I have never really been much of a “live off the land” kind of girl. Sure, I love the romanticism of Laura Ingalls Wilder… making salt pork for winter and tossing around the pig’s bladder like a balloon. (Really?) But when it comes down to it, I like big cities, and grocery stores where you can get lobster in Iowa and watermelon year-round.

At one point in our lives, we lived in Michigan – a state where you only have to look at the ground and some fabulous fruit tree or berry bush will sprout up before you. (If you’ve never been to Traverse City, plan a trip this summer. If you like food, you won’t be disappointed.) While we lived there, I mentioned (or maybe my husband did) that canning some of this fabulous produce would be a good idea, but I had no idea where to start. Enter my pretty amazing mother-in-law, who made sure that this was in my stocking the next Christmas:

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Fast forward about eight years, to this week, when we got it out of the box. Of course, now we live in a much less fertile place, where we couldn’t get basil to grow in pots on our porch. But one bright spot of this region is that there are blackberries everywhere. My husband, Will, bikes and hikes with the ninjas often, and found numerous blackberry bushes along the paths. So one morning, before I had even finished my first cup of french roast, they set off with buckets and bug repellent in search of blackberry treasure.

I wish I could claim the excellent idea of trying our hand at canning – but it was all Will. I had always kept the canning set (pictured above) in a handy place in the kitchen, because I always thought that someday soon I would use it. But it took a huge bucket of fresh, wild blackberries (and a husband willing to take a turn with the ninjas’ cooking lesson) to actually do it!

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This was only half of the harvest – we had to save some to eat fresh!

The recipe we used was from the book pictured above, and it’s a pretty basic preserves recipe so I’ll let you find your own. But the process was fun, and not nearly like the exploding-jars-glass-and-scalding-hot-fruit-everywhere image I had in mind.

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So. Much. Sugar. I’d like to experiment with some honey or lower-sugar options, too!
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Mark got a lesson in stirring gently. Chase was much more interested in playing with the tools than canning. I can’t blame him, they are pretty cool.

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The result? One jar of preserves. And it was cooked a little longer than ideal, so it’s kind of the texture of gummy bears. BUT…. the entire process was pretty fun, simple, and definitely worth trying again.

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Another happy surprise that came out of this blackberry episode was the discovery of this ice cream at Aldi. Do you shop at Aldi? If not, you are missing out. Great prices on lots of natural and organic foods. This ice cream is easily the best I’ve ever tasted in the town we live in, and it has five ingredients, all of which I can pronounce. Try it. You will thank me.

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Does your family do canning? What kinds of foods to you enjoy preserving? Any tips for the ninjas and I? I’d love to hear them in the comments below! We need all the help we can get!


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8 thoughts on “Canning (aka I am not Caroline Ingalls)

  1. I have never canned anything and have always wanted to try it. Maybe right after I finally learn to use yeast. Good job, ninjas!

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  2. Hmm…the new survivalists seem to freeze dry everything…including ice cream! I wonder how preserving these sweet berries would go as freeze-dried, then re-hydrated 20 years from now to make jam? But in the meantime, your jam would be delicious. I hope to try some soon!

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  3. Oh, your jam looks delicious! To be honest, I would not can if it was not for Sarah and her mad canning skills. It is super time consuming, but SO worth it! My favorite canned items we have made are our zucchini relish and spiced apples.

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