Saturday, August 9, 2014

Easy Homemade Pickles and Salsa and a Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System Review

 
 Photo source: Jarden Home Brands

I'm both delighted, and thankful, to have an ongoing relationship with the wonderful people at Jarden Home Brands. This company brings us Ball Brand Canning products, and I confess that I am a regular customer at the Fresh Preserving Website.

 
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.

When my package arrived, from Jarden Home Brands, I immediately read the enclosed recipe booklet from cover to cover. I was ready to make make pickles and salsa, and began to follow the instructions.  The machine is easy to set up. Unpack it, wash the inner pot, plug it in and go!



One of the biggest reasons I liked the concept of the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System is that I didn't have to fill a huge pot with water (that feels like it weighs a ton), only to have to wait for 45 minutes for it to come to a boil so that I could "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...

...shut and locked the lid and pressed two buttons to start the sterilization process.  Easy!
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!



I'm fortunate to have an farm stand, just three miles down the road.  They sell organically grown, freshly picked (daily) pickling cucumbers for $2.99 a pound.  It takes about 15 minutes for the FreshTech Automatic Canner to sterilize the jars, so I got busy preparing the cucumbers to make Dill Pickles.

I needed four ingredients-- white vinegar, water, pickling cucumbers and the pickling mix. Total prep work: 5 minutes.

 All I had to do was to combine the pickling mix with the liquids, bring it to a boil and then turn it off.

At the same time, quartering each pickling cucumber into spears took just a few minutes. I used a spare jar to calculate how many cucumbers I would need, per jar.   Just as I finished slicing the  pickling cucumbers into spears, the Fresh Tech Automatic Canner beeped.  The jars were sterilized!

Using the jar lifter (included with the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System) I filled each jar, one-by-one.

All I had to do was ladle the pickling liquid into each sterilized jar, put on a jar lid and set it back into the
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.

I was so excited to remove my pickles, and that I didn't have to stand over a stove....and wait...and watch.   I was amazed that in 30 minutes, I made dill pickles!  I couldn't wait to make more pickles, and so I immediately started making Bread & Butter Pickle Chips.

I (carefully) used my mandoline to slice each cucumber, and measured out the Ball® Brand Bread & Butter Pickling Mix.  I admit, that this mix is very convenient-- but I wondered, will I like this as much as my "from scratch" recipe?

While making the pickling liquid, the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canner sterilized my jars (this time I used 8 ounce jars.  I poured the the hot liquid into each jar, pressed two pre-programmed buttons and tidied up the kitchen.

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. 

I added the salsa mix, and I could smell cumin and other spices, and there were dried bell peppers. I decided to add a fresh jalapeno to the pot...

...and then cooked the mixture for about five minutes (per the recipe) and then poured them into sterilized jars.  All I had to do was pressed the two buttons, to let the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canner know what to do.  All I had to do was let the jars cool, label them and add them to my pantry for whenever I need salsa (which I use often).

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!

Bottom line:

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?!!!

 

Thank you, Jarden Home Brands, for sending me the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System to review.  While you sponsored this promotion, my opinions are honestly and truly my own.

 THE GIVEAWAY

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.

What am I giving away? I'd like to give someone a chance to win one copy of the Ball Blue Book "A Guide to Preserving", a Ball® Home Canning Discovery Kit (by Jarden Home Brands) and a case of beautiful 2014 Limited Edition Ball® Heritage Collection Spring Green Mason Jars.   

HOW TO ENTER: To be entered to win all you have to do is leave a comment on this post (not on my Facebook Fan Page).  I'd love to know what you would make, or if you have a tried and true recipe. I'm always interested in inspiration.

Do you want extra entries?  I'm easy. 

  • 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.




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47 comments:

Nancy Myers said...

Canning is my "last frontier" - I have not tried canning yet and would love to try with all the fresh produce available at the almost daily farmer's markets we are blessed with in our county

Lolo said...

I would love to make all sorts of salsas and jams for my family and friends!

Pam List said...

I followed on twitter, tweeted and already like your fan page on Facebook.
This canning systems is amazing and canning is on my bucket list to do before I actually kick the bucket.

Pam
aka Momma

Lolo said...

I follow you on Twitter, like you on Facebook, and tweeted about the giveaway! Thank you for the chance!

The Jones Family said...

I am already a fan of you on Facebook, now I am following you on Twitter and I re-tweeted your tweet/tweeted about the giveaway.
This system looks great and I would love to make Jam/Jelly and german style pickles/gherkins.
I haven't tried either one yet.

Cheryl McCalister said...

I have never canned but would love to get started. My cousins and some friends can, and I'm always jealous of their plunder! I would can pickles, okra, tomato sauce and just about any fresh veggies I could find a recipe for. :). And....I like you on Facebook.

Lori Aiello said...

I used to can with my Mom growing up. I would love to start this again especially with all the surplus items from my home garden. Love your blog !

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carole said...

ugh, I hate the universal Google sign in. I'm the "unknown" who used to make jams and now do a lot of quick pickling of veggies.

Tweeted: https://twitter.com/cspod/status/498214400013393920

Carole said...

Yep. I follow you on Twitter. :-)
@cspod

Carole said...

And I also follow you on FB. :-)

Carole said...

