Deb Trzcinski of Oak Harbor has had a dream and business plan for many years - to teach preserving and canning to women (and men) through home parties by charging a small fee.
She wants to inform them of the dos and don'ts of canning from start to finish, the cleaning of jars, appropriate lids, and seals, and the readying of fruits and vegetables to process the perfect jar of jam, jellies, fruits, or vegetables.
Since retiring from Sun Oil as a lab technician, she has found ways to inform and teach canning at the 577 Foundation in Perrysburg, and beginning Saturday she will teach approximately one canning class per month at the Toledo Farmers' Market. The first class, from 9 a.m. to noon, will feature jam.
She calls her business Kitchen Cannery and herself a "canning artist."
Last Tuesday, she demonstrated strawberry jam for me at one of the student kitchens at Clay High School.
The first steps are preparing your equipment, selecting a recipe, and getting the ingredients for the recipe, she said.
Making jam and jelly requires a canner with a rack for jars and lids, a preserving kettle, jar lifter, funnel, jelly jars and lids, and a smaller pan to heat the lids. Ms. Trzcinski also has an old-fashioned dipper for transferring the jam or jelly to the jars, a foam skimmer, and a magnetic wand that lifts the lids from a canning lid rack; this prevents burning your fingers in the boiling water.
She uses the recipes from the 100 percent Sure-Jell Premium Fruit Pectin box. "This is my favorite," she said. "There are all kinds of varieties (and brands) of pectin. Just because one uses seven cups of sugar for five cups of fruit doesn't mean the next brand will." Read the labels and the recipes that go with each brand. Liquid pectin also is available.
Then she buys the best fruit she can. Last Tuesday she purchased local strawberries. "Clean them as soon as possible," she said. "Soft fruit will bruise easily. But don't take the tops off the fruit until you are ready to do your jamming."
She used three quarts of strawberries, pulsing them in the food processor for cooked jam. For jelly, the fruit is strained to use only the juice. "I use concord grape juice for grape jelly," she said. "I have made raspberry jelly using Ackerman's seedless raspberry juice." Pear jam is among her specialties.
To start the jam, she melts a little butter or margarine in the preserving kettle to reduce foaming. Then she adds the crushed fruit. "You always cook everything on high," she said. "Never walk away. Keep stirring."
Then she adds the Sure-Jell, stirring to dissolve it in the fruit. "Wait until it comes to a full rolling boil so it does not stir down. Then I add the measured sugar," she said as her sister, Barbara Forrey of Toledo, assisted.
When she first puts the sugar in the fruits the mixture is pastel-colored, but as the sugar cooks, it brightens the fruit.
When the jam cooks to a second full rolling boil, time it for one minute (she counts to 60) and then stop. With a foam skimmer, skim off the excess foam (which was very little that day), and prepare to jar the jam, using a jar lifter to remove each sterilized jar kept in the hot-water canner. Fill using the funnel and the old-fashioned dipper, wiping the rim of each jar.
"If anything is on the rim there won't be a seal," said Ms. Trzcinski, who dipped the jam while Mrs. Forrey wiped the rims. Ms. Trzcinski lifted the lids from the hot water with the magnetic wand and then the rims while Mrs. Forrey held the lid in place.
Tighten the rim firmly but not too tight and then return the jars to the canner proceeding with the other jars.
For Ms. Trzcinski's jam recipe that day, she filled nine jelly/jam jars. These were processed 10 minutes at a full boil.
"Having the right equipment is a must," she said. "Also, don't try to double batch when canning: it doesn't work."
Making jam or jelly can easily be a two-person job. Mrs. Forrey assists at the 577 Foundation classes, the Farmers Market demonstrations, and will assist at the Kitchen Cannery Home Parties.
The idea of the home party is that the host invites 4 to 10 friends who want to learn to can (the number depends on the size of your kitchen). Each pays $20 for the lesson, tips, recipes and a sample of the featured item. The host does not pay the fee. "Everybody stirs and measures and goes home with a recipe book, and a jar of jam," says Ms. Trzcinski.
For those home cooks who remember their grandmothers using paraffin to seal the jelly jars, that is outdated, she said.
At the end of the party, she often bakes biscuits and the attendees sit down and have biscuits and jam and a cup of coffee. "It's warm and yummy," she said.
At the Toledo Farmers' Market, she will teach strawberry jam on from 9 a.m. to noon June 13. On July 11, Aug. 1, Sept. 12, and Oct. 10, she will process seasonal produce selecting items depending on the ripening dates.
At 577 Foundation in Perrysburg the once-a-month canning classes include Salsa and Tomato Products; Pears! Canned & Jammed; and Gifts in a Jar. Dates of these classes are announced one month before they happen in the fall. More information is available in August. Visit 577foundation.org.
For more information on preserving and canning classes or home parties by Deb Trzcinski, call 419-898-3737.
Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.
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