Category Archives: Canning

Get Ready Now for the Summer Harvest

seeds_ela

If you are thinking about joining the trend in our communities to preserve food this summer, start planning and preparing now! Start by checking your equipment and supplies. Proper equipment in good condition is required for safe, high quality home canned food, for example.

If you’ve not yet purchased your needed equipment, there are two types of canners to consider: boiling water canners and pressure canners. A boiling water canner is used for canning acid or acidified foods like most fruits, most pickles, jams and jellies. Boiling water canners cost about $30-$100, or can be assembled yourself with a large stock pot, secure lid, and rack to keep jars off the bottom of the pot.

A pressure canner is essential for canning low acid foods such as vegetables, meats, fish, and poultry. Temperatures inside pressure canners reach higher than boiling water canners (for example, 240°F and above as compared to about 212°F). This is necessary to follow the tested processes available to be sure and kill the toxin–producing spores of the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.  If not killed, these spores can grow out and produce a deadly toxin (poison) in room-temperature stored jars of the low-acid foods mentioned.

You have two choices for type pressure canner: a dial gauge canner or a weighted gauge canner. Most steps in managing the pressure canning process are the same, but the two styles have different types of gauges to indicate the pressure inside the canner. Expect to spend $100-$150 or more on a pressure canner.

If you use a dial gauge canner, then it’s important to have the gauge tested for accuracy before each canner season or if you drop or damage your gauge. It isn’t as easy as it used to be to get gauges tested. Try a local hardware store or your local Cooperative Extension agent, even though not all still provide this service. For either type of canner, check that the rubber gasket is flexible and soft, and if it is brittle, sticky, or cracked then replace it with a new gasket. Also check that any openings, like vent ports, are completely clean and open.

You’ll also need jars, lids, and ring bands for canning. When getting started, new jars are a worthwhile investment (versus purchasing used jars from a yard sale or flea market) because very old jars may break under pressure and heat. Mason-type jars of standard sizes (e.g., half-pint, pint, and quart) for the tested processes available from science-based sources such as USDA and your land-grant university are recommended. Make sure those jars are manufactured and sold for canning purposes; not all glass and Mason-style jars are tempered to prevent breakage with the extreme heat and temperature swings during canning. When you actually get to canning your harvest, be sure to follow manufacturers’ advice for preparing your jars and lids. In addition to standard cooking utensils like cutting boards and bowls, a jar funnel, jar lifter, lid wand, headspace tool, and bubble-freer are items that you will want to have handy for canning.

If you are freezing your harvest, be sure to use packaging such as plastic bags or rigid containers that are intended for freezer storage of foods.  Not all plastics are the same, and you want materials that will hold up to freezer temperatures as well as protect your goodies from damaging air and mixtures of odors.

Growing your own? You may be lucky enough to have previously started keeping garden records so you remember the name of that great tomato or pepper variety you have liked this past year. If not, think about planning to keep records this year. A garden journal might include variety, seed source, date planted, date harvested, notes on how it grew and resisted disease, and your personal evaluation of the crop.

A final must is reliable, up-to-date canning and other food preservation instructsetp5ions. Specific kitchen equipment or ingredients could be needed to follow directions as they are written for food preservation. And in the case of canning especially, very significant food safety risks by following unsound recommendations. Reliable, up-to-date canning instructions are available at the NCHFP website, the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, So Easy to Preserve, or the county or local area Extension office in your state.

———–

This entry contains information from Keep A Garden Record Book—Thomas Jefferson Did by Wayne McLaurin.

Still Yearning to Can in These Winter Months?

If you are still looking for indoor, easy canning options in these winter months, here is a hot sauce that do not require the fresh tomatoes, vegetables or fruits fresh from gardens. It also makes a nice gift to have on hand. Our previous blog was a quick jelly recipe from frozen orange juice concentrate.

Easy Hot Sauce is another option for winter canning if jelly is not your canned food of choice. Easy Hot Sauce is great for spicing things up by stirring into vegetables or chehotsauceese dips, soups and chilis.  This one uses canned diced tomatoes (undrained), chopped fresh hot peppers, vinegar and dry seasonings; the canning process is carried out in boiling water. This recipe yields four half-pint jars. Wear gloves when handling, cutting and seeding hot peppers or wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face or eyes.

