Getting Started with Low Sugar, Small Batch Canning

I have no idea why I like canning so much. It’s stressful, takes a boat load of planning, I don’t garden, and I’m trying to limit my consumption of sugar anyway. But alas like a moth to a flame, I’m attracted.

It’s stressful because I’m new to the hobby and don’t want to kill anyone with tainted food. But I’m sure the more I do it, the easier it will be and the better I’ll get at it. And it’s true I don’t garden but I covered how to get produce to can without gardening here. The only thing left is all. that. sugar. The first time I made strawberry jam, I was shocked by the cup after cup after cup of white sugar it required. I believe sugar is detrimental to good health and personally I’m working on getting over a nasty sugar addiction. So, I thought my days of canning jellies and jams were over as soon as they began. That is, until I found this gem:

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Naturally Sweet Food in Jars uses natural sweeteners like coconut sugar and honey in minimal amounts instead of cup after cup of white sugar. And the canning in this book is processed in small batches, which is fine by a newbie like me because big batch canning is intimidating.

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As soon as I could I went to the farmer’s market with the book in hand to see if I could find ingredients for any of the recipes. I did and Sweet Corn Salsa it was!

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The recipe called for coriander seed and ancho chili powder which I did not have and neither did the store. So I had to wait 2 days for it to arrive from Amazon. See what I told you about the pre-planning?

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I got this kitchen scale for Christmas which was cool because Naturally Sweet Food in Jars definitely recommends one. It came in handy.

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I stirred soon after.

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Bubbling away. Does anyone else can late at night?

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And the finished product! They all sealed and taste great.

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My collection of canned jewels is slowly growing but I have a looongg way to go. If you’d like to get started in canning and preserving food I definitely recommend Naturally Sweet Food in Jars if you are trying to limit white sugar.

Do you have any low sugar canning recipes? Please share them and ty for reading!

How to Find Produce to Can Without Gardening

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It’s January 2017 so first things first- Happy New Year to you!

It’s a new year and I’m already thinking about canning; I do not want to miss any veggie and fruit seasons this year. I’ve become a bit obsessed with canning even though I’ve only canned 4 times total in my life. They all have been with a water bath canner. I’m still too scared of my pressure canner but maybe this year that will change.

Historically, canning was a way to preserve the bounties of backyard gardens. Well, let me tell you that’s another story in Florida. Growing food here is hard, ESPECIALLY organically. And I’m not the only Floridian who thinks that. We are not gardening at the moment but I refuse to let that stop me from canning.

How to Find Produce to Can without Gardening

I know of three ways to find bulk fruits and vegetables that are in-season to can:

  1. U-Pick Farms
  2. Fruit and Vegetable Festivals
  3. Local Farmers

U-Pick Farms

U-Pick Farms are a TON of fun. Bring your friends and family and I guarantee you will have a wonderful, memory-filled day.

Last summer, we visited a local, family-owned blueberry farm and the place was absolutely stunning. I’m so thankful for the people who open up their homes and farms for the public to enjoy.

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A few plusses and minuses about u-pick farms: first, they can be fun, half-day events for the whole family. And, if you’re into photography they make beautiful backdrops for photos. But, compared to our other options, they can be a pricey way to obtain bulk produce. It really depends on each farm, unless you can find a place that will let you pick for free.

Fruit and Vegetable Festivals

While thinking about finding food to can, I remembered Florida’s beloved Strawberry Festival, “I know- I’ll attend ALL of Florida’s fruit and vegetable festivals!” Then, I came to my senses and realized that’s overkill and a LOT of driving. I hope to attend only two this year: the Florida Strawberry Festival in March and the Zellwood Sweet Corn Festival in May.

Every state (I think) has fruit and vegetable festivals and it’s a great way to support your local agriculture. You can find both U-Pick farms and your state’s festivals at this link: Pick Your Own.org. Do your research and check if the festival sells flats or bulk amounts of your desired produce first.

Some minuses about festivals: while fun they will most likely be an ALL DAY event. It also may entail a lot of driving. And I do not know the price of bulk produce sold at festivals. I hope they are reasonable but I have not attended one in a long time.

Local Farmers

We now come to our last and possibly best way to find in-season produce: your local farmer. Yes, people still farm and they want to sell you their hard work. I know of two ways to find local farmers: Local Harvest.org and your county’s extension office. Just google it. While I appreciate these online sites both of them can be horribly out-of-date in my experience. The absolute best way to find your local farmers? The farmer’s market. The farmers at your market are still in business and actively farming. Get their names and numbers and ask them what is coming into season. Let them know you want bulk veggies to preserve. I have found this to the cheapest route as well.

Can You Add to This List?

You may be surprised I did not mention CSA’s (Community Share Agriculture) as a way to get bulk produce. That’s because I bought bulk tomatoes to preserve from my CSA and while they were organic they came all the way from Arizona. They obviously weren’t that fresh but I tried canning stewed tomatoes with them anyway. Basically, it was a disaster and I’m not sure they are safe to eat. I have not touched them since and they are still sitting in my cabinet until I decide what to do with them. If you can get local, bulk food from your CSA then give it a try.

I’ve also heard of people obtaining pounds of veggies from their supermarket at rock bottom prices. Is the food older? Is it local or is it shipped in from somewhere? The supermarkets around me are big chains and I’m not sure this method would work for me?

Have you gotten canning produce from your supermarket? Do you know of any ways to find veggies to can without gardening? If so, please let us know in the comments below! Thanks for reading and happy canning.