I Think I Can, I Think I Can (Plus A Food Gal Giveaway)

My former nemesis, now my sweet friend.

My former nemesis, now my sweet friend.


For years, I’ve suffered from a malady.

One that I’ve shamefully hidden, glossed over and tried to ignore.

You see, I am a can-o-phobe.

There, I said it.

I am one who has never canned.

Oh sure, I’ve made jam. And I’ve made pickles. But all ones that could be easily stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Petrified that I’d end up killing friends and family (or at least making them deathly ill), I’d never had the nerve to water process the jars to attempt to make them shelf-stable instead.

Until now.

When the nice folks at Jarden Home Brands, maker of Ball brand canning products, cajoled me into finally doing it by providing a free set of jars, a canning rack and a recipe book.

So, over the weekend, I actually canned. Real canning. I made strawberry-rosemary jam, water-processed the jars, carefully opened one of them the next day to spread the glossy preserves on a toasted English muffin, took a blissful bite, and lived to tell about it. Whew.

Just fresh strawberries, sugar, home-grown rosemary and lemon juice make up this lovely jam.

Just fresh strawberries, sugar, home-grown rosemary and lemon juice make up this lovely jam.

And you know what? It was so easy that I could kick myself for being such a wuss about it in the first place.

I adapted an “Heirloom Strawberry Preserves” recipe from the “Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving” by adding a little fresh home-grown rosemary to it because I love the resiny-foresty back note it provides to sweet berries. I also made only half the recipe. Hey, baby steps, baby steps, OK?

Macerated berries mixed with rosemary.

Macerated berries mixed with rosemary.

Pouring the boiled fruit into a pan to cool in the refrigerator overnight.

Pouring the boiled fruit into a pan to cool in the refrigerator overnight.

After buying some fresh strawberries from one of my favorite vendors at my local farmers market, I followed the simple directions in the recipe to macerate the berries in a load of sugar, boil the mixture, refrigerate it, boil it again, pour it into jars, then carefully place them into a rack that I lowered into a stockpot of boiling water.

The filled jars arranged inside the canning basket.

The filled jars arranged inside the canning basket.

Basket and jars lowered into a big pot of boiling water.

Basket and jars lowered into a big pot of boiling water.

After boiling them for the requisite 20 minutes, the jars were removed from the pot to cool. To test whether the jars sealed properly, all you need do is tap the center of the lid. If it doesn’t give at all, then the seal took. If it does flex, the jar did not seal properly, so just store the jar in the refrigerator instead.

This beautiful garnet jam is such a perfect way to treasure a taste of summer long after it’s gone that I’ll definitely be making it again.

Next time, I’ll make the whole recipe, too. Because, proudly, I’m a can-o-phobe no more.

CONTEST: One lucky Food Gal winner will win a coupon for a free case of Ball canning jars. They’re perfect to capture the essence of the season. Even if you don’t can or preserve, they also make great serving or storage vessels for all manner of foods or craft or household items such as buttons, nails or pennies.

The give-away also commemorates the fifth annual Can-It-Forward Day on Aug. 1, which celebrates the joys and deliciousness of preserving. Join in the fun with by watching an online broadcast at FreshPreserving, 9 a.m. EST Aug. 2.

Entries for the Food Gal contest, open to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight PST Aug. 3. Winner will be announced Aug. 5.

How to win?

You’ve already heard my canning confessions. Tell me about a memorable experience you had canning or why you want to start canning now for the first time. Best answer wins.

Heirloom Strawberry-Rosemary Preserves

(Makes about 2 half-pint jars)

1 pound of strawberries

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh or bottled

Prep: Wash strawberries under cold running water; drain. Remove stems and caps from strawberries

Cook: Combine strawberries and sugar in a medium saucepan. Let stand in refrigerator 3 to 4 hours. Add rosemary to the mixture, bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add lemon juice. Boil over high heat until strawberries are slightly translucent and syrup is thick. Ladle preserves into a shallow pan. Let preserves stand in refrigerator 12 to 24 hours. Stir occasionally to distribute strawberries throughout syrup. Cook strawberries and syrup in a medium saucepan until hot throughout. Remove from heat. Skim off foam if necessary.

Fill: Ladle hot preserves into a hot jar, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles by gently pressing on the contents inside the jar with a small, clean spatula.. Clean jar rim with a clean cloth. Center lid on jar and adjust band to fingertip-tight. Place jar on the rack elevated over simmering water (180 degrees Fahrenheit) in a boiling-water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.