Start by washing and rinsing half-pint canning jars; keep hot until they are filled. Prepare lids according to the manufacturer’s directions. The boiling water canner should be prepared and the process managed as found here.  Follow directions in the recipe for measuring and cooking ingredients before filling jars. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (15 minutes if 1,000-6,000 ft altitude; 20 minutes if over 6,000 ft). Allow hot sauce to cool, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours and check seals. You can remove ring bands after the food has cooled if the lids are sealed.

Enjoy this easy way to add some “heat” and spice to your winter days.

Think sunshine and oranges in winter

We do not have a lot of our home canning recommendations that call for commercially processed ingredients in the recipes. However, here is an idea that does not require the fresh tomatoes, vegetables or fruits fresh from gardens. Just in the last week, I have had two people spontaneously say how much they like this recipe; in one case, it was an educator who said her canning class liked it a lot!

Orange Jelly from Frozen Juice  calls for one
12-ounce can of frozen concentrated orange juice and 1 traditional “box” of powdered pectin and creates a delightful, flavorful orange jelly for toast or biscuits on dreary winter mornings or late afternoons. The recipe yields five or size half-pint jars (we never all seem to get the same quantity for many recipes, do we? Or a final amount that just fills all jars exactly….)

For this one, we recommend using pre-sterilized jars and a very short boiling water process time. To pre-sterilize jars, boil empty, washed and rinsed glass canning jars submerged in boiling water for 10 minutes. (That’s 10 minutes after the water comes to a boil over the jars.) The easiest way to do this is to stand empty jars upright on a rack in a clean boiling water canner filled with clean water. Keep jars hot until they are filled. Prepare lids according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Directions for cooking the jelly are specific as to when to add sugar and pectin, and how long to boil. The process time in the canner is then 5 minutes up to 1000 ft altitude (10 minutes if 1,000-6,000 ft altitude; 15 minutes if over 6,000 ft). Allow jelly to cool, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours and check seals. You can remove ring bands after the food has cooled if the lids are sealed.

If you don’t want to pre-sterilize your jars, wash and rinse your jars and then keep hot before filling. The process times are then 10 minutes up to 1000 ft in altitude, (15 minutes if 1,000-6,000 ft altitude; 20 minutes if over 6,000 ft).

And enjoy the flavor of your labor, even if it really doesn’t take a lot time!

What Lies Beneath: Let’s Clean Up Jars for Storage

A home canner recently asked me about “mildew” or mold that had appeared under the rijarswithbandsng bands on the canned jams and relishes she had put up a few months ago for holiday gifts.  That then reminded me about something I noted while judging canned foods at a large fair this past fall. A much larger portion of the fair entries than usual had mold growing under the ring bands,  as well as sticky residues on the jar threads and inside the bands. So let’s review some best practices for storing your home canned prizes to keep this from happening.

Lids and sealing areas of the jars should be washed off and dried before storage.  This is recommended even though you might not see food spill as you fill jars or apply lids, or moldyjarthreadson the outside of jars after processing.  Sometimes small amounts of starches or sugars in your food are there even though not very visible.  These residues can support the growth of mold with even a little bit of humidity in the environment.

After processing jars, make sure they are vacuum sealed before storing. Follow the lid manufacturer’s directions for testing for seals.  For example, if you use the very common two-piece metal lid system, after cooling jars for 12 to 24 hours, remove the ring bands.  Make sure that the flat lid is slightly curved down in the center and no longer springs back when pressed in that center.

When you’ve used a lid with a ring band, if lids are tightly vacuum sealed on cooled jars,
removejarswithoutbands ring bands to wash the lid and jar to remove food residue.  Then rinse and dry jars thoroughly. We recommend storing jars without ring bands.  If mold does start to grow on them, or if seals are broken, you are more likely to notice this and won’t be surprised when you go to use the jar. The bands can also be washed and dried and stored separately for re-use later.  At this point, it is the vacuum seal holding the lid tightly in place, not the ring band.

Label and date the jars and store them in a clean, cool, dark, dry place. For best quality, store between 50 and 70 °F. in low humidity.  Even with cleaned and dried jars, dampness may corrode metal lids.  Enough corrosion and you could even lose your seal.

Do not store jars above 95° F or near hot pipes, a range, a furnace, in an un-insulated attic, or in direct sunlight. These conditions may hasten loss of quality during storage.  Dampness may corrode metal lids, break seals, and allow recontamination and spoilage.

For more on recommended canning procedures, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.