Jul 7, 2009
The season has arrived and lots of the fresh produce in the Midwest is now seasonally local! We seem to forget about those long dark months where we would do anything for a fresh tomato or a ripe cherry. Well, why not experience a little bit of summer all-year round? Considered a fading art by some, canning has been recharged as the local food movement has taken flight in recent years. Here at Fresh Picks we want to give you a few of the basics of canning and maybe inspire some of you to try it yourself!
1. Select a jar that is going to hold up. Mason jars or something similar is always a good idea (other glass jars may not hold up in the process). Lids for canning have a flat metal disk that covers the opening and a screw-on band that holds the disk in place. Always use new flat metal disks because the gasket around each rim can begin to deteriorate after sitting in storage for 5 or more years.
2. Wash the jars and lids in hot/soapy water then sterilize the lids by submerging them in water and boiling them for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat but leave the tops in hot water until you’re ready to use them.
3. Try to use the most fresh fruits and vegetables you can find, just after harvest is ideal (to get maximum vitamin retention). To prevent browning of fruits such as peaches and pears, keep them in an ascorbic- acid solution. To keep produce from discoloring after canned, do not use any materials made of aluminum, copper, iron, or chipped enamel.
4. Using some sort of spoon put the produce (raw or cooked depending on produce) into the jars. Then fill the jars with boiling water, pickling solution (for pickles), or sweet syrup or white grape juice (for fruit). The produce will expand so don’t fill the jars all the way. Food that is forced out of the jar can cause mold or spoiled food. The requirements on how tight to fill the jars will change with the density, shape and cooking characteristics of individual foods. Be sure to do your research!
5. Push down on the produce in each jar to submerge it under the liquid; then run the spatula along the inside of the jar to eliminate air bubbles. Next, use a damp paper towel to clean off the jar rims. Close each jar with a sterilized two-piece lid, checking the manufacturer’s instructions to be sure it is not too tight or too loose.
6. Load the canner with a rack or jar lifter making sure they aren’t touching.
7. Canning uses heat to destroy molds, yeasts, bacteria, and other organisms that cause spoilage. How much heat is needed, and consequently what kind of canner to use (a boiling-water canner or a pressure canner), depends on whether produce is acidic or not.
If you’re using a boiling-water canner, fill the pot about halfway full with water-enough to reach an inch or two above the jars after they’ve been loaded into the canner. Preheat the water to about 180 degrees F for hot-packed produce or 140 degrees F for raw-packed produce to prevent the jars from cracking. Insert the canning rack and capped jars. Cover the canner and bring water to a steady, gentle boil, which must be maintained throughout the required processing time.
If you’re using a pressure canner, follow the manufacturer’s directions, which will vary depending on the type of canner and the altitude. Generally, put 2 inches of hot water in the pressure canner, add the jars, put the lid on the pot, and increase the pressure before you start tracking processing time. When processing is finished, let the pressure drop before opening the canner and removing the jars.
1. Remove the jar and place them somewhere to cool. After 24 hours, check the lids to be sure they are airtight. Push down on each metal lid: It should not give or spring back up. As a double check, tap each lid with the bottom of a teaspoon. A sealed lid will give off a high-pitched ring, not a thud.
Funny canning stories? Canning tips? Canning horror stories? Something else to share? Drop us a comment!
For upcoming classes and information check: