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5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Home Canning

Something I hear a lot from people when I talk about canning is, "I want to try making preserves, but what would I do with that many jars of (jam/pickles/chutney)?" Fair question, and my answer is simple - SO MUCH. Homemade preserves are such a pleasure in the kitchen and I sneak them into meals left and right. From marmalade in baked chicken to jam-topped cheesecakes, once you start giving your preserves purpose the only thing you'll need to worry about is finding just one jar left.

Here are 5 tips for making the most of your home canning:

1. Preserve the food you like best
It sounds simple and it is. Make the preserves you can see yourself enjoying on a semi-regular basis over the course of a year. If your favourite jam is strawberry, then start there. If you are mad for marmalade and dill pickles, then get filling jars with those too. But if you just can't see yourself going through four jars of herb jelly in the next year, use your backyard mint for mojitos instead. Start by preserving the things you are already buying at the store.

2. Think salads and sandwiches
I rarely make a salad that doesn't include homemade preserves in some form. My new favourite way to top salad greens is with a poached egg and several forkfuls of hot pickled peppers. Pickled beets, beans, and asparagus also make tasty salad toppers. Plus, jams and jellies whisk up nicely with oil and a little pickling brine for quick and delicious vinaigrettes. Between slices of bread, a spoonful of dill relish dresses up tuna salad, chicken salad and egg salad sandwiches.

3. Get grilling
Home preserves are right at home on the grill. Use pepper jellies as a glaze for meats, marinate chicken in homemade mustard, and chop up pickled onions for burger patties. At the table, top grilled sausages with pickled cabbage, use relishes in dips, and dunk grilled potatoes in homemade ketchup. There are endless ideas for using your preserves during grilling season. Family barbecues are when all the jars come out.

4. Put them on display
Keeping jars of home preserves hidden away in a dark basement is the easiest way to forget about them. While a dark, dry storage area is ideal for protecting the colour and overall quality of your preserves, keeping at least one jar of each batch nearby on a shelf where you can see them, or in the pantry, will remind you what you have on hand. I keep mine on a shelf in the dining room where they inspire me every day.

5. Share!
Giving someone a jar of home preserves is a heartfelt way to say thank you or get well. It's a personal gift that people are almost universally pleased to receive. The bonus is, once friends know you are canning they will be spotting deals on fresh produce for you, or even offering up their fruit trees for picking. Preserves are great for trading too! A friend gave me a really nice kitchen knife in exchange for a few jars of jam. Whatever you preserve, make enough jars for your own kitchen and save a few for sharing.

How do you use up home preserves?