Canning and preserving foods may be a hobby for hipsters in Brooklyn, but it's actually practical for us here in Miami. With the very real threat of hurricanes and the zombie apocalypse, every good South Florida resident should be prepared to go a few weeks without electricity, and canning is an effective way to stock up your shelves without having to worry that your supply will go bad. Don't worry, it's not as hard as you think. We have a few tips to help you get started, and on your way to stocking your pantry for the inevitable end.
Get to class: Canning is fairly simple, but a class is advised, especially if you're someone who has a tendency to skip over essential directions in a recipe. Small errors will result in unsealed cans, which will be rendered useless while your surviving the disaster -- unless of course you need a quick Botox injection before the zombies eat your face off.
Instead, make sure you do it right, and head over to your nearest Williams-Sonoma. We checked out the one at Lincoln Road, where every Sunday at 11 a.m., the housewares store offers a free hour-long class guided by a staff expert. The classes cover a range of frequently asked questions and offers tips (you can see the whole list here) including the how-to's of DIY canning.
On July 22, the store will offer a class on canning your own "bumper crop" of tomatoes for a sauce or salsa, and on August 12th students will learn how to create crisp and tangy pickled veggies with a class on canning pickles and relishes. Get there early if you want a good view inside the Williams-Somama stage kitchen and stove, which also serves as the checkout where class participants receive 10 percent off any purchases.
Get supplies: Although you get 10 percent off...forgo the temptation to spend a small fortune on your first set of canning supplies from Williams-Sonoma. Start instead with a quick search on the internet where you can find everything you need for a fraction of the price. We opted for the Back to Basics 5-piece Home Canning Kit for $12.97 which comes with almost everything you need to get started to see if you have what it takes. Pick up canning jars, which you can get wholesale from good ole' Hialeah. Goodman's sells everything you need for a great price, 12 Ball half-pint mason jars will only run you $8.99. Some extras you may want to grab from Goodman's, depending on what you're canning: fruit pectin ($4.99), dissolvable labels ($3.99) and pickling salt (2.33).
If you don't have any lying around, you'll need to get produce for your canning project. As this is meant to be an exercise in being resourceful, try canning found mangoes or head down to a u-pick for some ripe tomatoes once the weather gets cooler, choosing riper produce for best results. Lastly, be sure you have a pot tall enough to hold the mason jars and two extra inches of water. If not, go get one from the thrift store...or your mom.
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Get cooking: Now that you've seen it done and have your supplies, choose a recipe. If you skipped class, get step-by-step instructions here. Many sites suggest to start canning off with a jam recipe, as jams are the most fool-proof. We started off with a mango-jalapeno jam that was pretty easy and will taste great on saltines while we're having happy hour in our bunker. After 24 hours, you will know if your lid sealed. If so, add it to the pile and begin building up your supply with essentials, canning extra produce, and getting into the habit of canning once a month to replenish your stocks---at least you'll have the food part of your disaster plan worked out!
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