Preserving your pantry with foods you love is one way to stock them. But are you new to the idea of canning and preserving? This guide will give you a general overview of the process and how it can help you store delicious items to eat later.
What is Canning?
When preserving foods, canning is what most people think of. Canning is a time-honored way to preserve the harvest, even though it's pretty modern (true canning didn't begin until the 1800s).
Canning is the process of preserving foods for eating later. It was a great way for people to have food throughout winter. Summer fare wonít last forever. One way to keep enjoying the taste of summer berries and vegetables is to preserve them. That was one way that people living in remote locations in the early days could survive the long, harsh winters.
Benefits of Canning
Canning takes a while until you get the hang of the process. So, why can it at all?
Canning is economical: It saves money on groceries. For example, you go to the pantry instead of the store for strawberry preserves.
Canning cuts out food waste: Excess produce from your garden can be kept from being given or thrown away because you can only eat some before they spoil.
Fresh and good for you: Canning uses fresh ingredients without preservatives or additives. This is better for the body. Also, the natural flavor of the food comes through for a tastier meal.
Canning your own foods means choosing how much and what combinations of foods to can. For example, you don't have to go to the store and get a can of corn, tomatoes, and green beans if you have a home-canned quart of these vegetables mixed already.
You don't need a special receptacle for canned goods as you do for frozen. If the power goes out, your canned goods will be fine in the pantry or cellar.
Cons of Canning Produce
Nutrients: Some sources indicate that cooking and heating destroy nutrients, whereas freezing preserves them.
Equipment: A pressure canner is essential for canning low-acid food, and pressure canners are not cheap. You also need quality glass jars, tongs, and a wide-mouthed funnel.
Precautions: It would be best to take special precautions when canning and go to great lengths to ensure that everything is sterilized and the heat is high enough and applied long enough.
To get started, you need a few tools. Kitchen and home stores usually stock what you will need to get started. You can also Google "canning supplies" online for the best stores and prices. Even if you only can food one season, your equipment will have paid for itself.
You will need the following:
Canning jars, seals, and lids
Canning Jars: Canning jars come in a variety of sizes and shapes. The most common size is a wide mouth, but you can also buy small, medium, and large jars. The number of jars you need depends on how much food you preserve. If you are canning fruits or vegetables in syrup or juice, then it is recommended that you only use one or two layers of food at a time. This will prevent the food from floating to the top during processing time.
Canning jars are available in a variety of sizes. The standard size is 1 quart (1 liter), but you can also use half-gallon (2 liters) or gallon (4 liters) jars. Jars come in regular-mouth and wide-mouth varieties. The regular mouth is the type most commonly used for canning jams and jellies. Wide-mouth jars are used for items such as salsa or spaghetti sauce.
While all canning jars will be labeled as either "regular" or "wide" mouth, you should still check the jar's measurements to ensure it will fit on your pressure cooker rack or into your pressure cooker lid before using it for canning purposes.
Canning Seals & Lids:
The most important part of any canning jar is its seal! The lid must be airtight so that no air enters the jar during cooking or storage. This helps prevent contamination from mold and bacteria from spoiling your food.
There are two types of seals: metal lids and rubber rings. Metal lids have a built-in seal that requires no additional help from an additional ring to create an airtight seal; these are often called "self-sealing lids."
The seals on your jars must be in good condition to seal properly. You can test them by taking one out of the box and putting it in your sink filled with water until it floats away from the edge of the sink. This means it will float when put into boiling water during processing time. If your seal has any cracks or holes, then this will not work as well as if there were no holes.
Jar lifting tongs
A wide-mouth funnel is essential for filling jars without spilling or splashing things all over your countertop. The wide-mouth funnel will also make it much easier to clean up messy spills than a regular funnel.
A ladle is another tool you'll frequently use when canning. A ladle is used to remove hot water from the pressure cooker after cooking food, and it's also used to fill jars with hot food when preserving in boiling water bath canning. You'll need a long handle to not burn yourself while stirring food in boiling water or hot syrup in your pressure cooker.
Pressure canner or large cooking pot with lid
A pressure canner is a tall, narrow pot with a locking lid and a steam vent. The vent allows steam from the pot but does not let air escape. Pressure canning is used for low-acid foods, such as vegetables and meats, that must be canned at high temperatures to prevent bacterial growth. A pressure canner must be operated under pressure (15 psi) to achieve good heat penetration during processing.
A large pot or Dutch oven prepares food before canning. It should have a heavy bottom so it won't burn when you add cold water or other ingredients. Make sure your canning pot has a tight-fitting lid so that all the steam stays inside while cooking, and check your lid regularly for cracks or damage (which could cause food contamination).
Most recipes call for 4 quarts of water per pound of fruit or vegetables; if you use less than 4 quarts per batch, increase each ingredient's weight by 25 percent (for example, use 6 pounds of fruit instead of 5 pounds). This ensures that your recipes yield enough product for one jar per person in your household (it's better to make extra than run out).
Clean towels: A clean towel is essential for wiping off the rims of the jars before you place the lids on them. You don't want any dirt on your jars or lids because it could interfere with the seal and cause your jar to spoil.
Jar lifter/holder/wrench: This tool allows you to remove hot jars from boiling water safely and easily. The jar lifter has rubberized handles so you don't burn yourself when handling hot jars, and it has hooks that fit over edges so there's no slipping involved when moving them around.
Canning funnel: A canning funnel will make filling your jars easier than pouring directly from a large pot into small openings without spilling! Fill each jar using this funnel, then wipe away any drips before placing the lid on top (see below).
The Canning Process
First things First, let's sterilize your jars and lids. First, wash them with hot water and soap. Then boil them for about 10 minutes. Finally, ensure they are completely covered and sterilized inside and out.
Prepare your food. Slice up or dice your vegetables and fruits. Pickling may be preferred for some vegetables. Make preserves out of your fruits if you wish. Prepare them at the peak of freshness for maximum flavor and nutrition. Add lemon juice to tomatoes to achieve stable pH. Ascorbic acid can prevent fruits from browning in the jar.
Fill the jars with your fruits and vegetables, leaving space for expansion. Add boiling liquid or pickling solution until it covers the top of the food. Remove any air bubbles before sealing with the lids and the rings.
Finally, the sealed jars must be placed into boiling water in a pot or pressure canner. Make sure water covers the jars when water bath canning. The boiling time depends on the food and the altitude.
Allow jars to cool and vacuum seal before labeling and storing them.
Canning Methods for Various Foods
There are all kinds of methods and recipes for canning foods. But which method works best with which food? This is an important consideration because incorrect methods can result in spoilage, unsafe foods, and/or wasted time and money. Here is a sampling of canning methods for various foods.
Your great-grandparents didn't use pressure canners, you may be thinking. Why should you? Since our great-grandparents ' day, we've learned much about microbes and food spoilage. We've learned that you need really high temperatures constantly to kill bacteria, especially if those foods are low-acid. High-acid foods are less hospitable to bacteria, so not quite as high a temperature is needed to prevent bacteria from growing.
Foods that should be canned using a pressure canner include:
- Green beans
- Beans (such as pinto or kidney)
These are just some low-acid foods for which you'll need a pressure canner.
Hot Water Bath
Some foods do fine in a hot water bath: placing the filled jars in a deep kettle, pouring in water, and simmering it for 10 minutes (canning recipes give exact times). This works okay for high-acid foods, such as the following:
- Citrus fruits
- Cucumber pickles (the vinegar in the recipe makes the food very acidic)
This is one of the fastest ways to preserve foods in freezer-safe jars. You can put the whole food into the jar, pour sugar syrup, broth, or water around it, and freeze. You can also puree the food, cook it into a sauce or jam, and freeze it. Ensure you leave a good inch and a quarter of air space between the food and the top of the jar. Here are some foods that work well with the freezer canning method:
- Citrus fruits
- Homemade salsa
Surplus apples, pears, and tomatoes can be made into sauces like salsa, spaghetti sauce, straight tomato sauce, and apple/pear sauce. Follow your favorite recipe for making the sauce of your choice, then freeze, pressure can, or place in a hot water bath.
Canning chicken? Yes, you can! Because chicken is a low-acid food, sources insist that the only safe method is a pressure canner. This is the only way to ensure the bacteria will be killed, especially since you don't have a high-acid environment that helps kill germs.
It's not recommended that you pack the raw meat tightly into the jars; place the meat into the jar and tap the jar periodically on the countertop to settle the meat. Sources say you do not have to remove the bones; just cut the meat into pieces that will fit in the jar and fit your needs. Also, you don't need to add liquid first if you use raw meat.
You can also boil or stew the chicken, cut the meat into pieces, and pack the meat and broth together. (Leave 1 ¼ inch space at the top.)
Venison, bear, and other wild meats can also be canned. You can grind or chop it first and cook it or pack it raw. Then, water, broth, or tomato juice are added to fill the space. Always leave 1 ¼ inches at the top.
Did you know you preserve fresh fish by canning? Being very low in acid and prone to bacteria, a pressure canner is considered essential. Sources say you do not need to add liquid to the fish pieces; place them in jars with the skin on (skin should be facing out, next to the glass).
Another low-acid food, carrots are best canned using a pressure canner. Carrots can be packed in jars, sliced, chopped, or even whole (especially if small). They can be steamed first or packed raw.
Canned corn can last a long time and bring the taste of summer into the middle of winter. Use a pressure canner to kill bacteria, as corn does not have a lot of natural acidity. Pack it raw and add salt if you like, then fill it with purified water to 1 ¼ inches from the top.
Grapefruits, oranges, and tangerines are high-acid foods, so a boiling water bath is fine. Raw segments can be placed in jars and sugar syrup poured over, leaving an inch and a quarter at the top.
Many fruits can be canned successfully, from berries to apples to cucumbers.Make a lovely salad with various canned fruits and freshly sliced bananas. You can use them in pie and cobbler filling. Stir some home-canned fruit into yogurt, put a dollop of ice cream,