How to host a canning party
With national Canning Across America events, a stack of new preserving cookbooks, and runs on jars, canning can no longer be described as a lost art. Chances are, you’ve made a batch of jam in the past year or so.
Making jam can be delicious sticky fun, but the real adventure comes when you take it to the next level: the canning party. Perhaps you’d like to share the magic of jam-making with a dozen friends? Or maybe just have someone to talk to while you pit 40 pounds of peaches?
Gathering a group of cohorts to turn boxes of fruit into jam for the rest of the year can be a surprising amount of fun. Interested in hosting? Select a recipe, send out invites, and round up all the supplies.
Here are eight tips for making it work.
- Take orders. While small canning projects can be impromptu affairs, making jam en masse requires some planning. Have your guests tell you how many cups of jam they’d like to end up with, and have them bring their own jars and lids (it’s up to them whether it’ll be canned in pints, half-pints, or adorable vintage jars from Grandma). You do some math, then pick up the necessary fruit, sugar, pectin, lemons, and whatever else your recipe calls for. Figure out the per-cup-of-jam price of everything you’ve bought, and have canners write checks for their shares of the take.
- Take inventory. A big canning project requires some big hardware. Make sure you have enough heavy-bottomed pots, stirring spoons, large bowls, etc. An often-overlooked item is knives. According to canning veteran Marisa McClellan, author of the blog Food in Jars, “Nothing slows things down faster than a dearth of good cutlery.” If you’re short any of these items, arrange for guests to bring backup gear.
- Take advantage of your purchasing power. Did you know that ordinary civilians can buy sugar in 25-pound sacks? Or that pectin can be ordered by the case? Canning with friends doesn’t just make for an enjoyable afternoon — it can save you serious money. Check out bulk deals from co-ops, local farms, or restaurant-supply outlets (contact them in advance to make sure they have or can order what you need).
- Label! Label! Label! Once your house is full of people and your stove is groaning with pots, things can start to get confusing. How many cups of fruit were poured into that pot? Does that bowl of sugar already have pectin sifted into it? With a lot of hands in the kitchen, labeling is essential. You can tuck slips of paper into bowls of dry ingredients, and grease pencils are handy for writing directly on the sides of jars and pots.
- Get that first pot a-heating! Once you start prepping fruit, it’s tempting to just keep on trucking until every last strawberry is hulled, peach is peeled, lemon is juiced, etc. But heating massive quantities of jam can take massive amounts of time. As soon as you have enough ingredients prepped for your first mega-batch, measure it out and light a fire under it.
- The magic of the on-deck pot. Putting an “on-deck” pot on a low burner (versus the bubbling pot you’re actively fussing over) can help ensure that there’s a steady supply of jam, and you’re not twiddling your thumbs between batches. Just make sure the heat’s low enough that you don’t have to worry about scorching.
- Stagger your helper monkeys. If everyone comes later in the day, it’ll take you forever to get started. And if everyone comes early, you’re left alone with a sink full of dishes and a sticky floor. Aim to space out arrivals throughout the day.
- Have snacks. When you’re around so much sweet sticky jam in all its stages, it’s inevitable that some is going to end up in mouths instead of jars. Multiply that by a few hours, subtract any substantial food, and everyone will be positively shaky with sugar. Ordering a pizza or having some bread and cheese on hand is always a good idea.
Deena Prichep writes from Portland, Oregon. This week, her blog features a recipe for Lassi (Rosewater Yogurt) Popsicles, which we plan to try.
Canning and Preserving