, but apparently they thrive on wonky.  Ah, the delights of the mint family…).  Fortunately, I REALLY like lemon balm tea.  You also need a good pile of leaves to make jelly, so that’s one of the things I did.  I used my standard recipe for making floral jellies and then when I wasn’t watching (first rule of canning:  you ALWAYS have to watch!), I cooked the mixture beyond the gel point and now I have jars of jelly that you can’t spread on toast without a heavy machine operator’s license and the use of a road paver.  Uh, oops.  It tastes mighty fine, though…you just have to wrestle it out of the jars.

Lemon balm 2

The lemon balm that ate the world.  I know we’ll meet again.  Next spring, probably. 

Another new venture was far more successful.  In July, my hubby and I went out to a u-pick farm in Lacombe, nearly 200 kilometres northeast of Calgary.  You have to go out early to pick what we were after:  haskaps (also known as honeyberries, the edible fruit of certain species of honeysuckle) get a bit mushy at high temperatures and become nearly impossible to remove from the branches.  The farm’s owners were scrambling to remove debris from a huge hailstorm the night before and setting up several carloads of people in an adjacent field, where they were picking buckets of huge red strawberries.  We were the only ones out with the haskaps, and after we helped one of the owners pull the bird netting off of a row of the shrubs, I got to work.  This was my first time picking haskaps, but I was prepared for their soft texture:  you don’t yank them off and throw them in buckets as you would with most berries.  They have to be finessed in such a way with gloved fingers (it’s very important to wear the gloves) so that you don’t squish them and then you lay them gently in flat boxes, being careful not to pile too many on top of each other.  While there are haskap cultivars with berries that are less soft than others, I found that in the building heat, they pretty much juiced themselves even with my careful preparation.  I picked almost six pounds of the beauties and most of them were turned into the most incredible jam I’ve ever tasted.  They have a flavour reminiscent of the best blueberries you’ve ever eaten, but tangier.  And waaaaaaaay better.

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I guess I was so busy “finessing” the berries off the shrubs that I forgot to take any decent photos.  Sorry! 

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 I did manage to capture a view of how easy these shrubs are to access for harvesting.  You can sit down to pick the berries and there’s no need for a long reach.

We also picked sour cherries at a farm outside of DeWinton, south of Calgary.  Sour cherry jam is another annual must-do project of mine, but this year I used a low methoxyl pectin and let’s just say, it is necessary to add more sugar than I did.  You may be able to cut it in other recipes but sour cherries are…well…sour.

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I’m reminded that I have a few containers of sour cherry pie filling in the freezer.  Mmmmmmm….

The pectin fared awesomely in the Saskatoon (serviceberry) jam I made – without all that sugar, you really get walloped with the gorgeous sweet-almondy flavour.  I usually make Saskatoon jam (I’d argue about being too lazy to strain the seeds out but I’m too lazy to argue) but maybe next year I’ll change it up and go with jelly.

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Ho boy, now I’m thinking about the saskatoon tarts they make and sell at the u-pick farm.  Now I won’t be able to sleep tonight…I’ll keep getting up to check the fridge to see if a tart has magically appeared. 

Then, there were our foraging trips…one of which lasted a lot longer than intended because we got turned around and then there was some scrambling down hillsides and some swathing through heavy brush and mistakenly ending up on private property (shhhhh)….ahem.   We came out of that with a big bag of chokecherries and rose hips.  The chokecherries ended up in a combo with peach juice and the rosehips in a vitamin C knockout with raspberry juice, and let’s just say we don’t have any jars of those left.  They were worth every spiderweb in my hair and all the scratches on my arms!

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Rosehips

Chokecherries

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Did you do any canning this year (or are you still planning any canning projects)?  Whether or not you make them yourself, what are your favourite jams and jellies to eat?  What about pickles and chutneys?

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39 thoughts on “Adventures in canning.

  1. Inspiring blog post. Now you have me wanting to grow Haskaps.

    Which U-Pick did you go to near Lacombe? That is only a half hour away from home. It would be a great outing with the kids….in summer (LOL!)

    This year I only did crab apple jelly and spiced crab apples for canning. I should have canned more but my helpers slowed me down.

    Do you have recipes for rosehips? Do you need to leave a certain number of rosehips on a bush for the bushes health?

    So many questions…….

    • Haskaps don’t need a whole lot of space, and they’re great for our Alberta climate because they’re so hardy. You do need at least two different varieties to get fruit, though (there is some info about suitable pollinators at http://www.fruit.usask.ca/haskap.html).

      We went to a U-pick called Billyco Junction. They have a B and B there, too, and a café. Very nice place.

      Crabapple jelly is a favourite of mine; I’ve only made it a couple of times, though (no source for crabapples). Spiced crabapples sounds absolutely delicious!

      I’ve made rosehip tea, syrup and used them with other fruits in jelly…I posted my recipe for syrup here: https://floweryprose.com/2012/10/17/recipe-rose-hip-syrup/. And I found this site that gives some great info and recipes: http://wildfoodsandmedicines.com/rosehips/.

