Whether she's an avid vegetable gardener, an aspiring beekeeper, or someone who always has a kitchen DIY project in the works, we've rounded up our favorite gifts for the homesteader in your life. Who knows? She might even be so grateful as to share the end result of her culinary adventures with you!
With ripe fruits and vegetables in abundance right now, it's impossible to imagine the possibility that Winter could be around the corner. That's why, while you've got it good at the market, you should take the time to preserve Summer's bounty at home to make anything — fruit jams, dill pickles, canned artichokes, hot sauce, you name it! — that fits inside a can.
If you're new to canning, be sure to start by gathering all the right canning equipment essentials, then read through our instructions for processing cans; the technique can be applied to anything that's piled in a jar. (If you're more of a visual learner, we've got you covered, too). Still feeling intimidated? Then skip the sealed-can process — just be sure to consume everything within two weeks.
Ready to start jamming to preserves and pickles? Get inspired with these recipes.
Making jams and pickles involves more than just throwing the contents into a glass jar; if you plan to store the canned item for several months, the cans must be processed using a method of suctioning the seal of the cans to preserve the jar's contents. But before attempting any recipe that calls for canning, it's important that you have all the equipment on hand, especially if you are making jam or pickles for the very first time. Here are the essential items you'll need and the purposes they serve:
- Fine mesh sieve or chinois: If you are making jam and need to strain the fibrous skin and seeds of the cooked fruit, a fine mesh sieve or a chinois is the easiest way strain the juice. The Williams-Sonoma chinois strainer, pestle, and stand ($70) is a jam-making life-changer. Simply place a bowl under the nifty stand, and with the other hand, use the pestle to extract every last drop of cooked fruit juice from the chinois.
- Jar funnel: It's important to prevent any liquids from contaminating the spiral seal on the outside of the glass jar. To do so, use a jar funnel like this Norpro stainless steel wide-mouth funnel ($8) to cleanly deposit the jam or pickled vegetables into the jar.
- Pressure cooker: These deep, large vessels make it easy to boil water faster and to submerge several glass jars in the water. Pressure cookers are used to sterilize the glass jars prior to filling them with jam or pickles. Then after the jars are filled, they go back into the pressure cooker for processing. This Fagor nine-piece pressure canning set ($115) is great for newbies, because in addition to the pressure cooker, it also contains all the canning equipment.
- Glass jars with metal seals and lids: Ball and Kerr mason jars are the most well-known brands on the market, and for the best deal, buy them in bulk. Some sources will say that you can reuse the glass jar, but the seal and lid should be replaced after each use. Others have reused the items without any problems. If you notice any rust forming or if the seal does not snap when processing, discard the items and swap them out for new ones.
My dad is a jalapeño fiend who is known to order and hoard bowls of fresh and pickled jalapeños every time we go to a Mexican restaurant. For Father's Day, I thought I'd attempt to make a batch of homemade pickled jalapeños so my dad can get his spicy fix while he's eating chips and guacamole at home.
Sweet, tangy, and very spicy, these homemade jalapeños give Mexican restaurants a run for their money. Prepare to engage in some hee-hee-hoo-hoo breathing, because these jalapeños are the real, mouth-burning deal.
Serve these jalapeños on chips, dice them into homemade salsa, or wake up just about any Mexican fare with them. Stay cool by washing down these jalapeños with a refreshing, crisp Mexican beer. Ready to take on this super-picante recipe?
Do you know somebody who buys case upon case of tomatoes and spends weekends canning them away in order to get a taste of Summer during the cold Winter months? Or perhaps you have a friend or family member that has a famous recipe for peach or raspberry preserves. Well, take a look at our gift guide for the avid canner, filled with lots of home pickling and preserving goodies.
- Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: a book about all things canning by the popular Small Measure blogger.
- Presto 16-quart pressure canner: this home-canning device also doubles as a pressure cooker!
- Norpro stainless steel wide-mouth funnel: an essential canning tool.
- Norpro jar lifter: here's a tool that makes lifting boiling jars much easier.
- 12 Ball wide-mouth mason canning jars, 1 quart: a home canner can never have too many of these classic jars.
- Le Parfait terrine canning jars: fancier French canning jars make a very special gift.
- Looking for more can-do holiday ideas? Check out our favorite custom canning labels, and a complete canning set.
This season, I made it a priority to educate myself on the basics of canning, pickling, fermenting, and food preserving. Thankfully, I was able to put my knowledge to work when I finally confronted a boiling-water canner and my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. My parting thoughts after this first brush with home canning? It's not as hard as it sounds, and once you get the rhythm of it, it can be well worth the effort. My advice for those new to jarring: start with a project, such as this one, that isn't too complicated. To see how I canned whole tomatoes in their own juice, keep reading.
For every minute that I cling more desperately to the idea of Summer produce, I can feel it further slipping away. My soon-to-be saving grace? A frenzy of food preservation as the days get shorter and the nights grow colder. Who knows; perhaps I'll host a canning and pickling party or make a fruit jam of my own!
But before I share ideas and recipes with you, I want to find out just how versed you are on food preservation. One of the best-known methods of treating food is heat processing, or forming airtight seals around food in jars — but there's also fermenting, jellying, pickling, salting, and curing. Do you have the basics in the can? Let's find out when you take this quiz!Take the Quiz
Although I've always been a fan of quick pickling, it wasn't until recently that I tried canning at home. Although I wasn't sure whether it'd be worth the hours of effort, the end result was so delicious that I can't wait to try it again on other fruits and vegetables. Next time, however, I'd throw a canning and pickling get-together to pass the time. What do you think?
After making a savory version of French toast topped with tomato jam last weekend, it occurred to me that, when preserved, tomatoes are well-suited for both sweet and savory applications, too. Tomatoes are technically fruit, and when they're ripe they possess a level of sweetness that rivals a sassy nectarine. This means the seedy red rounds are ideal contenders for a traditional fruit jam style, spread atop bread or toast. But unlike most fruits, tomatoes also register high in glutamic acid, an umami provider that contributes to a savory, rounded flavor — so they're just as dreamy when reduced to peppery, vinegar-tinged preserves, then served atop meat roasts or crackers.
Make the most of the tapering tomato supply by preparing either — or both — jams when you read more.
In the Winter, I always love to invite my friends over for a cookie swap or edible gift-making party. However, I've never done something like this during the warmer months — until now. Inspired by a new Williams-Sonoma book, The Art of Preserving, I'm hosting a canning party and I suggest you do the same. First select a date — preferably a relaxed time, like Sunday afternoon — then decide what you want to make at the event. Throw in some homemade snacks and you've got yourself a fabulous little party. At mine, I'll offer guests two nibbles in the form of a white bean dip with parsley oil and an oven-dried tomato tart with goat cheese and black olives.
What will we be making? Peach-rosemary jam and classic dill pickles! If this sounds like fun to you, check out these recipes, after the break.