Grab your girlfriends and use these easy tips to organize a home canning party.
For Marisa McClellan, a young food writer and teacher from Philadelphia, home canning is an all-consuming passion.
“Food preservation is making a comeback,” notes Marisa, adding that cooks of all ages are interested in capturing fresh flavors and doing it affordably. “My goal is to help people let go of their fears about canning by making it accessible and fun.”
Raised amid Oregon’s abundance, Marisa grew up helping her mother transform wild berries and backyard apples into jams and sauces. “Years later, in college, I picked up a nifty old pint-size Ball jar with a wire clamp closure and started a jar collection,” she says. “I used them to hold everything from sugar to leftovers. They even doubled as drinking glasses.
“Then, five years ago, I went blueberry picking with friends and came home with 10 pounds of fruit and a craving for jam. I got right back to using my jars for their intended purpose.”
Now she fills hundreds of jars each season with pickled vegetables, salsa, soup stock, whole tomatoes and more.
With a master’s degree in writing, Marisa extended her kitchen addiction to her keyboard two years ago, launching a blog Food in Jars. Aiming to open more eyes to the world of preserving, she shares personal home canning adventures, food photos, technique tutorials and recipes for a potpourri of canned goods.
“My readers are from all walks of life, from the city and country alike,” she says. “Some are longtime home canners excited to find kindred spirits. Others are novices ready to roll up their sleeves. They share an appreciation for how wonderful home-canned food tastes and the fact they know exactly what went into it, because they put it there.”
“Canning parties are a blast, and a great way to tackle a good deal of preserving,” she says. “Everyone leaves the party with a feeling of accomplishment. You take home something you’ve made, and knowledge that will help you to do more of it in the future.”
Tips from the Washington State Fruit Commission and the Northwest Cherry Growers for throwing your own home canning party:
- Pick out your produce and canning recipes. When you combine prep work and processing time, a canning recipe can take an hour or more to complete. Limit your party to three canning recipes. Plan to make a full batch, but don’t double it. Altering a recipe’s quantities and times may affect the quality and safety of the final product.
- Gather your tools. Have these basics on hand (or assign guests to bring them): jars, lids and rings; heavy-bottomed cooking pots; a roomy stockpot to use as a water-bath canner; sharp knives and a grater; stirring spoons and ladles; measuring cups and spoons; jar grabbers; a funnel; clean towels; and hot pads.
- Send invitations. Mail invitations to guests about three weeks ahead. Include how much and what type of produce, other ingredients or canning supplies to bring. Also tuck in the recipes you’ll use as a preview.
- Plan some snacks. Give home canning party guests something to nibble and sip. Incorporate fruits you’ll be using into beverages, and pick up breads, meats and cheeses to serve.
- Set up stations. Clear off counters and tabletops to make ample room for work stations to sanitize equipment, prep produce, fill jars and seal, boil and cool your finished batch. Assign guests to each station and have only one canning recipe going at a time.
- Jam out! Karaoke with your canning? Sure! Stir some of these tunes into a party playlist: Cherry, Cherry (Neil Diamond), Blueberry Hill (Chubby Checker), I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Marvin Gaye) and Strawberry Fields Forever (The Beatles).
- Label your labors. “Mystery jars” collect dust in the pantry, so clearly label your goods with contents and canning date. With printed labels, pens, decorative ribbons and fabric on hand, guests can create personalized wrappings for cooled jars.