      The rose hips contain the seeds, so they’re important for reproduction…plus, birds and other animals love eating them in winter! I always leave a few on each plant when I pick them.

  2. Haskaps do sound good, but I suspect I will not find them here! You were really busy this year. I did a fair bit of preserving, strawberry jam (my all-time favourite!), peach, blueberry, plum etc. But I finally made some elderberry syrup this autumn, which is amazing! I added a few spices – cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods – and it turned out smooth and flavourful. Oh, and I made some more lemon verbena liqueur… yummy!

  3. Great to be reminded of your fruitful canning year. I am pleased to say that I remembered most of your expeditions without having to look them up. How’s that for memory; must be all the berries I ate last summer!!!! My neighbour’s lemon tree is still producing masses of lemons. I won’t be making them into jelly or marmalade but it’s wonderful to have free access to freshly picked lemons when I need them.

    • Oh, that really must be lovely to have fresh lemons close to hand…I wish we could grow them here. But I’m happy that more varieties of fruits are available to us now in the markets – we can get organic Meyer lemons for a few months out of the year, and so many other types of fruit that we couldn’t buy even just a few years ago.

      • Whilst my neighbour has that prolific lemon tree, I have failed 3 times to grow a lemon tree in my garden!!!! So I feel I must join you in saying “I wish I could grow them here” : D : D

  4. I didn’t do any jams or jellies this year – I usually only put up blueberry and plum jelly. But you have such a rich and diverse selection of different types of jellies! I’m amazed. Sounds like some good eating!

  5. Made peach jam with my homegrown peaches (finally had enough to do it) and it was and still is great. If you know the secret to keep the fruit from floating please let me know!

    • Yum – peach jam is fabulous, and extra-special if you’ve grown the peaches yourself! 🙂

      The only thing I’ve ever read to keep the fruit from floating is to skim the jars before sealing…but I’ve found that it doesn’t work all the time. Most of the time it seems to help, though. I haven’t yet figured out why it doesn’t work in some cases.

  6. I really enjoyed your adventures with canning and your honesty about success and failure. I canned lots this year. The usual tomato suace to last the year and then the fruit jams, new this year I made tomato jam, sweet pepper jam… hey I think I should really pot about this like you!

    • I wish I didn’t “micro” garden and had lots of space of my own: I would grow plenty of different fruits and herbs! A large garden can be so much work, though….

      It’s nice to have all these great u-pick farms close by; it seems like more and more are popping up in our province, and they’re growing all kinds of crops. Love it!

      Have a wonderful weekend!

  7. Wow, you did a canned a great selection of stuff, including a lot of unique things that sound really good. I’d love to try the saskatoon jam! We didn’t do as much canning as usual. Judy and Danny and his girlfriend got together and made a batch each of sour cherry, gooseberry, and peach. The gooseberry was good, but more trouble than it was worth to clean the berries.

    • Mmmm, gooseberry jam sounds lovely! I bet it’s a bit of a challenge to prep, though, as you say. But now you’ve got me thinking…maybe next year I ought to try! Peach and sour cherry are definite favourites around here.

  8. Your pantry must be a symphony of colors and tastes!!! Never heard of haskaps before. Toast an any kind of jam, jelly or marmalade with tea or hot chocolate is an very day treat for me. I love strawberry, sour cherry, rosehips jams and apple jellies in particular.
    You might want to try to microwave your sturdy jelly for 30 sec or more to see if it ‘mellows’ a little?
    This year, I made nothing for own pantry! Too much moving around;0)
    thanks for a lovely post! Love, Johanna

  9. What an awesome post. I haven’t canned for years but think about it every summer. That lemon balm story is a hoot. Would love to get the recipe for the rosehip juice you talked of and those blueberries, but better sounds like heaven. do you know anything about canning cranberry sauce? My honey makes the best fresh cranberry sauce I’ve ever had.
    Can’t wait for next summer so I can can something.
    peace n abundance,
    CheyAnne
    http://www.cheyannesexton.etsy.com

    • I’m so sorry I didn’t get to responding as quickly as I would have liked – I think I saw on your latest blog post that you’ve already canned your cranberry sauce (which looks absolutely delicious and pretty)…but I don’t know that I could have offered any advice as I’ve never canned it myself. I usually make it and freeze the leftovers, if there are any. I’m a big fan of cranberries! 🙂
      I do have a link for the rosehip drink syrup here (but without raspberries), if you are still interested: https://floweryprose.com/2012/10/17/recipe-rose-hip-syrup/. You can add raspberry juice to it to taste (and then make jelly out if it if you really want to!).
      I love your amazing art, by the way – I will have to take a look at your Etsy store when I have a moment. Have a wonderful weekend!

  10. There are many wonderful edible fruits growing all around us. Thank you for the information about haskaps. Gratefully, there are likely other wonders in the world about which we have heard nothing yet, too, in the Healing Garden. Please continue to share. A wise scientist once said to me, “We are nonrenewable resources, each of us; and we must learn to conserve ourselves.” Throughout the year, thank you for your pleasing pictures, your helpful information and your tone of inspiration. – The Healing Garden gardener

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