With summer fading and autumn beginning, it’s the perfect time to preserve food through canning. Here are a few tips to get you started.
First of all, what does canning mean?
Technically, canning is the preservation of food that otherwise would spoil and go bad. Canned food purchased at the grocery store has gone through a process where the food is sealed in an airtight container, and then high heat has been applied to kill any microorganisms. This is basically the same process you will use in home canning.
The safest items to can are high-acid foods such as fruits, pickles, relishes and vinegars. These can be preserved using a water bath (which is basically submerging jars into a large pot of boiling water). To preserve low-acid foods, such as meats or most vegetables, you will need to use a pressure canning method to preserve it. Water bath canning is not safe for low-acid foods, so please don’t try it.
Stay up to date with the latest safety guidelines for canning. Some great resources include:
Things You’ll Need:
- A great recipe: Always use a tested recipe such as those found on the websites above. They have been studied, proven to use proper measurements and have the correct cooking time.
- Supplies: A boiling water bath canner. You can find these in most large chain stores such as Walmart or Target during canning season. In a pinch, a large saucepot with a lid will work as long as you have a rack to keep the jars off the bottom. You will also need jars, lids and bands.
- Fresh produce: The best in-season fruits or other ingredients. You’ll want to get them at the peak of ripeness for the best flavor.
Some Cooking Tips:
- Check your supplies. Make sure there are no chips in your jars, no rust on your bands and no dirt anywhere.
- Sterilize everything. Many dishwashers have a Sterilize function you can use. Or you can rinse your supplies in hot water with a capful of bleach. Make sure not just your jars and lids are sterilized, but any other tools you plan on using as well (such as spoons, tongs, etc.)
- Keep your jars warm. Keeping your jars hot prevents them from breaking. Filling a cold jar with hot food and submerging it in boiling water will cause it to crack or shatter.
- Cool the jars after removal. When you remove hot jars from a canner, do not retighten their jar lids. Retightening of hot lids may cut through the gasket and cause seal failures. Cool the jars at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.
- Always lift jars out of the hot-water bath carefully using a jar lifter. Have a thick towel ready to help you move the jars to a safe place to rest.
- If your jars fail to seal, you can store them in the refrigerator and eat the contents within a couple of weeks.
- If you open canned food and notice any discoloration, bubbles, funny smells, or if anything looks, smells or tastes “off” to you, then throw the contents away immediately.
Looking for Recipes?
Here are a few of my favorite recipes:
- Bread and butter pickles from the National Center for Home Food Preservation
- Peach jam with Sriracha from the Ball Canning Website
- Fresh salsa from the Ball Canning Website
You can find plenty of other recipes using the links above. Good luck and have fun!