CONTEST CLOSED: Win 1 of 3 Ball Canning Kits


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  131 comments   :  19,937 Views

CONTEST CLOSED Four years ago, upon moving to Cincinnati, I immediately set about exploring my new hometown. I quickly stumbled upon what has become one of my favorite places in the city: Findlay Market, the oldest public market in Ohio. Home to a farmers market, vendors selling local and ethnics ingredients, and plenty of interesting food shops, it's a foodie's heaven. I immediately starting buying whatever produce I could at the farmers market, even freezing and dehydrating some, such as tomatoes and cherries, for winter.

Though my mom now has a large garden and cans tomatoes, salsa, and pasta sauce each year, I've never learned how. With a husband and only two kids in the house instead of four--and those two kids are now teenagers and not infants--she has time for many of the tasks she had to put on hold while she was raising us on her own. (Besides, I was such a prissy pill in high school that I wouldn't have eaten anything we grew or canned ourselves anyway.)

This year, with my first house and my first garden, filled with a dozen tomato plants, five hearty basil plants, and a couple dozen other plants (herbs, cucumbers, zucchini, and four kinds of peppers).

No one warned me that 12 tomato plants is excessive for two people! With the garden currently yielding a quart of tomatoes a day, we're finally ready to take the big leap… and try canning. And, as luck with have it, the good folks at Ball reached out a month ago and invited Nicole and me to a canning luncheon.

They’ve created a new canning kit that costs just $11.50, is available at big box retailers and supermarkets, and aimed at people who are newer to canning. With just 3 pint jars, it's perfect for people like me who want to spend an hour or two canning--not days like my mom does.

Ball is giving away three of the new Discovery Canning Kits in honor of our dailySpark Anniversary! They say: "Foodies who love new cooking techniques will appreciate this low-cost starter set. A modern product design/ trendy recipes attract new consumers to trial using existing kitchenware."

Read on for some of the surprising things I learned about canning during the luncheon:

First, something that didn't surprise me is that all of Ball's recipes (many of which are included in the kit) are USDA approved, meaning that you can rest assured your recipes will can safely.

I didn't know that you could create plenty of recipes with little to no salt or sugar. Though canning definitely an area of cooking where you must follow the rules, there is a bit of room for creativity and personal nutritional preferences.

The acid levels, headspace (empty space at the top of the jar), and ingredient ratios are crucial to maintaining canning recipes' integrity. Salt and, to a lesser extent, sugar levels can be adjusted.

That's great news for health-conscious people or those who have to avoid salt or sugar.

I'll be posting a review of the kit as soon as I can my first tomatoes. Wish me luck!

Enter the contest here. As always, the rules apply, and the contest ends a week from today (Monday, Aug. 23, 2010, and 5 p.m. EST.) Do you can? What do you usually can? Did you know you could reduce the salt and sugar?

Note: Ball provided the dailySpark with two complimentary kits to review, and they are providing the three kits for readers.

