So it’s Autumn Equinox (or there-abouts) and, aptly or otherwise, I’m talking about food preservation today.
I don’t have a lot of freezer space (or pantry space, for that matter – and I definitely don’t have a root cellar). So if I’m going to preserve the bounty of summer, I need to use hot water canning: The kind of preserves that you make by lowering the pH of the food until it can safely be stored without refrigeration.
If you look at my Recipes Tag, you’ll find a lot of recipes for jams, curds, pickles, chutneys and the like. All of these are (A) easy, (B) small batches, and (C) based on the technique of lowering the pH of the food in question.
If you’re planning on doing home-canning, it’s important to consider the kinds of preserves that you’ll actually use.
For example: I have two pints of grape jelly (from 2011) sitting in my cupboard that I know I will not be using – unless I figure out how to turn them into tarts (I believe that corn starch needs to be added in…?) – BUT, this being my house, we’ve already gone through about one-and-a-half pints of garlic-dill cucumber pickles since I started making them in [https://birchtreemaiden.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/garlic-dill-cucumber-pickles-2012-recipe/]July. So I know not to bother with grape jelly ever again (oh well…) but will make BUCKETS of garlic-dills every year.
That said, I do try to strike a balance between “stuff I know I’ll use” and “stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time”. So I made tomato sauce – which I will use, but mostly I know I’ll use it because I canned it in half-cup jars which can be used up all in one go, rather than in pint-jars that will drown my pasta in Too Much Tomato or else will sit in the fridge, unused, for weeks at a time after they’ve been opened. I made choke-cherry jelly – which I haven’t done before, but suspect I will enjoy, and balsamic peach pickles (same deal).
But I also made strawberry-rhubarb jam and peach-apricot chutney, and will be making cranberry curd come October… because I know we’ll use those up at home and I know that people won’t give me the side-eye if I hand them out as hostess gifts.
That’s the thing.
Home-canned goods can get weird looks and a lot of uncertainty from a lot of people. I served my sister’s home-made pickled asparagus at a party one year, and I actually got asked if I was “foisting”.
What I’m getting at, however, is that not everyone is going to be gung-ho about accepting (and then consuming) preserved fruits/veggies that they aren’t already at least slightly familiar with.
But! People who will raise eyebrows at a gifted jar of dilly beans or pickled rutabaga spears will happily accept home-made cucumber-dills. Folks who awkwardly thank you for that green tomato chutney (“Oh… You shouldn’t have…”) will jump at salsas; and jams, jellies and even chutneys (when they’re made with sweet summer fruits) are always a hit.
With all that in mind, here’s my quick list of go-to preserves that make great gifts:
Sour Cherry Jam
Apple Butter (also works with pears and peaches)
Garlic-Dill Cucumber Pickles
Spicy Peach Chutney
Cranberry Curd (this one’s a slightly mangled guest-post over at Charmed I’m Sure).
 Variety is the spice of life, and it makes Living On Cans a whole lot more enjoyable. So I do tiny-batch canning – the kind of thing where you never make more than about 6C of Whatever at a given time.