Yes We Can! Tips for Preserving Food with Canning
By Michele Hatton
Spring has made a grand entrance, raining sunshine on our gardens, fattening up our fruits and vegetables, and stocking our farmers’ markets with surplus. To enjoy this abundance year round, consider preserving your foods with canning. It’s easy and can be done with minimum expense. Following is a very brief overview of canning. Before proceeding however, get step-by-step instructions on canning procedures, available from a plethora of websites focused on food preservation. First-time canners should stick to acidic foods, such as jams, jellies, pickles, preserves, salsa, tomatoes (with acid added), relishes, and chutneys. Acidic foods can be safely canned at 212 degrees Fahrenheit using a “boiling water canner,” easily constructed from items available in most kitchens. Vegetables are low-acid foods, but can be canned as acidic foods when pickled. Pickled cucumbers, beans and beets can be safely canned with a “boiling water canner.”
Canning isn’t a process you should treat carelessly. Clostridium botulinum (aka botulism) is a microscopic bacteria that can pack a deadly punch. Sloppy canning can result in a serious bacterial contamination. However, if you follow the directions with diligence, you will end up with a pantry full of mouth-watering treats.
Equipment for Canning Acidic Produce:
- A tested recipe, see www.freshpreserving.com
- Perfect produce—overripe or damaged produce are prone to spoilage
- Boiling water canner constructed of a large deep pot with a rack that fits inside
- Jars with lids and sealing rings (don’t use anything but dedicated canning jars)
- Wooden spoon, ladle, spatula, tongs and funnel
Procedures for Canning Acidic Produce:
- Heat jars and lids in hot water, not boiling, until ready to use.
- Fill boiling water canner half-full. The pot must be large enough to fully surround and immerse the jars in water by one-to-two inches, and allow for the water to boil rapidly with the lid on.
- Prepare recipe.
- With tongs, remove the jars from hot water.
- Using a funnel, fill the jars leaving one-half inch of headspace.
- Remove air bubbles by sliding spatula between jar and food several times to release trapped air.
- Center hot lid on jar allowing it to seal. Lightly screw on band.
- Place filled jars in canner until full. Bring water to rolling boil. Consult recipe for boiling times.
- Remove jars and leave undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours.
- Store in cool, dry, dark place for up to one year.