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    I'm a winner too! Received my kit on Friday....that was FAST! LOL!! Now I can't say that I've never won anything. :) - 8/31/2010   9:17:57 AM
  • 130
    whoot! I was one of the winners! just got my kit from the UPS guy and now I just need to figure out what to make. Thanks SparkPeople! - 8/30/2010   3:39:33 PM
  • 129
    One of the other things you can find with the Ball canning jars in your big box retailer is the Ball Blue Book. It has all the information you need to can your own produce (buy the veggies at the farmers markets if you can't grow it yourself) and you'll know exactly what the ingredients are in that jar. The book is great for the just getting started home canner and includes hundreds of recipes and tips.
    I would caution everyone who thinks you will save money growing your own and canning it that it is not cheap to get started. It is also very time consuming but when you want to make chili in the winter months and just take a jar or two of home grown tomatoes off the shelf, or open a jar for garden green beans, you have never tasted anything better.
    I've canned veggies for years and have a huge supply of jars on hand so the cost after a while becomes irrelevant when we have that great summer taste to look forward to when it is cold and gloomy out and the snow is blowing.
    Another suggestion to preserve your garden goodies is using a Food Saver if you want to freeze them. It helps things stay fresher longer and slows down the freezer burn you can get from zip closure bags. That is a whole other topic though!
    It's tomato canning season where live so I am filling those empty jars every night after I get home from work. So far, 20 quarts done, about 100 to go! - 8/25/2010   11:23:54 AM
    My great aunt & great grandma canned many different foods each year, but I've never learned how. I'm going to have to check out this starter kit so I can save some of the great summer farm market produce for the dead of winter! - 8/23/2010   12:02:43 PM
  • 127
    I can any veggies I get from the garden and love to make strawberry rhubarb jellies. - 8/22/2010   11:04:12 PM
  • EEVEE1
    i canned peaches and applesauce last year, it was way easier than i thought it would be - 8/22/2010   9:53:46 PM
    I've been curious about canning, but it makes me nervous. I'm so afraid I'll do it wrong and wind up ruining the food instead of preserving it lol - 8/21/2010   7:52:19 PM
  • 124
    Canning is my cardio this summer. I've done tomatoes, Salsa, Sauce, tomato jam, peaches, peach jam,green beans, pickles, pickled beets and on and on. All grown on our property. Most from our hydroponic garden. Waiting on the potatoes, apples and pears to be ready. Did I mention jars and jars of beets! - 8/20/2010   11:28:45 AM
  • 123
    I love canning!!! I belong to a CSA in Maryland and between the tomatoes and cukes that we get out of our own garden and then all the produce we get from the CSA I am almost every weekend up to my elbows in pickles, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, jalapenos, jellies and jams.
    LOVE IT! - 8/20/2010   9:25:37 AM
  • NEICEY78
    We started canning a few years ago and look forward to it every year. Last year we put up some soup. 4 different kinds. Two years ago we did 56 quarts of spagetti sauce and quite a few other things. This year we are going to do spagetti sauce again. We look forward to canning it is fun and a good way to spent the weekend together. I cant wait to start again this year. - 8/20/2010   8:44:25 AM
    I don't remember how, (my Mom helped me with that part), but I have fond memories of making enormous batches of pickles when I was a kid. My great-uncle raised vegetables, so we always had bushels of cucumbers to use. I still have never found or heard tell of a pickle recipe that in any way resembles my great-grandmother's. They're amazing! - 8/20/2010   6:41:25 AM
  • 120
    We used to can jam from the fruit on our trees (when we lived where we had fruit trees) - we regularly used maybe 25% the recommended sugar, and it was still DELICIOUS. - 8/20/2010   6:15:06 AM
    Canning is simply a way of life for me. I make a huge pot of something in my super-sized crock pots, then can the leftovers. I can my own refried beans, seasoned with fresh onions, peppers, garlic. No fats, no salt, no worry about what is in that can other than the food. I can tomatoes, plain, for use in cooking later. Marinara sauces, peas, green and wax beans. I buy and cook kidney beans and others and can them, ready for cooking a quick dinner, but much less cost and no sodium.

    I don't freeze much of anything because I think frozen green beans are "aaaccckkk! Gross!" and we have horrible storms here, and power outages are normal. Please do NOT choose me for the canning kit. I have all I need. Instead, maybe choose a newbie to canning? Once they start, maybe they will see how easy it is to make it part of meal planning, and how, no matter how little money is left at the end of the month, the things they have canned will make wonderful meals. - 8/19/2010   9:48:39 PM
    I mostly freeze produce rather than can it - it's too bad that canning (which requires considerable heat and steam) needs to take place in the height of the summer! When I have done canning, we did peaches in apple juice (instead of a heavy syrup) and various pickles. I've made jams, but only freezer jams. - 8/19/2010   8:42:22 PM
  • 117
    I can tomatoes, juice, salsa, pasta sauce, and many kinds of pickles, jellies and jams. We prefer to freeze sweet corn and also freeze applesauce, onions and peas, along with apple slices, rhubarb and raspberries. I enjoy the wonderful finished product, even though it's hard to organize canning around a full-time job. Things are never ripe in the garden when it's convenient! - 8/19/2010   5:35:25 PM
  • 116
    we mostly can 1. peaches (freezer), 2. Tomatoes (canning) and 3. Red Chile (canning). - 8/19/2010   1:59:37 PM
    I would love to learn to can. I now have the time and a place to have a garden, so I need to learn to can also. This would be awesome! - 8/19/2010   9:10:27 AM
  • 114
    How cool! I have been DYING to learn how to can and preserve more foods!!! - 8/19/2010   8:37:45 AM
  • 113
    I LOVE to can!!! There is nothing like fresh homemade salsa or spaghetti sauce in the middle of the winter, or some jam made with fresh fruit!! - 8/18/2010   11:04:26 PM
    I canned jellies and jam last year. I wasn't brave enough to try veggies or fruit. I would like to try peaches. Yum. Thanks. Pam - 8/18/2010   6:30:54 PM
  • 111
    Would love to learn to can and know what is in the food I'm eating. - 8/18/2010   6:28:48 PM
  • 110
    I canned for the very first time a couple of weeks ago..on a total lark when a coworker brought in a couple lbs of jalapenos from his garden. I decided to literally pack a few pints of pickled peppers. Followed the directions. Seemed easy enough. They are now pickling away for a couple of weeks. Can't wait to see how they turned out. Used just a little honey as a sweetener. - 8/18/2010   4:54:58 PM
  • 19PITSY53
    I'm hoping to get some fresh veggies canned this year. Now the weather and plants have to cooperate. - 8/18/2010   4:53:10 PM
    My grandmother canned EVERYTHING from her large garden and fruit trees! Some of my warmest memories when visiting her involve raiding her pantry and taking out a jar of some favorite (usually her dill pickles!). My mother also did some canning, so I grew up with it and learning how to do it safely. I used to have my own large garden and canned a lot then (I made some spectacular zucchini relish--some with hot pepper and a luscious grape jam w/lemon zest. I don't have room for a garden now, but I love to raid farmers' markets. I really need the equipment so that I can start canning again (on a much smaller scale) as some things just don't freeze as well and my poor freezer is overworked as it is! - 8/18/2010   4:13:55 PM
  • 107
    I've never done it but need to learn how now that I'm retired!!! - 8/18/2010   3:41:47 PM
    My mom always canned when I was younger we always had a big garden. Now I can't seem to get a garden going. But I never thought of going to the farmers market and buying fresh produce there and canning it. That is a wonderful idea. Thanks. - 8/18/2010   12:29:38 PM
  • 105
    My mom canned when I was little and she died when I was young so she never was able to teach me how. I have fumbled around a little bit this kit would help a great deal!! - 8/18/2010   11:54:27 AM
  • 104
    I have the Discovery Kit- I found the basket easy to put together, but if you use a different size jar than what they provide, it doesn't seem to hold the jars well- they kept falling over. :( It WAS better than lids in the bottom of the pot, though!
    :) I really want to try the Ball recipe for strawberry lemon marmalade! - 8/18/2010   6:20:34 AM
  • 103
    I did some canning years ago when my children were home. I canned tomatoes, applesauce and green beans. - 8/18/2010   1:15:09 AM
  • 102
    Wow. The author has the same story as my Mom. Only she canned when we were younger because we were so poor we couldn't afford things like throwing away produce or buying pricey produce at the local grocery store, or (gasp) prepared spaghetti sauce. Everything was from scratch or home grown cause that's all we could afford. As my Dad's business grew and the kids got older and moved out, she had less help around and less need. Now I find myself jobless and pinching pennies- canning seems like a viable option again ;) - 8/17/2010   11:35:50 PM
  • 101
    In response to another commenter: Why can one of the cheapest vegetables at the supermarket?

