small measures by 12

small measures with ashley: host a canning party!

(Image courtesy of Lark Books)

No matter whether you’ve got a kitchen garden of your own, frequent your area’s tailgate markets, are a member of a CSA, or simply purchase your fresh produce at the grocery store, it’s apparent all around that summer is upon us. Verdant, crisp cucumbers, scandalously juicy berries, firm crookneck yellow squashes, variously hued and shaped heirloom tomatoes and so, so very much more are literally ripe for the picking. If you’ve grown more than you can eat up straight away, or spy some gorgeous delicacy at the market that you’re just not sure what to do with, why not consider rendering your perishables into canned goods?

In recognition of the Can-A-Rama 2010 happening this weekend, wherein “canvolutionaries” will take up mason jars and put a lid on things nationwide (and internationally, too!), this week’s Small Measures celebrates the communal act of water bath canning. Sure, you can certainly work studiously from home, stirring pots in a hot kitchen, wooden spoon in one hand, gin and tonic in the other (lemon water for me!). But why do it alone when you can sweat, chop, and create lasting provisions in the company of friends and loved ones? Why not throw a canning party? Assemble a group of buddies, gather up the equipment and ingredients, and get your canners boiling!

(The following text is excerpted from my book “Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving with Ashley English” and is re-printed with permission courtesy of Lark Books).

You Too Can Can: Hosting an At-home Canning Party

Come summertime, when the bounty of the season threatens to overwhelm your garden and the tables at farmers’ market creak and groan under the weight of their offerings, consider hosting a canning get-together. Those already schooled in the trade can share tips and advice, while newbies will gain invaluable hands-on experience. Limit the number of guests so that everyone’s wares can get cooked on the stovetop space available. Or, you could invite loads of friends and turn the gathering into a sleepover, burning the midnight oil as you toil over simmering pots and sizzling pressure canners. Depending on what you’re making, you could even sample some of your creations for breakfast the next morning

CLICK HERE for the rest of ashley’s post + a canning party planning timeline after the jump!

Party Planning Timeline

Three Weeks Ahead (Clearly this won’t apply here, as I’m suggesting this event on a Friday and the Can-A-Rama commences the following day; instead, simply phone or send out a group e-mail to persons you think might be so inclined to gather in the kitchen for some canning action this weekend. This could be a mixer, too, serving as a group opportunity for future couples to mix and mingle…).

*Send invitations via e-mail or regular mail. Decide if you’d like guests to arrive with their ingredients, or if you’d like to include a trip to a nearby farmers’ market or U-pick farm as part of the day’s activities. Ask guests to come with a recipe and jars for making their items. Ask guests to share in advance what recipe they will be preparing to avoid duplications.

One Day Ahead

*Prepare appetizers or a small meal for your guests to nosh on. Have your kitchen clean and ready for cooking up a storm!

The Big Day

*Assemble all your equipment and be sure it is completely clean. Share in the work as you chop, cook, and can enough jars for each guest to head home with half a dozen or more gems for their pantry.

My editor, and very close friend, Nicole and I held a canning brunch at her place last August with about four other ladies, during the kick-off Can-A-Rama weekend. It was an absolute  blast. We put up poached pears with lemon and thyme. Each attendee brought a potluck brunch-ish dish to share and we feasted and gloated after our work was done. Then, in October, Nicole and I went apple orchard-picking, gathering up a variety of magnificent locally grown apples (and feasted on requisite hot apple cider and straight-out-of-the-fryer apple cider donuts afterwards. HEAVEN, people, heaven). The next day, we peeled, cored, chopped, stirred, and pureed down many, many jars of apple butter to give away to the sales staff for promotion. It was a total labor of love and I look back on it, and the August gathering, quite fondly. Remember, if you like it, you shoulda  put a lid on it (think Beyonce would be willing to share the royalties with me?)! -ashley

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ginny branch stelling

this is awesome! i saw this idea in amy pennington’s book and i was going to give it a try this weekend! THIS IS A TOTAL SIGN!


I just posted yesterday on my fruit picking, asking for suggestions for recipes. Of course, canning! Mama taught me, so I should teach others. Thanks for inspiring me, Ashley. As always, your writing is beautiful.


great post! And a good reminder to order your book, Ashley ;)

I have spent many years avoiding canning because I always thought it would be too hard– and hot– in my tiny rental kitchen spaces. But last winter I saw the kitchen where my grandmother and great aunt canned, apparently for weeks during the small harvest season of northern Ontario, and I committed to doing it whole hog this year because the kitchen they worked in couldn’t have been wider or longer than a small hallway. My mom remembered that things would hang and drip from the cupboard handles and the basement would stink like saurkraut. She hated it, but hearing the the story and seeing that kitchen made me really nostalgic, and I am excited to try canning this year, almost in remembrance of my grandma.


This and other recent reads totally make me want to throw one of those parties in the fall (the fact that I will have a new kitchen definitely motivates me too!)

Susan Brinson

i just bought some cans and the book! i can’t wait to get started. i am going to try it by myself before i invite the crew over. i think once i get started this could get out of control, like the holiday cookies. i will be begging people to take them home.


If that is what you look like when you are canning, you don’t have nearly enough fruit needing to be done.


tina-the image above is from a photo shoot done for my book. we made one batch of peach lavender butter for the photographs. typically, when i’m canning, i’m putting up a good deal more produce. when there are many extra hands to go around, however, i do end up having an awful lot of fun. we all had a great time that day, which is why i think canning parties are such good ideas; they make short order of all of the work.


There’s a lot you need to know about canning to do it safely–you have to be very careful about keeping everything sterile, jars have to be processed for a certain amount of time, some foods can be done with a hot water bath, others need a pressure canner, etc. If you’re going to host a group gathering, you should be experienced first. It took me a looong time the first time I did it on my own; it was grueling work and I burned myself several times! There’s also the whole food poisoning thing. Not trying to be a Debbie Downer, just want people to know to read up on it and be careful!

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