In General, Recipes & Food Tips

 Canning with Kids

Food Revolution Day PosterFood Revolution Day is this Friday, May 16.   Calling all kids, families and grown-ups – join the global day of action!  Get cooking, share your love of food and inspire others to get excited too.

See my blog yesterday about the origins and mission of this global initiative from Jaime Oliver.  I’m continuing my Canning with Kids posts here as, hopefully, inspiration for you to start canning and sharing with a kid or kids in your life!

I asked for input from my canning classes of the past four years on first-hand canning with kids. I’m blown away from one received from Mary who has since moved across country to Portland from here in Atlanta. Mary has two children, an almost 3 year old (Lucy)  and a 1 year old (Jack).  And she’s been involving them in canning!  I had never thought it could reach down to the very youngest, but Mary leads the way.  I can’t write this better than she does so I running her email to me almost as she sent it.  Inspiration for you?

Rustic Apple Butter

[Italic are Mary’s words]  After making some tasty apple butter at one of your classes a couple years ago, I caught the bug.  Now it’s rare for us to be without a stock of homemade applesauce, apple butter and other exciting fruit butters and jams in our cabinets.  My oldest child is almost three now and ever since this summer she has been involved in the preserving process.  She is young, and not super great at impulse control so I make sure to select safe activities, but also prioritize keeping her involved. 

We do a lot of u-pick fruit gathering at farms in the area. We’re especially active in the spring and summer months when you can get raspberries, strawberries, blueberries etc. for cents per pound.  Lucy, my 2 &3/4  year old and even my one year old son participate in the picking.  Admittedly a lot of the berries go into their tummies, but they get to be part of the process and are very excited about it.
When we get home, Lucy and I pick through and sort our produce.  The baby, Jack,  gets to munch on pieces of fruit or play with the boxes and baskets we gather with. Then Lucy’s job is to drop the berries or other fruit  in to our big bowl with an apple cider vinegar and cold water solution [Editor’s Note:  this is a sanitizing step] . Then we use a big mesh strainer to scoop them out. She also helps to count out the lid components before the get sterilized.
label5 label (2)While the fruit concoction is on the stove, she and her little brother decorate labels with crayons at the kitchen table. I strap them both into high chairs to ensure there are no scrambles underfoot with all the boiling water and other hot liquids. The biggest hazard we’ve run into so far is the baby trying to eat crayons. Sometimes I’ve had them shake little jars full of cream during processing to make fresh butter that pairs nicely with the jams etc. It’s all about keeping them occupied in a productive way. Success varies, but memories are made and I can feel super good about feeding these treats to my family.  
Lucy really likes this monthly preserving adventure and while she isn’t actively involved in the processing of jams and fruit butters on the stove, she understands what happens and likes being part of it. She brags about how  she ‘makes soft fruit’ to her friends. The crazy crayon drawings make the labels festive and fun presents to loved ones.


Lyn:  Yesterday, I offered Tip #1 (Pick Your Own Farms) and Tip #2 (Make it kid appealing).  Obviously Mary does both of these things in a big way and it works to keep the kids involved and interested.

dreamstimeextrasmall_10119862Tip #3:  Pick age-appropriate tasks.  For the young set picking berries is fun.  Sorting perhaps.  Counting out lids and bands.  Making labels for jars (this can span from the youngest using crayons to the much older getting creative on the computer).  Measuring out spices for those a bit older, stirring liquids and perhaps even cutting fruits & veggies under your supervision.  Use kid-safe knives for the starters and more advanced but small knives for a bit older and ready for learning knife skills.  Migrate to water-bath canning and other work that takes more skill with the older cooks in your household.  I’ve had several teens and sub-teens in my class who eagerly participated in each and every task involved in the process.


Tip #4  Be Safe.  I like Mary’s idea about tucking young kids into a high chair  or seated at a table to make crayon labels when Mary gets into the actual water bathing, hot liquids portion of the canning.  You could also just do refrigerator canning with younger ones.  That’s instant gratification and they project is done in a shorter amount of time.   For older ones ready for water bath canning and stirring hot liquids, use silicon mitts that are burn and water proof.  Also use spatter guards on your pots that tend to bubble up and pop a lot (Apple Butter and other thick liquids are good example of burn-potential machines).


Tip #5 Teach sanitation tips as you go (or at least show the way by example).  Mary’s use of a vinegar solution to clean fruits, for example.  Cleaning your canning area with a vinegar solution too. Food safe and kid safe!  Washing hands (include the kids here) before and after food handling.

We’ll continue tomorrow with Post 3, more tips and more ideas about Canning With Kids.  Thanks, Mary, for showing us the way!  I’ve no doubt your kids  have the message about safe, healthy and fun eating long before they can even reason about the whys’!

And here’s our Kid-friendly Apple Butter Recipe (what kid doesn’t like Apple Butter!).  Made with the skins on – better nutrition, better results (no pectin needed), easier and faster to prepare,  and low/no sugar needed.

Rustic Apple Butter

Clean and cut any number of Apples into quarters and core.  Leave the skins on.  I choose organic for all my produce especially for anything made when the skins are included.  Five pounds of apples will make about 6 8-oz jars.  Place  in heavy non-reactive pot (such as stainless steel) with about 1 cup water.  The wider the pot, the better.  Cook until softened and easily mashed with spoon.  Puree with immersion blender, potato masher (kids love this part) until desired smoothness is reached.  Chunkiness is not a problem – or continue pureeing til smooth as “butter”.


Then continue cooking over medium heat, adding spices as desired.  Example:  1 Tablespoon Cinnamon, 1/2 Tablespoon Allspice, 1/2 Tablespoon Nutmeg.  I usually add about 1-2 Tablespoons of fresh or bottled Lemon Juice to perk up the flavor.  Cook for about 5 more minutes;  test to check spices and sweetness and adjust.  At this point, sugar can be added if desired, but it is not necessary.  Good choices for sugar:  maple syrup, honey (both are natural sugars); raw organic sugar, organic turbinado sugar.

Pears 01Continue cooking until desired thickness is reached.  This is the point where the apple butter is easily burned and should be cooked on medium heat with frequent stirring.  A splatter guard on top will help protect you, but still allow the liquids to evaporate off.  The easiest way to test is to cool a spoonful on a saucer and see if it runs across the plate when turned sideways.  If not, then it’s ready to jar.  Place into clean, sanitized jars and refrigerate.  Apple Butter should last at least 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator even with no sugar added (if your kids haven’t gobbled it all up before then).  For water-bath canning especially with older kids who are interested in the process, see one of my other recipes on this site.


My canning-happy, cooking-happy granddaughter Maclain is the one stirring the pot in this picture.  She helps make sure she has plenty of apple butter ready for her visits and to take home.

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