It is the Damsel’s wish that you know how to preserve food. It’s one of the basic skills of becoming more self-reliant.
When you put stuff in glass jars and seal it, it’s called “canning” or “bottling” or “putting up.” And the easiest thing to “put up,” in the Damsel’s humble opinion, is apricots. So if you’ve been cringing over there, wanting to know how but were too scared, come along. The Damsel’s here to hold your hand.
Canning does require equipment, and the dollars can add up. You might even feel it doesn’t make financial sense. But nearly everything can be bought second-hand (or borrowed, even) and can be used for years.
Here’s what you need:
- waterbath canner with rack
- jar lifter
- canning jars with rings
- canning lids
- Things most people have in their kitchens: a large pan, measuring cups, timer, sugar
Canning supplies are commonly seen at yard sales, and often if you ask around, people will give you things. You see, it takes away their guilt if they think someone will actually use the stuff.
The most expensive part about canning is the fruit. So it really helps if you have one of these:
and it REALLY helps if you have one of these:
exhibit A: Sprog #1 utilizing his tallness
Apricots are the easiest thing to can because there’s not much prep, and they’re pretty hard to mess up.
First, put seven canning jars in the dishwasher, plus seven matching lids and rings, and get them going. (Along with other dishes.) Or, of course you can wash them by hand, but if you use a dishwasher, it’s handy because it keeps them hot and sterile. Take one jar out of the dishwasher at a time as you fill it, closing the door after taking each one out, and you’re good.
But don’t stress. Grandma did fine without, and these jars will get sterilized again later on.
In a large pot, make a sugar syrup. You can make light, medium, or heavy syrup according to your taste. The Damsel has made extra-light syrup before, and although it’s safe, the fruit lost some of its color and texture because sugar is a preservative. So, now the Damsel uses a medium syrup. For medium, add 3 1/4 cups sugar to 5 cups water and heat until the sugar dissolves.
At the same time, fill the water bath canner with water and get ‘er boiling. It takes a while. Most canners have a mark that shows how full it needs to be. The water level needs to be at least a couple of inches over the tops of the jars. But, if you fill the canner really full of water, and then start submerging jars, OH NO water spilling over oh no. Once you find out how full of water the canner needs to be, take note of that level. It will be the same for any waterbath canning project.
Wash the little darlings, in a colander or right in the sink.
Split the apricots in half with your fingers, remove the pit, and place into the jar. It’s traditional to layer them, face down and overlapping. Obviously this is easier with a wide-mouth canning jar. If you have narrow ones, you can fiddle them into position with a fork, or enlist a child. You can just dump them in willy-nilly if you want. Grandma isn’t looking. The Damsel actually tried it both ways, to see if more apricots fit in the jar if they were stacked, and was surprised to find out exactly the same number of apricots fit, either way. So you decide.
Fill the jar to roughly 1/2 inch from the top. Don’t stress, you don’t need to measure.
Pour the syrup over the apricots, once again leaving 1/2 inch headspace. If it looks like there are large air bubbles, release them by sticking a knife carefully down the side of the jar. Wipe the top of the jar with a damp paper towel to remove any syrup that may have dripped.
Grandma used to always boil the lids before putting them on the jars, but the now the thought is that boiling can damage them. So now just wash them in hot water (or dishwasher.) Set on top of the jar and screw on the ring, finger tight. Don’t overtighten.
Place each jar into the waterbath as soon as they are filled. Seven jars make a batch. When you’ve got those done, wait for the water to come to a boil, and start timing 30 minutes. If for some reason the water stops boiling, you have to start the timing over, so that you have 30 minutes of continuous boil.
When the time is up, use the jar lifter to take the jars from the canner and put on a dishtowel on your counter to cool. Over the next couple of hours, you should hear “plink, plink” as the jars form a seal. After they are cool, check the seals by pressing down on the center of the lid. If it pops up and down, it has not sealed. Either put them in the fridge to eat soon, or reprocess by putting on a new lid and doing the 30-minute waterbath again. Don’t cry. It’s really common for one or two jars to not seal. It’s not your fault. It’s the Canning Demon.
Write the year on the lid with a sharpie, if you’d like. Also, it’s normal for the apricots to float to the top of the jar after they are processed.
There’s something so satisfying about seeing these jars sitting on the counter. The Damsel has been known to leave them there for days before taking them down to the cellar.