Canning for Ultra-Beginners by Evelyn Hadden

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Refrigerator pickles: my first solo canning project

I’m by no means a whiz in the kitchen, and honestly, I prefer to eat my garden veggies raw when possible. However, they are piling up!

This week, I dipped my toe in the water with a couple of refrigerator-canning projects. They turned out to be pretty easy, so I thought I’d encourage any other beginners with abundant harvests to try this type of processing. They don’t take long, the final products aren’t full of sugar like jams and jellies, and you won’t be risking botulism or exploding pressure cookers either.

My sister (who is a whiz in the kitchen) showed me how to make an easy tomato sauce that will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks and can be used as a spaghetti sauce or a base for soups or stews. We blanched enough tomatoes to fill about 3/4 of a small stock pot, added a couple handsful of fresh leaves of basil, oregano, and parsley from the garden, plus about a cup of red wine, then mashed and simmered until the sauce achieved the desired thickness. It made a great spaghetti sauce as is — I only added salt and a little grated cheese!

If you’re more inclined to experiment, check out this chef’s breakdown of all the elements of a fabulous tomato sauce.

A friend pointed me to an online recipe for refrigerator pickles, which will keep in the fridge for 6 weeks. Confidence buoyed by the sauce experience, I made two batches (8 quarts) of pickles one evening all by myself, and I even experimented a bit by using two different vinegars. It took about 90 minutes, and both batches turned out delicious. The regular white vinegar batch was more zingy like dill pickles that you buy in the store, and the batch in which I used a white wine vinegar was a bit milder and sweeter tasting. The jars of pickles are pretty enough to give as gifts too. (And I will be giving away a lot of them — who can eat that many pickles?)

Are you, like me, a bit cautious about canning? What’s your favorite easy way to preserve/prolong your harvest?

Canning for Ultra-Beginners originally appeared on Garden Rant on August 19, 2015.

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