I love to can. (I know, how old am I?!) But seriously I do. Mostly I make my own jam, but last summer I canned my excess tomatoes from the garden and I also canned a pasta sauce made of butternut squash. This summer I went strawberry picking with my best friend Marisa who was visiting us at the time.
We picked so many we decided to make jam. What I love about canning is that you control what goes into the preserve. Take a jar of regular strawberry preserves off the shelf at the grocery store and I bet you'll find high fructose corn syrup and citric acid, both corn derived. I love corn, just not in everything I eat. This is what has happened, corn is now in everything we eat if we eat off of the shelves of the grocery store. (I highly recommend reading Omnivore's Dilemma and watching Food Inc.) When London was little I would buy canned fruit from the store instead of steaming it myself, which I might try in the future if another one comes along. The hard thing about this was that almost all the fruit was canned in HFCS or a light syrup, which is sugar. Why would you add unnecessary sugar to an already naturally sweet product? American's tongues have lost taste and need things super sweet now and expect all fruit to be sweet to the extreme instead of just tasting the fruit for what it is. I always tried to buy fruit canned in water, which is hard to find, or light syrup which I would then wash off before feeding it to her.
I digress, back to canning. You can control what goes into each and every can when you do it yourself and you really don't need the special equipment that the canning industry recommends. I use my big soup pot and tongs. When I made the strawberry jam I bought some pectin and the recipe inside called for 7 cups of strawberries and 5 cups of sugar. Are you kidding me?! I cut the sugar down to 2 cups and it is perfectly sweet. When canning fruits I don't think you should add any sugar let alone a syrup. Just can them in water with maybe, depending on the fruit, a squirt of lemon juice to help with discoloration.
We have an apricot tree and some plum trees in our yard. Last year I got a lot of apricots and make jam out of them but this year we got two apricots due to a weird spring and the birds got them before me, sad face. The plums however were overflowing. London and I went out and picked a whole bunch and then made jam. So now I have cans of strawberry and plum jam in my pantry. I am so happy knowing that my jam is HFCS free and only has a little sugar in it. I know that if I canned whole fruits I would be very happy knowing that my canned fruit was packed in water and not in syrup. So if you are embarking on a canning experience please remember to not can with syrup. Why add the extra sugar, and a highly refined sugar at that, to a perfectly delicious natural snack?