Photo source: Jarden Home Brands
I became hooked on canning during the summer of 2009. I bought Jarden Home Brand's book, "The Ball Blue Book to Preserving" . This book has become my "go to" when looking for canning recipe inspiration. and for clear instructions. The first homemade jam I made was Classic Strawberry. Since then, I've made a variety of jams and jellies and I have not bought commercially made jams ever since!
Last year, Jarden Home Brands sent me a Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker to test and review. I absolutely love it, and use it often. I made a Strawberry-Raspberry Vanilla jam and homemade Grape Jelly which have become two of my personal favorite flavors. This product makes jam and jelly making fool-proof and simple because I can do "small batch" canning. I say that, because I love canning so much, but I don't necessarily want to make dozens and dozens of jars-- of the same flavor-- at once.
When Jarden Home Brands graciously offered to send me the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System to review, I was ecstatic! We love Bread and Butter pickles, which I've made before, because of the balance of tart and sweet. However, I've never made Kosher Dill Pickles. So, I ordered the Ball Brand Bread & Butter Pickle Mix and the Ball Brand Kosher Dill Pickle Mix, while waiting to hear the roar of my local UPS truck.
water can" the jars. All I had to do was fill the inner pot with significantly less water, which is pre-marked with a fill line. I set four pint jars (16 ounce) on top of the rack...
NOTE: I know this is a lengthy post, but I have so much so share-- and there is a giveaway at the very end of this post!
Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canner. The instructions were so simple: press pickles and a coordinating number (clearly explained in the recipe book) and start. Then, wait for about 30 minutes, for the beep to sound.
from scratch" recipe?
TASTING NOTES: I have to wait four weeks, before tasting the dill pickles, because that is what's recommended. However, I couldn't resist tasting the Bread & Butter Pickles. Wow! The pickles were crisp, and the perfect balance of sweet with just a hint of tart. I loved them so much, that I made an additional small batch of two 16-ounce jars of Bread and Butter Spears!
I also ordered the Ball® Fiesta Salsa Mix. Our homegrown Roma tomatoes were sun-ripened, but rather small, so I bought additional commercially grown Romas.
TASTING NOTES: The salsa is good, but I probably would make my own salsa, in the future. I prefer using uncooked tomatoes, adding my own blend of spices, cilantro and fresh onion. However, my fresh salsa doesn't have much of a shelf life-- in fact, it can only be refrigerated for up to a week. So, there's the trade-off. This salsa has a bit more cumin than I prefer, but that's not to say it's not good. Try it, and see for yourself, because it's not very expensive.
So, here's my honest review on the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System:
This makes home canning truly automatic and very user-friendly. I feel as though the pickles practically made themselves! I absolutely loved how effortless it was to sterilize my jars. I can't praise enough how "water canning" my pickles was as simple as setting my filled jars into the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canner, pressing two buttons and being able to walk away and not worry about setting a timer. All I had to do was listen for the beep.
While I was anxiously waiting for the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System to arrive, I did a little research on what people were saying about this product. Now that I've experienced this product for myself, I'd like to clarify what this product can and cannot do.
"It only makes small batches..."
Yes, that's true. You can make six 8-ounce jars, four 16-ounce jars or three quart sized jars, at one time. That's also not a bad thing. I think that small batch canning has its virtues. I'm not stock piling food, because I live way out in the boonies, nor do I have a large family to feed. I don't grow a lot of produce or fruit, so I'm not in dire need of having to can bumper crops. However, I do have an enamel canning pot, and will use that when I make an annual large batch of "Olallieberry Jam". (I just have to ask one of my strong men to lift it from the sink to the stovetop.)
"You can't pressure can meat sauces..."
Yes, that's true. You would need a pressure canner to accomplish this. You can make jams, jellies, salsas and tomato sauces-- and I'm very happy with that. I'm really not interested in canning meat sauces or fish, so I don't find this to be disappointing at all.
"You are limited to the recipes in the book, and can't make your own..."
There is a variety of delicious recipes in the included book (which is also online, as a PDF, for free). You can also find recipes online, with more being added. I think that the reason people are discouraged to "tinker" with the recipes or to use your own, is a liability issue. There are some canning safety rules that need to be followed, so that there isn't a risk of food becoming contaminated with bacteria (which is probably why I haven't gotten into canning meats or fish). I've never had any of my recipes go "bad", because I use common sense with making sure that my equipment (and my hands) are clean. I prefer the "water can" method, rather than making refrigerator jams, jellies or pickles. That way, my shelf life is much longer, in my pantry. I would think you can "tweak" (or "adapt") some of the recipes as far as adding additional spices or herbs. I just make sure to keep the ratio of products and pectin (if applicable) and follow the canning process according to the recipes.
Is it really cheaper to make your own recipes?
I calculated that my pickles weren't significantly cheaper than buying them. However, I liked knowing that my cucumbers were organically grown and GMO free, and that I was in control of what ingredients were used. The ingredients listings in the Ball® Mixes weren't complicated with any questionable ingredients. Plus, I feel a sense of accomplishment that I made something with my own two hands!
"This is way too expensive, for me"
For $299.95, I can understand why this might seem expensive! Because I love canning so much, I was saving my pennies to buy one of these, for myself. After falling in-love with the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker ($84.00) I knew that I would be having even more fun making new recipes using both the Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker and the Automatic Canning System-- we're a team now! I absolutely love that I am using less energy, less water and less guesswork. It might take a while for the investment to pay off, but the end result is enjoying what you've made, and home canned products make great gifts!
If you love canning, or want to learn how, add this to your birthday, Christmas, Mother's Day Wish List or Wedding Registry. I can promise you, that you will be dreaming up what other recipes you can make with this!
SmartPRESERVE™ Technology is an energy efficient hybrid technology that automatically senses, and constantly monitors time and temperature optimized for each recipe. The automatic sensing technology also self-adapts the temperature and time based on the altitude of your location. The technology removes any guesswork, eliminates the need for stove-top monitoring and takes worries away. The freshTECH Automatic Home Canning System empowers you to fresh preserve delicious homemade foods that are shelf stable for up to one year.
What's not to love?!!!
Before I received my new Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System, I used the Ball® Home Canning Discovery Kit to make small batches of canned fruits, jams and jellies. It's a great way to discover the world of canning.
***GIVEAWAY ENTRIES HAS CLOSED. THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED AND POSTED****
I wish I could give one of you a chance to win a Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System, but I can't. Alas, my food blog isn't my full-time job, and so I'm not as famous as other food bloggers who do this as a business.
Please "like" my Facebook Fan Page, and come back and let me know that you have. If you have already "liked" my Facebook Fan Page-- thank you, and please come back here to let me know. Join my Twitter. (I can assure you, that I only use Twitter to tweet my new posts or pics of something I'm cooking!)" Tweet this giveaway, and leave me a comment (here) that you've done so. Please tweet that I'm "giving away some Ball Canning Supplies" (I'm not giving an automatic canner nor automatic jam and jelly maker...though I wish I could)
Small Print: Sorry, but I can only ship to the United States. I will randomly choose a winner on Saturday, August 16, 2014
The recipes, for the pickles and salsa can be found on the Fresh Preserving Website.