I used to make a lot of jams, mostly blueberry, to give as gifts. Lately, I've been doing a lot of quick pickling of asparagus and pickles. It's been too hot to stand over a stove.

Nan said...

I am a big fan of having homemade salsa on hand year around. This is such a great give away!

Jessica said...

I would can my own Hatch Green Chile... The green Jars would be perfect for it!

Meganscookin said...

I love those green jars. I would make Cranberry Jalapeno Jam for the holidays!

Meganscookin said...

I follow you on Facebook using my name Megan Herreid Pires

Meganscookin said...

I follow you on Twitter. user name Meganscookin

Meganscookin said...

I tweeted https://twitter.com/meganscookin/status/498242780750020608

DebrafromMD said...

This system sounds perfect for me. With only my husband and me at home now, I no longer need to put up large batches of canned goods. Except for bread and butter pickles, everyone in my family wants those.

Cyndee said...

I already like your Facebook page and enjoyed reading your comments about the canning system. I have made 2 jams so far this summer; a pineapple-apricot-lemon jam and a blueberry, all with no official canning equipment. I am also looking forward to making watermelon rind relish (a recipe I saw on Pinterest) and pickles. Your giveaway is cool! Happy Canning!

Big Dude said...

It's hard to beat the enjoyment of your own home canned produce. The pickles look very good.

Melinda said...

I'd make pear preserves first. My mom lets me pick all the pears I want from her tree.

Amber Ashmore said...

I would try it all! I would love to make my own jams and jellies and I just haven't been brave enough to try it yet. Great giveaway!!

Jennie G said...

I haven't tried canning yet either... it is on my list of learn to dos! Love your blogs, and wish we were closer!

Vic Fetui said...

I wish I had paid more attention to my Mom doing this when I was young...but I think I am ready to tackle it now!! Sounds like a delicious project!

Kim Climer said...

I've just recently started Canning and love it! I'm pickling peppers as I write this!

HS said...

I'll make Pickle Chips.

HS said...

tweet https://twitter.com/kraftmaking/status/498581116496773120

Charlene Mathieu said...

My mom made Bread and Butter pickles. Store bought is just not the same! Dave is voting for salsa to be first. I like fresh, but will probably give in and make some for winter. As I will be canning I may accidentally make pickles first! LOL

Professormochi said...

I would love to can Bread and Butter Pickles like my late Mother In Law use to make along with pickles, jams and tomato sauce. She was great at canning them, along with peaches. She lived in the San Joaquin Valley where there were lots of farms with fruits and veggies.

Ali said...

Your excitement is contagious! I planted my first small garden this spring and have made several batches of homemade salsa from my abundance of tomatoes. My mom never canned, but i am very interested in giving it a try and starting a new family tradition with my grandchildren. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and your honesty.

D Schmidt mummytotwoboys said...

I would love to make some jams for my family, I would particularly like to make rhubarb and apple.

mummytotwoboys@yahoo.com

D Schmidt mummytotwoboys said...

Tweeted

https://twitter.com/mummytotwoboys1/status/498892526976528384

mummytotwoboys@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

I would love to win because my daughter and I have been dying to try and make pickels and chili sauce! bjn1957{at}gmail{dot}com

DEBORAH BISHOP said...

The first thing I'd make is jam. JalapeƱo, raspberry and peach.

Robin Otte said...

I am a new canner, but I love it. I have made sweet pickled watermelon rinds (a surprising favorite!), sweet and sour cantaloupe balls, brambleberry jam, maple blueberry jam, curried pickled cauliflower, just blueberry preserves (no sugar or water or anything and will keep for a year after water bath!) Next up is my Auntie's famous picililli, and green tomato relish. They are family favorites! Would love to get some modern jars instead of the jars I inherited. They are beautiful, but tricky. Would love to share these family treasures! R

Fiddlin' Dandi said...

My plans are to do some pickling, salsa and canned diced tomatoes this year. I might try doing applesauce too.

Fiddlin' Dandi said...

Followed you on facbeook as Dandi Daffyhill.

Fiddlin' Dandi said...

I followed you on Twitter as @dandidaffyhill.

Fiddlin' Dandi said...

I shared on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dandidaffyhill/status/499394227126550528

T Bailey said...

I have enjoyed canning, but haven't done any lately. My favorite is canned pears.

T Bailey said...

fb follower Ten B.

T Bailey said...

twitter follower @10750coupons

T Bailey said...

tweeted

https://twitter.com/10750coupons/status/499942304082591745

Cyndi Solis said...

I live in Las Vegas so gardening is a little different here and my garden is in full swing when the rest of the country is still in winter mode :) I love to make salsa and especially green, tomatillo salsa! We also have lots of cucumbers and zucchini-I have not canned zukes yet but would love to try that. Also I like to make jams and tomato sauce!

Debby Foodiewife said...

***Thank you for entering my giveaway*** All entries are closed and I will post the winner.

Roz Corieri Paige said...

Hi Debby, I just popped by to read about canning . . . so sorry that I missed your giveaway, but I still loved reading this informative post. I didn't even know that you the giveaway going on, it's your content that keeps me reading your wonderful blog. I've been canning since 1993 and am still learning more every year. This year we expanded beyond our normal salsa and canned more tomatoes and Italian sauces. Love it!
Hope you're doing well,
Roz