It’s canning season! To get in the spirit, Margaret of A Way to Garden and I are hosting a canning extravaganza and giveaway thanks to our newest sponsor, Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. Giveaway details can be found at the bottom of this post.
Canning is joyful, fun, and creative activity, but make no mistake, it is work. I’m not sure if it is the creative impulse or the fact of the hard work, but all canners inevitably seem to follow a trajectory that begins in hesitation and fear (OMG will I accidentally kill my friends and family!?), and ends in crazed jar hoarding and pimping. Many of you have followed along on this website or social media where I have mentioned the lengths I have gone to to acquire and schlep home pretty jars that I can’t buy here in Canada. For practical and budgetary reasons I still put up the bulk of my wares in the cheapest jars I can find wither thrifted or new, but the fact remains that I want the aesthetics of my handiwork to reflect the quality of the work I put into filling them. I gotta have nice jars!
I’ve tried all manner of jars over the years, and so far the jars that I love and covet most are simply crafted, glass and rubber works of art made by a German company called Weck. I bought my first set of fancy pants Weck canning jars 4 years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. Several boxes later and I have managed to assemble a collection that includes at least one of very nearly every size and shape in their catalogue. The first jars I bought back in 2008 were the larger deco and tulip designs. They are absolutely gorgeous jars to be sure, but I immediately discovered that their awkward sizing and shape makes them difficult to can. I fumbled around over the course of two years, sustaining several minor burns, before giving up and deciding that they would be better used elsewhere.
When it comes to practical applications as well as canning ease my favourites are the Mini Tulips and the straight-sided Mold Jars. They’re great for canning condiments, jellies, and jams, and they are easy to can using standard canning tools.
Fortunately, the jars that are not best suited to canning with standard tools have all sorts of practical applications. I use the very tiniest jars for storing herb infused salts, spices, and seeds. The largest jars are great for making herb or fruit infused vinegars and alcohol as they do not have parts that can be corroded by acid. They also make perfect, stackable fridge storage containers. My favourite use for them is for storing edible flowers and herbs in the fridge longterm. Zucchini flowers only last a day in a normal plastic container, and they will wilt quickly in a typical, metal-topped Mason jar. However, they last for ages in the all-glass Weck jars as do roses, nasturtiums, and even day lilies. They’re genius!
Since our sponsor Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply is offering up cases of six mini-tulip Weck canning jars as prizes, I thought it would be fun to include a beginner level, seasonal jam recipe that would be perfect for this particular jar size. If jam is not your thing, I suggest my Old-Fashioned Tomato Catsup recipe. I do batches of this up every year and the tulip jars are the perfect size. I also do up several of the Mini Mold and Mini Deco jars as they pack just enough for a single-meal serving portion that you can take on a picnic or camping without worrying about leftovers to refrigerate.
RECIPE: Golden Plum and Vanilla Jam
Last year I lucked into Green Gages at the farmers market. This greenish, sweet plum variety is rich and flavourful like honey — the best I have ever had. Unfortunately, they are not easy to come by around here and it had been years since I had them last. It could be years until I find them again. I had a few fresh vanilla pods on hand at the time and while I was hesitant to alter these perfect plums in any way, I took the plunge and added the vanilla. It turned out to be the best plum jam I had made to date.
This summer, a basket of sweet golden plums begged for the same treatment. Having tested this recipe a few times now, I’ve come to the conclusion that their light sweetness is even better suited to the subtle vanilla flavouring.
Please note that this recipe uses less sugar than a typical jam and will turn out softer as a result. Add more sugar if you prefer a firmer set.
- 2 1/2 lbs golden plums
- 2 cups sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 vanilla pod, split in half
Prepare the vanilla pod ahead of time by cutting it in half lengthwise and scraping out the seeds with a knife.
Cut the plums in half and remove the pit. You can skip this step if you are using small, Mirabelle plums, but it will demand that you strain or pick out the plums before jarring.
Gently cook the plums and sugar on med-low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Stir in the lemon juice and vanilla (seeds and pod), increase the heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes until the plums are cooked through and mushy.
Pick out the pieces of vanilla pod (leave the seeds) as well as the plum pits if you left the plums intact before cooking.
Turn the heat up to high and bring to a rapid boil to reach set point (220°F), about 10-15 minutes. Remember to keep stirring!! My second batch was much darker than the first because the bottom
burned caramelized. I was paying too much attention to the thermometer and did not stir often enough.
Pour into sterilized jars leaving 1/4″ headspace and heat-process the jars in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.
THERE ARE 3 WAYS TO WIN, and each of the six winners chosen at random will win a set of six mini-tulip Weck canning jars from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply; a signed copy of “And I Shall Have Some Peace There” from Margaret Roach, and Gayla Trail’s newest book (as a digital bundle): the recipe-filled “Drinking the Summer Garden.” Two winners will be chosen on each of our three websites.
Triple your chances by clicking over to Peaceful Valley’s blog and also to A Way to Garden and do the same there (fine to cut and paste your answers). After commenting below, click over to the Peaceful Valley giveaway, and to the giveaway on A Way to Garden.
All you have to do to enter is answer the question in each of our comments:
Besides for putting up food, what do you use canning jars for? (If your answer is “nothing,” tell us what you can in them, or go ahead and just say “Count me in” if you’re feeling shy. We’re easy!)
Winners will be drawn randomly after entries close at midnight on Tuesday, September 4, and informed by email. Good luck to all, and I hope we’ve inspired you to spend some of your holiday weekend ahead putting up the harvest.
Thanks again to Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, in the business of providing supplies for organic gardening since 1976, for their support of A Way to Garden and You Grow Girl.