Margaret Power doesn't have time to waste.
As a newlywed, living in the country outside Scranton, Pa., she canned every vegetable and fruit under the sun to feed her growing family over the winter. By now her 10 children have added 21 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren to her clan, and her canning goal is simpler.
"I used to can everything," said the 80-year-old Kenmore cook. "My big thing now is tomatoes."
Like Power, lots of canners and would-be canners have just enough ambition for one batch of home-preserved goodness. We asked News readers for their favorite canning recipes, and today's newspaper includes a selection of their gems. You can find more reader favorites on the News' food blog, at blogs.buffalonews.com/hungryformore.
Tomatoes are Power's gem. She cans bushels while they're plentiful, from her children's gardens first, then more from the store. She puts about 100 jars a season onto her cellar shelves.
Then she uses them six quarts at a time for her long-simmered tomato sauce. Fortified with pork chops, sausage and meatballs, it lures Power's children back home for their share. "The kids take it, this one takes it and that one takes it," she said. "The kids all love it."
Power showed us how she does it, filling a bowl with plum tomatoes before splitting their skins with boiling water.
She holds the hot tomato under cool running water, cutting off stem ends and pulling off peels. She cuts the tomatoes into chunks and stuffs them into a boiled quart jar. A butter knife jiggled around the jar's sides eliminates air bubbles.
Federal canning guidelines say an acidifier like Fruit Fresh or citric acid is needed for food safety, plus boiling the jars for 50 minutes. Power said she only uses salt, boils for 20 minutes, and has never had a problem.
"Maybe other people would be really fussy with them," she said. "I've been doing it this way for about 50 years."
1/2 bushel tomatoes
Fruit Fresh or citric acid
7 or 8 quart canning jars, with lids and rings
Put tomatoes in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. When skins start to split, about 1 minute, put bowl in sink and peel under cold running water.
Put 2-3 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon Fruit Fresh or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid in each jar. (Power doesn't use acidifiers, but canning authorities insist it's a necessary precaution.)
Cut tomatoes into quarters, or smaller, and pack into jar, leaving 1/2 inch room. Run butter knife or chopstick around jar to eliminate bubbles.
Seal and boil for at least 20 minutes. (Federal guidelines say boil for 50 minutes.)
-- Margaret Power, Kenmore
>Buccaneer Peach Jam
4 cups chopped peaches, about 3 pounds
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 box fruit pectin, like Sure-Jell
1 teaspoon Ever-Fresh fruit protector
1/2 teaspoon margarine
1/4 cup light rum
Peel, pit and finely chop peaches. Add fruit protector. Measure sugar into separate bowl. Heat rum.
Put peaches in large saucepan. Stir in pectin, lemon juice and margarine, then bring mixture to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.
Add sugar, and return to rolling boil for one minute. Remove from heat. Add hot rum. Skim foam.
Fill jars to 1/4 inch from top. Process 15 minutes in boiling water. -- Clara Vathy, Tonawanda.
>Grampa R's Chili Sauce
30 large, ripe tomatoes
6 large onions
4 banana peppers (red preferred for color)
3 tablespoons kosher salt
3 1/2 cups white vinegar
5 cups sugar
Drop tomatoes into hot water for 1 minute, and remove peels. Peel onions, cut into eighths. Wash peppers under cold water.
Put tomatoes, onion, and peppers through meat grinder (food processors don't work as well). Alternate between tomatoes, onion pieces and hot peppers to avoid clogging grinder.
Use gloves working with peppers.
Put ground vegetables into large pot, add salt and vinegar, and cook at a softly rolling boil for about 3 hours. Add sugar, and cook another 30 minutes, stirring often to avoid scorching. If sauce is not thick enough, remove some excess liquid with a ladle and set aside.
Prepare jars, can sauce and process for 20 minutes. Makes 9-12 pints, depending on the size of the tomatoes. It's especially good atop cheddar cheese and crackers. The excess liquid plus mayonnaise makes a delicious salad dressing. -- Janet Brunner, Orchard Park
>Reduced Sugar Zucchini Jam
6 cups grated zucchini
1 1/2 cups Splenda Baking Sugar
1 cup crushed pineapple, undrained
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 (3-ounce) package sugar-free peach, apricot, cherry or grape Jell-O
In a large kettle, add a cup of water and zucchini; cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes.
Add sugar, pineapple and lemon juice; cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add gelatin, stirring well.
Pour in sterile jars and seal. -- Karen Gold, Sloan
Mrs. Niese's Grape Jam
4 rounded cups Concord grapes
4 cups sugar
Mix together and boil for 10 minutes, no more.
Put through food mill and pour into glasses.
Leona Niese gave this simple but well-used recipe to submitter Janet McKenna of Grand Island, who wrote: "I usually double it to make it worth my while, and process the jars in a 10-minute water bath."
1/2 bushel beets, like Detroit Reds or Very Dark Beets
5 cups cider vinegar
4 cups water
5 cups sugar
3/4 tablespoon canning salt
Place ingredients except beets in large pot, bring to a boil, making brine.
Wash beets and trim off leaves, leaving about 1 inch of stem. Do not cut the root off. If you cut close to the beet, it will lose its color and juice.
Cook beets in large pot, just long enough to slip skins off. Drain, rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle. Slip skins off beets, and slice or cut into wedges.
Pack beets into sterilized pints. Pour brine over beets, leaving 1/2 inch space at top. Seal jars. Cover with water by at least 1/2 inch and slow boil for 3 hours. -- Mary Matie, Boston
Canning notes: For all recipes, jars, lids and rims must be sterilized before use, by boiling, for instance. Washed thoroughly, lids and rims should be boiled, then kept in hot water. Jars too. After filling, wipe jar rims and threads before adding lids and screwing on bands.
Process as directed, in boiling water an inch over jar tops. As finished jars cool, their lids should pop into place. Any jars that don't seal can be refrigerated for a week, but won't keep longer.