Process: Lower the rack into simmering water. Water must cover jars by 1 inch. Adjust heat to medium-high, cover canner and bring water to a roiling boil. Process half-pint jars 20 minutes. Turn off heat, and remove the cover. Let jars cool 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner; do not tighten bands if loose. Cool 12 hours. Check seals. Label and store jars.

Note: This is a half recipe. To make the full recipe, just double the amounts shown above, and use a large, rather a medium-sized, saucepan.

Adapted from “Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving”


Preserving Recipes You Don’t Necessarily Have to Water Process: Meyer Lemon and Vanilla Bean Marmalade


And: Meyer Lemon-Orange Marmalade with Thyme, Made in the Microwave


And: Pickled Cherries


And: Pickled Red Onions


And: Citrusy Red Cabbage Pickles


And: Honey-Preserved Clementines

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  • Yup, I’m a can-o-phobe too! Really need to get over it. Really keeping meaning to get over it! But haven’t yet — one of these days. Although I say that every year. 🙁 Anyway, really inspiring post — thanks.

  • John: If I “can,” you “can”! 😉

  • Question is, how long is that jar of strawberry jam is going to last on your shelf? 😉 I love the look of those jars and cover that totally matched your strawberry rosemary jam! Nice job! (I’ve also never canned before, not because I’m afraid of the health risk, I just can’t imagine making so many jars of jam!)

  • Ben: My husband and I have already dived into one jar with abandon. So that second jar might not last too long, either. LOL

  • A friend taught me how easy it was to make jam as Christmas gifts many years ago and. My family expects it now and is brutal about insisting that without it, the holidays would be ruined. Problem is, last year I set out for Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville to buy my fresh frozen Olallieberries but a frost had decimated the crop! I had never used any other berries so was at a loss. I researched and found that Olallieberries are actually a cross between blackberries and raspberries and only grow on the western coasts. So, I combined the two varieties but only made half what I usually make. It was such a hit that the stash we usually have on hand for the rest of the year went too quickly. My daughter who requests it be sent to her in Portland, said she actually had to buy her first jar of jam in the grocery store and proclaimed, “this is no way to live.” So last weekend we went to Gizdich to get more berries (this time limited due to the drought) early this year and start some summer time canning! You’ve inspired me to try some brave, new flavors!

  • I remember as a little girl picking blackberries with my grandmother, and making jam. Each jar was a tiny babyfood jar (yes she was recycling before there was a word for repurposing) filled 3/4 of the way with yummy jam, then filled with a thick layer of wax, and finally boiled until the lids stuck. Your blog sound soooo much easier, I look forward to giving it a try.

  • I’m a serious can-o-phobe. I also haven’t pickled yet, unless you count the quick pickle recipes. 😉

  • I didn’t use gloves while cutting peppers for zesty salsa. My swollen hands felt like they were on fire all night! I would love another chance at canning!

  • My grandmother, who is now 98, always put out a spread of pickles and relishes she had canned during the summer months at the family Thanksgiving feast. Learning to can is a way to preserve those memories and traditions as well as good food I grow myself.

  • Oh your jam looks delicious. My mother-in-law taught me how to make and can jams and preserves. I was so startled that I wouldn’t do it correctly but found like you that it really wasn’t hard at all.Each year for one of our son and daughter-in-laws Christmas gifts I fill a big basket with things that I have canned, like jams, jelly, pasta sauce, and relishes from the veggies out of our garden. No matter how much we spend on their other gifts the basket of canned and baked goods is always their favorite. They tell me how much they look forward to seeing each Christmas what will be in the basket.

  • Oh boy that preserve looks so tempting and delicious. I am drooling looking at the spread on the muffin. Thank you for the share. 🙂

  • I love making jams and sauces for later in the year! A case of jars would be awesome!!

  • I’m so glad we have a name for it now. I’m a can-o-phobe too! I keep saying one of these days. I have to give it a shot some day!

  • Most of my memories of canning involve a very hot kitchen in the midst of summer. One particular year, I decided to try canning apple pie filling using apples from the farmer’s market. In the process, I discovered that canning in October is much more pleasant than in the summer.

  • I love canning because I know all the ingredients that are going in and I know I am feeding my family healthy foods. I also love the feeling I get when I go through the whole cycle of planting a garden, nurturing it, harvesting the produce, canning it, and then looking at it sitting on the shelf in storage. It’s such a sense of satisfaction to stand back and see the rows of filled jars that we will enjoy this winter and think: “I did that.”

  • A friend of mine used to make the most amazing blackberry jam every year from the berries that grew over her back fence, and now that she’s moved away, I’d love to try to make some myself!

  • My mom and I always can together, and have been for many years. Every summer we make a large variety of pickles, jellies, jams, and relishes. Its a nice mother daughter time experience.

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