Surfas Canning Class

Categories: Canning , Recipes | 3 Comments
Posted Thursday, November 12th, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Yesterday was full of food adventures.  The day began with a free canning and preserving class I read about in a post on Slow Food LA.  Canning has always been something I’ve wanted to try, but the scientific complexity and potential danger of it was too scary.  I imagined exploding jars sending shards of glass into the flesh of my loved ones, pots boiling over with scalding water, long painful deaths by boticilism, and worse, all that wasted fruit splattered on the walls like a scene from a bad slasher film.  Okay, you got me.  I’m paranoid.

Anyway, this year, I’ve decided to face my fears.  My wonderful husband accompanied me to Surfas, everyone’s favorite cooking store in Culver City.  By the time we got there, the test kitchen was standing room only.  A grandmotherly lady in a cheerful cherry print apron, Bettina Birch, was busy chopping persimmons for a chutney.  She was accompanied by a handsome young fellow, Kevin West with a southern drawl and a quick wit.  Donning a fitted wool vest, his blonde hair cropped and parted to the side, he reminded by of a banker in an old western movie.

My gaze went straight to the colorful mason jars of preserves that decorated the perimeter of the counter. The brazen peppers the color of a bullfighter’s cape, the soft orange persimmon hugging each, the cherries, mysterious in their maroon syrup.


Each jar had a handmade tag lovingly attached to its lid with twine, proudly declaring the the contents within.  There was definitely a craft to this.  It was the perfect intersection between individual industry and art.

I imagined my kitchen counter bedecked in such a way, creating a sense of culinary joy and pride such as I have never before experienced.  I grabbed one of the canning kits stacked before me and listened with rapt attention.

When my husband learned that canning doesn’t necessarily imbue the food with enhanced flavor, he lost enthusiasm.  “What’s the point?” he asked.  Especially in Santa Monica, where there is a farmer’s market practically every day of the week and everything grows all year round.

Well, there is the aesthetic value I described above.  Also, there is the “Little House On The Prairie” effect.  I love the idea of carefully preserving food to survive the winter, even though the temp may only drop to 60.  And we can always give them away as gifts for the holidays!

Below are the recipes and my notes.  Reader, these are the recordings of a half-cocked lady.  Please consult a USDA approved canning recipe book like Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving before tryin’ this at home.

Canning Recipes

The chutney recipe above also calls for  a 1/2 teaspoon cardamon!


- The key to canning is getting as much air out of the can as possible. Canning kits come with a special wand designed to help you pack down the fruit and remove air bubbles from the jar.

- When choosing fruit that is firm and maybe even slightly unripe.  You want it to be able to withstand all the cooking.

- Botulism can only exist in low acid/PH environments.  Most fruits are already high enough in PH (raspberries, strawberries). However, if not, vinegar or lemon or lime juice will do the trick.

Preparing The Jars

- They must be hot before adding hot food. Wash jars and then dry them by putting them in a 225 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Not necessary to “sterilize.”

- When placing a jar in a boiling pot of water use a canning rack to elevate the jar above the bottom of the pot.  Placing glass on metal can lead to accidents.

- Put jar in water immediately after putting on the lid.

- Start the timing of the “water bath” from the time the water starts to boil.  Boil the water and then put all the jars in at the same time.  Turn up to a boil again and start timing.

- Sealing the jars. Essentially you just want to seal the jars as airtight as possible to protect it from the world of pathogens.  People over the centuries have had many techniques including using beeswax, or even paper soaked in brandy.

- Jars lids can take up to 24 hours to “pop.”



  1. FarmApartment » Can Doers

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