Summer may be prime pickins for fresh veggies and fruits, but this time of year – it’s prime picklin’. Trust us, there’s no better way to hold up summer than canning it for the cold months in a mason jar. Yup, those mason jars aren’t just Pinterest-y decor (we were surprised, too!) But what if we’re clueless with canning? The folks behind The Preserving Place on Howell Mill Road are bona fide experts on all-things-canning – from how to do it safely to all of the delicious and creative things we can concoct in a jar. And since there’s no better time than the present, we decided to pick their brains on the process.
“People tend to forget that you can put up fresh fruits and vegetables in Georgia pretty much year round,” says Preserving Place’s owner Martha McMillin. “Canning is not just a summer thing, although summer is the high season for canning. Fall is a marvelous time to can. If you want to put up something sweet by using sugar to preserve, scuppernongs/muscadines, pears and apples are all available to make jellies, jams, preserves, conserves and chutney.“ Jellies, jams and chutney?! Yes, please. During fall, we tend to be attracted to the sweeter flavors in pumpkin, apple and pears and these are perfect to can by pureeing them or slicing them up.
“Apple Butter is a popular treat to make, but you can make a fruit butter with other fruits, as it refers to a fruit spread made by cooking the fruit down a long time, pureeing it, and then cooking a bit more. Pears can be made into a lovely Pear Butter. If you want to put up vegetables by adding vinegar to make pickles, there are plenty of vegetables to put up: okra, green beans, carrots, radish, and peppers are the ones that first come to mind.”
However, remember that things like tomatoes aren’t going to be around during the cold months. “There are still beautiful tomatoes at the farmers markets and in gardens, which should be available to the first frost. You can put up crushed tomatoes to be used in the cold months when we yearn for summer and want the taste of sunshine fresh tomatoes.” These guys can be sliced up, cubed or canned whole for a fresh sauce over warm pasta in the winter months.
If you would like to start canning at home, make sure to grab the right supplies before starting to avoid any contamination and make sure you get the best tasting goods. “As with anything, it goes a lot easier with the right equipment. Invest in the right equipment, which can easily be done for less than $100. Then, use a safe recipe. Don't just pull something off of the internet from someone who may or may not have safety credentials. Use one from a cookbook or author which tests their recipes for safety. And lastly, enjoy the process!”
Interesting in learning more? The Preserving Place offers classes on canning for beginners and for more advanced self-taught canners.
Local Scout Muriel Vega is a lifetime resident of ATL and full-time authorian legend, as well as a pie enthusiast. She has a dog that may be a meme and really loves to travel. You can read more of her work at the website that she co-edits, Common Creativ ATL.