I spent most of my summer dreaming of what I’m going to preserve next – with backyard gardens (not necessarily mine) and farmers’ markets bursting with whatever happens to be in season, there’s plenty of inspiration. I usually start with jams and jellies as strawberries and chokecherries arrive, then move on to barbecue sauces with the abundance of blueberries and saskatoons (which happily coincide with grilling season) and then pickles and chutneys when apples and pears start to come into their own.
The biggest issue most home cooks have with home preserving is the pressure (no pun intended) to can their preserves properly for long term storage. Confidently sterilizing and sealing your jars well enough to minimize risk of spoilage is enough to scare even confident cooks away. There’s a solution – store your jams, preserves and barbecue sauces in the freezer. It works just as well, and won’t change the structure or texture.
To store preserves in your freezer, opt for sturdy freezer containers over glass, which can break in the freezer, even when you think you’ve left plenty of room for expansion. (Trust me on this one.) I like containers that seal well and stack easily, so I can maximize freezer space. Freezer bags work well too; if you use them, don’t fill them too much and store them flat – the thinner the package, the more quickly it will freeze (and thaw), and flat frozen bags are easy to stack. Thaw you preserves in its container on the countertop; if you like, you can then spoon it into a jar to store in the fridge. (Some jams are just more appealing stored in jars. Of course, it can go straight from the freezer to the fridge in its container too.)
Blueberry Barbecue Sauce
canola oil, for cooking
1 small onion, chopped
3 cups blueberries
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup apple cider or water
In a large saucepan or medium pot, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onions for a few minutes, until soft. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and cook for about an hour.
Cool slightly, then puree the mixture until smooth with a hand-held immersion blender right in the pot, adding extra liquid if it’s too thick. (Alternatively, cool and puree in a blender or food processor.)
Makes about 3 cups.