Jenny Gomes, rancher’s daughter, blogs about sewing, canning, and old fashioned DIY. This small town girl from the Northernmost part of California was raised on red meat, garden vegetables, wild berries, and well water. As idyllic and wild west as it sounds, it is completely true. You may know her best as A Domestic Wildflower.
To learn more about canning, we caught up with Jenny get the skinny on tips and tricks she’s learned throughout her years of canning. Her obsession started five years ago. Being pregnant with her first child set her on a canning spree which resulted in more than 100 cans of homemade applesauce. Jenny’s newest project is a collaboration with Elisa Giorgio for a live workshop discussing canning and freezer meal recipes for beginners. Check out the webinar on August 18th for great canning tips!
While summer produce is still abundant, we wanted to hear how we can turn our favorite produce into jams, jellies, preserves, and pickles that we can keep through the fall and winter or longer. If they don’t get eaten first, that is.
One of the many reasons we’re keen to start canning is that it’s a great way to preserve foods like jams, tomato sauces, and pickled vegetables and without any additives like the ones found in certain grocery store products.
Interview with Jenny Gomes of A Domestic Wildflower
Anna Curran: What are some pro tips you learned on your journey on becoming an “expert canner”?
Jenny Gomes: My three most invaluable canning tips are:
1) You don’t have to use a giant, black and white speckled enamelware pot. You can use a regular stock/stew/soup pot (about the size you’d boil two artichokes in) and a silicone trivet in the bottom. Those big pots work well of course, but they take a long time to come to a boil, are difficult to store, and heavy to lift when full of water.
2) You can’t necessarily change up ingredients in canning the way you can with standard, on the stove cooking because of the requirements of keeping the acid level of the jam, salsa, etc at 4.6 or greater, but you can play around with how the recipe is prepared.
For example, in my plum jam recipe, I decided to change it up by roasting the plums in a shallow pan in the oven and it completely changed the flavor from the standard, boiled-till-thick procedure. You can make your salsa chunky or super smooth or turn your berries into thick and spreadable jam or clear, jewel-like jelly. The variation comes in how it is prepared, rather than the ingredients itself.
3) My third pro tip is a simple one. You can always turn the stove down. If the jam is cooking too fast, or there’s too much steam to see what’s going on, or one pot is ready before another, you can always take your metaphorical foot off the gas pedal. Canning isn’t a race.
Anna Curran: How did you begin to experiment with canned food? Are there any resources you’d recommend for a newbie?
Jenny Gomes: I got started canning when I was pregnant with my first child five years ago. Some gals nest by painting baby rooms; I made 100 jars of applesauce. I wanted to learn how to do what I’d seen my mom and grandmother do as a kid, but I wanted to do it in smaller batches, in less time, in my tiny kitchen with a growing belly. I read many great blogs including www.FoodinJars.com which is a great resource, and with the purchase of Liana Krissoff’s book Canning for a New Generation, I was completely hooked. I wholeheartedly recommend both. I never found the perfect resource for brand new, never boiled a pot of water before beginner that would SHOW the canning process, so I created a course at www.StartCanning.com. It is a course that is designed to feel like I’ve invited you over to watch me can; so come on over!
Anna Curran: What’s exciting to you about canning food?
Jenny Gomes: Canning is exciting to me because it gives a busy mom choice. A rushed mom is short on choices, and it is that lack of choice that drives us to feed ourselves and kids processed stuff that we know we probably shouldn’t. Because I invest time in the summer to can tomatoes into sauce, I can open a jar in January and the
contents are not only delicious and versatile, they still can be considered a vegetable. I use it in enchiladas or spaghetti, add dairy or more vegetables, and I know there’s no added sugar or mystery ingredients. That investment gives me the choice to be healthy and that is a very exciting to me.
Anna Curran: Do you have any favorite types of jars for canning or tools of the trade you can’t live without?
Jenny Gomes: My favorite tool is not on my list of “musts” because canning should really be seen as something you can start with what you probably already have in your kitchen. The only thing a newbie would have to buy or borrow likely would be a jar lifter.
My favorite “extra” tool however is a food mill. I have a baby food mill which was given to me at my baby shower, and it is SO valuable. It is kind of like a cheese grater that processes fresh or cooked foods into a super smooth puree in no time. It keeps seeds, stems, cores, and skins in the hopper up top, and apple sauce or silky smooth jam is all that ends up in the preserving pan below. It is all metal, easy to clean, and so effective. You of course don’t need one. A counter or immersion blender, or even a knife will do a similar job, but I love the food mill for those reasons.
Anna Curran: What are your favorite 5 canning recipes what do you like like about them?
Jenny Gomes: There are so many recipes I love. You can view my 5 favorite recipes in on this Canning Recipes collection here on Cookbook Create. Below, I’ve shared a bit about why each one of these recipes is in my top 5.
Recipes from Jenny Gomes, A Domestic Wildflower
Jenny Gomes’: Roasted Plum Jam Recipe
My roasted plum recipe is a recipe that I love because it is so fragrant, different than many other jam recipes, and makes a tart, wild plum rich and sweet in a way that plain ol’ white sugar can’t. It is also very special to me because I first made it with plums I picked at my grandfather’s the last time I saw him alive and it was the first thing I cooked with my little two year old daughter on the chair beside me in the kitchen and son in my belly. I’m such a sentimental cook!
Jenny Gomes’ Tomato Sauce Recipe
My tomato sauce recipe is a basic recipe and there are many, many tomato recipes out there. Use mine or someone else’s but be wary of older recipes: Older tomato varieties were much higher in acid than the tomatoes we have today. Because of the consumer’s demand for sweeter tomatoes, ours now are much less acidic, even if you grow them yourself. That means a trusted tomato recipe likely calls for the addition of citric acid (a flavorless powder), vinegar, or lemon juice to raise the acid level and ensure a safe and long lasting product. In any case, follow the directions. I love it because it is so versatile. I pour a jar in a saucepan and add a little chopped garlic, olive oil, and maybe a splash of cream and heat it through at that’s my pasta sauce. Or, I spread it inside stromboli, or add a few fresh ingredients like more onions, cilantro, and peppers for an on the fly fresh-tasting salsa.
Jenny Gomes’ Canned Roasted Bell Peppers Recipe
Roasted bell peppers are mild (kid approved), beautiful for gifting, and while they take a while to peel, they are fast to process. They are equally good on a quesadilla as they are in pasta sauce.
Jenny Gomes’ Strawberry Kiwi Lemonade Concentrate Recipes
I really love my strawberry kiwi lemonade concentrate because the flavor is heavenly, it is customizable (you can skip the kiwi entirely and just increase the strawberry) and it allows you to serve up a sweet drink that is just as sweet as you like. It gives the choice of refreshment that isn’t sticky and cloying. You can use it in a grown up cocktail with sparkling water, or to please your youngest who wants to drink what is in the big kid’s cup and just water it down more. It is also beautiful in the jar; the kiwi seeds suspended in pink remind me of watermelon.
Jenny Gomes’ Strawberry Pineapple Shrub Recipe
Shrubs are a very simple preserve that are usually just fruit, sugar, and vinegar. They are not canned typically, but they are a super easy introduction to preserving food in jars. The very basic method to making a no-cook shrub is to chop one part fruit, mix with one part sugar, and one to one and a half parts vinegar. After a week of sitting on the counter, the mixture is strained and stored in the refrigerator. My favorite is strawberry pineapple with apple cider vinegar because it is the most palatable to the uninitiated and great with just sparkling water or with a variety of libations.
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