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 summer’s 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. That’s exactly what inspired Durham, N.C., 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.”
Bennett’s 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 couldn’t 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 don’t even have to turn on the stove. You combine the pectin with sugar and add fresh fruit and acid.) After three minutes of stirring, 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 there’s 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.”
It’s 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.
Blueberry Peach Freezer Jam
5 pint jars
1 cup crushed blueberries
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 pouch (1.59-ounce / 45 grams) freezer jam pectin, also called instant pectin
3 cups finely grated pitted peeled peaches
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Place blueberries in a glass pie plate. Heat in a microwave oven on high, stopping the microwave several times to stir and crush the berries, until the mixture reaches a boil, about 2 minutes.
Combine sugar and pectin in a medium bowl. Stir until thoroughly blended. Add blueberries, peaches, lemon zest and juice. Stir for 3 minutes.
Ladle jam into plastic or glass freezer jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Apply lids tightly. Let jam stand at room temperature until thickened, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately, if desired. Refrigerate for up to three weeks or freeze for up to one year.
Adapted from “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes for Today,” edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine (Robert Rose, 2006.)
Mock Raspberry Jam, Aka Green Tomato Jelly
4-6 half-pint jars
5 cups finely chopped green tomatoes
4 cups sugar
6 ounces (2 small packages) raspberry Jell-O
Place tomatoes in large saucepan. Add sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat; let cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Skim foam from top and discard.
Add Jell-O and stir well so the mixture doesn’t stick to the pan. Bring to a low boil and boil for 1 minute.
Pour in sterilized jars and cover tightly. Let cool before refrigerating. Keeps in refrigerator for about 3 weeks or 1 year in the freezer.
From “Jams & Jellies in Less Than 30 Minutes,” by Pamela Bennett (Gibbs Smith, 2011).
Refrigerated Dill Slices
About 5 pint jars
8 1/4 cups sliced trimmed pickling cucumbers
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
6 tablespoons pickling or canning salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons pickling spice
7 1/2 teaspoons dill seeds
5 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
5 gloves garlic, halved (optional)
Place cucumber slices in a large glass or stainless steel bowl. Set aside.
Combine vinegar, water, pickling salt, sugar and pickling spice in a medium stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for 10 minutes.
Pour pickling liquid over cucumber slices. Cover with waxed paper and set aside until cooled to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Place 1 1/2 teaspoon dill seeds, 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns and two garlic clove halves in each of one five pint jars. Add cucumber slices to within a generous 1/2-inch headspace of top of jar. Ladle pickling liquid into jar to cover cucumbers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Apply lids. For best results, allow cucumbers to marinate in refrigerator for at least 2 weeks and use within 3 months. Yield: About 5 pint jars or 2 quart jars
From “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes for Today,” edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine (Robert Rose, 2006.)
Honeyed Peach Freezer Salsa
3 cups diced peaches, nectarines or apricots
3 cups diced cantaloupe
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, drained and chopped
3 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
2 tablespoons freezer jam pectin
Combine peaches, cantaloupe, red onion, garlic, chipotle peppers, honey, lime juice, candied ginger and cinnamon, if using. Add pectin and stir for 3 minutes.
Ladle jam into freezer containers (bags or jars), leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Apply lids tightly. Let salsa stand at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. It will not as much as a jam. Freeze for up to 9 months. Refrigerate after opening for up to 2 weeks. Yield: 6 cups
From “Preserving: The Canning and Freezing Guide for All Seasons,” by Pat Crocker (Harper Collins, 2011)