    1. Because home grown tomatoes are a tiny fraction of the price of the "cheap" tomatoes at the supermarket
    2. Because home grown tomatoes taste a zillion times better than those so-called "tomatoes" in the supermarket
    3. Because home grown tomatoes are harvested naturally when they are ripe and in season, unlike tomatoes in the supermarket that are harvested way too early
    4. Because tomatoes from your back yard don't use millions of gallons of petroleum products to get shipped to you from Japan or Peru or wherever
    5. Because you probably don't douse your own tomatoes in the horrible junk they spray on mega-farms

    I could keep going here, but I think you get the idea.

    Remember, eat LOCAL, eat ORGANIC. It DOES matter!!

    - 8/17/2010   11:28:25 PM
  • 100
    I tried canning for the first time this past Christmas season (2009). I canned Apple Cranberry relish and gave it as gifts, and I even got rave reviews back. One day I'd like to have a little garden and do some more canning. - 8/17/2010   10:00:07 PM
  • 99
    We don't eat jam, so no point in making any from our berries, but I do freeze them. Whenever I eat home canned food from relatives and friends, it doesn't taste good to me, there is some kind of "off" taste, no matter what kind of veggie it is. Also, tomato products are some of the cheapest stuff in the market, why spend time and money canning those instead of things that are expensive, like asparagus or artichokes, avocadoes, stuff that costs alot more than tomatoes?? We don't use salsa enough to make a big deal about doing it ourselves either. Unless it's just plain fun to do, I wouldn't do it. - 8/17/2010   9:32:18 PM
  • 98
    I have canned a few times. I like to make salsa. Much better then store bought salsa. My mother always canned and I grew up learning from her. This is a great way to use fruits and vegetables at home to make your own organic products. - 8/17/2010   8:51:12 PM
  • 97
    We canned 273 quarts of tomato juice between Saturday morning and Sunday night!! The assembly line included myself, sister, and friend cutting the homegrown babies, and my hubby and brother-in-law doing the cooking and boiling of the jars! We all make use of the juice all year making spaghetti sauce, chili, soup, cabbage rolls and stuffed peppers, stew, and of course, to drink! The jars covered our pool table! - 8/17/2010   7:50:58 PM
  • 96
    The canning process is so hot, time consuming and labor-intensive, but when I serve my family delicious home-grown food all winter long, I know it is worth it! It gives me great peace of mind knowing exactly what I am feeding my family. That being said, it was an intimidating experience the first year! I use less salt then recommended with the veggies and when canning fruits (peaches), I always use the lightest syrup recipe or very little sugar in my applesauce (needs some if you use tart apples). - 8/17/2010   5:26:11 PM
  • 95
    The rules claim that these contest are not open to Puerto Rico because of the legal paperwork - there is no legal paperwork involved to send items to Puerto Rico. We are a US Territory and have no problems whatsoever with the US Postal Service!

    I hope this is just a case of ignorance.... - 8/17/2010   3:31:33 PM
  • 94
    While the product looks interesting for folks starting out, it's not needed for people to start playing with hot water bath canning...all you need is a large pot, a kitchen towel and a pair of good tongs. Just put the towel on the bottom of a pot that holds enough water to cover the jars by an inch and start boiling. When the time is up, use the tongs to remove the jars from the water.

    We've been making our own jam for the last 5 years (ever since we decided to minimize our consumption of both corn syrup and HFCS). The first two years we used the set-up described above. The third year, we picked up a full-sized canning kettle from a yard sale. We still haven't sunk the money into a pressure canner, so pretty much limit our efforts to jam (strawberry, peach, blackberry, rasberry, blueberry, beach plum, marmalade) and vinegar pickles.

