I have a book called The Urban Homestead (by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen), and it talks about all of the things that we used to do ourselves at home but now pay other people to do for us – growing vegetables in your garden, starting your own compost, ways to collect rainwater, how to keep chickens, and how to can.
In some ways, we’re doing quite well; I have started a modest garden, we have a rainbarrel, and I have at least started looking into getting or building a composter. Chickens are out of the question due to some pesky bylaws saying they’re a nuisance in the city. (Pfft. Clucking couldn’t possibly get annoying!)
There are, of course, other things in the book that I will never try. Like replacing my toilet with a bucket and using the contents to fertilize my garden. Yeah. Not for me.
One thing that is for me: canning. I have made pickles a whopping once before, and actually really enjoyed it. So, today I am attempting blueberry jam for the first time, and pickles again.
It started with about a pound of blueberries, raw honey, and lemon juice.
Rinse the blueberries, and dump them in a pot (my size options were overflowing-with-berries small, or I-could-wear-this-on-my-head big, hence the huge pot).
Add a teaspoon of lemon juice, and half a cup of honey (remember what I said about the speed of raw honey).
Start cooking the mixture over low heat until the berry juice actually starts to materialise. Once this has happened, bring the mixture to a boil.
Then reduce to medium heat, and let simmer for (vagueness alert!) 30 minutes to one hour. It really depends on how thick you like your jam. I think I did mine for about 40 minutes. Stir often, and scrape the sides of the pot. You should have something that looks like this:
While the jam is cooking, start boiling water in a really big pot. Once the water is boiling, place the jars and lids in the water to sterilize. This is normally when canning equipment would be really handy. Me? I used tongs. (I just felt some of you cringe.)
Let the jars boil for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the jam should be pretty much ready to go. As a rule, if it coats the back of a spoon, it should be done. This is also a good excuse to try it. Turn off the heat, and then remove the jars from the water to a clean towel.
Now, transfer the jam into your jar (again, canning equipment would be good right now – I used a large spoon and relied on my aim).
Now, put the lid on, taking care not to touch the inside. Place the jar into the pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.
Remove from pot, and let cool for several hours. If the lid does not seal (as in, if you press on it and it clicks in and out) after about six hours, store it in the fridge and use it within a month. If it does seal, it will last up to a year!
The pickles are far less time consuming than the jam. The tiny cucumbers are best, and you can cut them however you like (I just sliced them – good for burgers).
Pack the cucumber into your jars, along with a couple of cloves of garlic and some dill.
The pickling liquid is really simple: One part water to one part vinegar, and a bit of salt. Boil this. When it has boiled for a couple of minutes, pour it into the jars, over the cucumbers. Put the lid on the jars.
As with the jam, put these in the pot of boiling water for 10 minutes, and then remove and let cool until sealed. If not sealed, store in the fridge, and enjoy within a month.
As the vinegar content is quite high in these, they are a tad sour, and so are better suited to using on burgers, etc. rather than as a snack right out of the jar.
So, that’s that! Two common canning items for you if you don’t mind the effort!