It may have started around the time of the last recession. It may be an outgrowth of the "locavore" food movement. It might be concerns about food additives and preservatives.
There are many contributing factors to the resurgence of interest in home canning, says Steve Hungsberg, a spokesman for Jarden Home Brands, makers of Ball canning jars. That interest has spurred a 31 percent increase in jar sales in the last year alone.
Hungsberg and his colleagues are so gung-ho, in fact, they declared Aug. 17 as National Can-It-Forward Day and encouraged people all over the country to "put by" or "put up" some of summer's harvest. If you happen to have been in New York City on that day, you'd have seen them celebrating -- and canning -- at the outdoor market at Union Square.
The folks at Ball make it as easy as possible to can food. Their "Blue Book" is a bible for the food-preservation set and is still an affordable $6.49 (plus shipping) from freshpreserving.com or (855) 813-9352. Want more? The National Center for Home Food Preservation, an arm of the USDA, has posted its guidelines on the University of Georgia website: nchfp.uga.edu. If your excuse has always been that you didn't know how to find out how to can, you're out of excuses now.
Space limitations make it impossible to address all of the preparations and methods for canning; if you wish to use the recipe here, it is imperative that you research canning guidelines on your own. But rest assured that it's really quite simple, not terribly expensive and gives great results. Plus, a little time spent canning surplus from your garden or from a local farm stand will reward you with good eating for months to come. You will also have a stash of gifts to dole out during winter holidays or take as hostess presents!
Start with something simple, like the Habanero Gold pepper-jelly recipe below, from the "Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving." It's spectacular when served over a block of cream cheese or a wedge of brie, and makes a fiery complement to grilled meats and fish. It's also quite beautiful.
Can it forward!