    I highly recommend the Ball "blue book" of canning as a good resource for folks starting out (along with the recipes in the pectin box).

    Ari - 8/17/2010   3:02:59 PM
  • 93
    I enjoy canning. Love Pear butter and apple butter. A new canning kit would make a good addition.

    Canning is a LOT of work, but the results are always worth it! - 8/17/2010   2:37:53 PM
  • 92
    That product looks great for someone like me who only occasionally has surplus and hasn't the storage space for lots of equipment.
    Stockpots come in a variety of sizes. What's "standard"? - 8/17/2010   2:31:29 PM
  • 91
    This will be a great addition. I am freezing produce and fruits now - would like to learn to can also - 8/17/2010   2:13:19 PM
    Being a diabetic for many years, I love to can my own fruit jams each year when the fruits are in season. I never add any sugar to these and if they need a bit of sweetining, I use an artificial sweetner that does not degrade in heat. I make enough to last me until the next season. I don't can vegetables when they are in seasom, I blanch them and place them in vacuum sealed portion controlled packages and freeze. I also will spread strawberries and blueberries on cookie sheets to freeze and package. - 8/17/2010   1:59:56 PM
  • 89
    Yeah, talk about timing. Now that I have to watch my sugar and salt intake, I was playing with the idea of canning my own veges. Hope I win the starter kit. But, if not, I'm going to look for the kit to buy. - 8/17/2010   1:52:42 PM
    I love to freeze and can my own fruits and veggies!! If for some reason I am unable to grow my own garden then I hit up our local produce stand. Not only does this support our local economy but, in the long run, it actually costs me the same or less to buy from the stand AND I still get my fresh, organic fruits and veggies. Last year alone I canned over 200 jars of tomatoes, 100 jars of spaghetti sauce and 100 jars of salsa. This isn't even touching on pickles, peppers, garlic, okra and much, much, much more!! A great way to know exactly what you are cooking for dinner. :) - 8/17/2010   1:44:36 PM
  • 87
    This is very exciting! I've been freezing and dehydrating the last two years and have been thinking about canning this fall, but have no idea how. Even if I don't win I am thinking of trying to find the kit and get myself started! - 8/17/2010   1:28:02 PM
    I have never done any canning but am interested in learning. My daughter has a calamondin tree and I hate to see the fruit go to waste. We can make just so many pies and breads. I would like to make calamondin marmalade for gifts. - 8/17/2010   1:16:16 PM
  • 85
    Living in Florida the soil isn't anything like that in Illinois, so it is way to expensive to try to grow food for canning like my mother did when I was growing up. We'd go to the orchards and PICK bushels of peaches, apples, pears and cherries and she'd can them. Then she'd do the tomatoes out of the garden, along with pickles, etc. What I loved most was cooked meats that she'd can when they butchered, which was before she got a large freezer. She even made chicken soup, which was great. - 8/17/2010   1:11:57 PM
  • 84
    I remember canning when I was little, and I'm interested in getting back into putting away my own foods. About a month ago, my mom and I picked blueberries and made homemade blueberry jam and canned it... but I know jams are a little more forgiving than tomatoes or peaches or homemade applesauce. - 8/17/2010   12:46:26 PM
  • 83
    I just saw the new canning sets in Wal-Mart. Decided that I needed to think about it before spending the money. Maybe now I will win one. I used to help my mother can and freeze foods from our garden. There are some vegetables that do not taste as good as hers when I buy them from the frozen foods section, such as black eyed peas. My brother in law says it is because they get dried out when flash frozen. It is true, they taste more like dried peas than what my mother used to freeze. Maybe it is because she packed them in the blanching water. - 8/17/2010   12:41:47 PM
  • 82
    i have a garden and can a lot so it would be nice to win this even if i do not i am going to look at buying one thanks - 8/17/2010   12:27:34 PM

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