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Don’t be scared to try canning your own food

The author of the new book "Put 'em Up! Fruit" says canning your own food is a lot easier than most people think. (Storey Publishing)

With strawberries, cherries, rhubarb and other fruits and vegetables coming into season, it’s not too soon to start thinking about what to do with it all.

“The best thing about preserving fruit in season is that you don’t have to have that sort of panic,” says Sherri Brooks Vinton, author of the new book “Put ’em Up! Fruit,” in an interview with KIRO Radio’s Seattle Kitchen.

Vinton is a long term champion of canning, and her new book offers both recipes for preserving seasonal produce and 80 recipes for using them.

“There’s so many ways to preserve your own food,” she says. And they don’t have to be complicated. “It’s pretty straight forward. If you can boil water, you can process your own food, you can preserve your own food.”

Vinton’s book covers the basics for making things like jam and relish, but it also has some unique twists. A favorite of hers is mixing fruits and alcohol to make your own liquors. Just plop whatever fruit you want into a glass jar, douse it with either high alcohol spirit or vinegar and “let all that gorgeous flavor from the fruit infuse the liquid” for everything from cocktails and pan reductions to salad dressings.

Vinton says a lot of people get scared off from canning because of worries about contamination or the process. But she says it’s really simple for even complete beginners. First and foremost, just follow the recipe.

“That’s where you can kind of go off the rails,” she says. And she says there’s a misconception about how sterile everything needs to be.

“You don’t have to create an operating room environment,” she says. “You don’t even have to sterilize.”

Vinson says too many people think preserves are simply something to put on toast or scones. But she says it’s important to keep in mind they can be used in everything from pan reductions to a vinaigrette.

Seattle Kitchen host and noted restaurateur Tom Douglas is a big fan of using preserves for a quick and easy way to add something special to even the quickest of meals.

“It’s really nice to be able to pull some of these out of the pantry,” he says. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of taking a tablespoon of it, dropping it into the pan juices and you’ve got a finished sauce.”

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