Canning is for friends. It is, of course, nice sometimes to can alone, and it often is done in families, but canning is my favorite to share with friends. If you know how to can already, teaching a newbie how to set up the stove, how to macerate strawberries to get super plump preserves, how to get really crisp pickles, and how to impress a difficult mother in law with dreamy canned pie filling, you know that sharing canning with friends is a delight. Sharing the secrets of the trade makes you feel like one part magician, one part grandmother, and three parts domestic goddess.
If you have never canned, learning from a friend is pretty much the best thing ever. With a good, beginner-friendly cookbook open on the counter, a best friend guiding by your side, and cold drink in hand, you will in short order see why canning is quickly becoming the cooking technique of choice for modern cooks.
When I’ve had the pleasure of inviting friends over to can, the always say the same thing; “Oh, that’s way easier than I thought!” And, “I can do that!” Yeah, I know you can!
I helped my mom and grandma can when I was a kid growing up and got back into it when I was pregnant with my first child. That winter, I stood sideways at the stove, back aching and mind made up that I was going to make homemade applesauce for that baby in my belly. I had to make a lot of phone calls to my mom and grandma, and made a lot of mistakes solo, but in the end I canned that applesauce.
By the summertime, when the baby was napping solidly and tomatoes were ripe, I was comfortable canning alone and invited one of my best friends over to help me can tomato sauce. In classic “me” fashion, I had purchased an enormous quantity of tomatoes, and we aimed to process them all before my daughter woke.
We drank cold beers, turned the fan on, and got to work. My bestie is a good cook but she had never canned, and I had only been canning solo for about six months. It was one of the first times I had got to spend any time with her since I became a mom and that afternoon has a special place in my heart. We worked hard and fast, chatted and laughed quietly so as not to wake the baby, and we canned many, many jars of delicious, wholesome tomato sauce and split the jars between us. We shared the chore of washing the few pots and pans, and we both had matching red-spattered shirts that we should have covered with aprons.
Canning with friends is NOT just about making jam. It is not just about saving money, eating healthy foods, or making cute giftable jars of pickled cherries- though those are all terrific benefits! Canning with friends is about sharing a task that seems a bit daunting, achieving it easily and deciding to make a second batch while the first is still processing. Canning with friends is about learning something that seems vaguely complicated and old fashioned and realizing that it is actually really fun to do together and that it is in fact quite modern and sophisticated. Canning is about sharing the work of selecting the produce, sharing the decision of which recipe to use to preserve it, splitting the chore of working it up, sharing the joy of success in hearing those lids pop when pulled from the pot, and about spreading the love afterwards. Giving a jar of homemade preserves is pretty special, but to say, “My dear friend and I made this together- please enjoy it!” is a love language all its own.
Sure, sometimes I do like to can alone. It can feel quiet and meditative, and to finish a big batch alone can feel like completing a long run solo. Canning with family can be loud and boisterous, full of family rules, hierarchy, and tradition. Don’t get me wrong; I love all that, especially tradition, but laughing with my girlfriends is something I get to enjoy less and less of now that I have small children. Sharing canning has been such a fun, productive, joyful, and loving thing to do with my friends; I can only hope I have encouraged you canners to share it with those near and dear to you and to you newbies, I hope you reach out to a canner you know and ask to learn and laugh by their side.
I am SO excited to announce that I’m working on my first book that will share canning with many of my friends; my readers. Love Into Jars is in the works and my editor and I are so eager for you to be able to enjoy it very soon~