I thought my canning days were over.
As a new mom, I can barely find time to make dinner, let alone haul out the equipment and devote hours to canning sessions.
My salvation has been freezer jams and refrigerator pickles. These recipes make it so easy that I can have the satisfaction of creating homemade peach jam or bread and butter pickles in the time it takes to bake a frozen pizza. Plus, who can resist taking advantage of summers bounty when the farmers markets are overrun with berries, peaches and pickling cucumbers?
Plus, for beginners, these recipes are an easy introduction to making homemade pickles and preserves without all the labor or equipment of traditional canning. Thats exactly what inspired Durham native Pamela Bennett to write Jams & Jellies in Less than 30 Minutes.
I wanted to take the intimidation factor out of canning, Bennett says. I think a lot of people love the idea of canning but see a grandmother with a water bath canner and paraffin.
Bennetts book focuses on jams and jellies that will last about three weeks in the refrigerator or a year in the freezer.
Most of her recipes couldnt be simpler. They have only four ingredients: fresh fruit, sugar, pectin and an acid, such as lemon or lime juice. The most you have to do with traditional pectin is combine it with water and boil for a minute before adding it to the fresh fruit and sugar. (With instant pectin, you dont even have to turn on the stove. You combine the pectin with sugar and add fresh fruit and acid.) After three minutes of stirring, you pour it into straight-sided plastic containers. After 24 hours in the refrigerator, you have homemade jam or jelly to stash in the freezer or enjoy immediately.
Refrigerator pickles are just as simple. You make a brine with vinegar, often water, and seasonings. You heat the brine to dissolve the salt or sugar, pour that over your sliced cucumbers or other vegetables, and after 30 minutes to 24 hours, you pack in jars and stash in the refrigerator. In a few days, you have homemade pickles for your hamburgers and hot dogs or potato salad.
And theres a whole world of recipes for freezer pickles, relishes and salsas, which take no more time.
You get a very quick sense of accomplishment, says Judy Harrold, consumer affairs manager of Jarden Brands, which owns Ball brand canning supplies. It gives you more confidence to move on to the next step.
Its good to know that homemade pickles and preserves are within reach until you are ready for that next step, whether it happens next growing season or when your child can bake her own frozen pizza.