Friday, September 22, 2006

CANNING - A Way to Preserve Your Food

Picture: ISCOWP root cellar

Before freezers were around canning was the most popular method of preserving. In many cold climate households, especially in rural areas, canning is still the primary method of storing garden produce. An obvious advantage of canning is that there is practically no storage problem. You may can until your basement bulges whereas your freezer space is definitely limited. And you need only invest in a pressure canner and canning jars, both of which can be used over and over again, through many harvests.

Many of the items needed for canning are readily available in a well equipped kitchen. Of course some special equipment is needed: home canning jars, two piece vacuum sealing caps, small canning utensils and the appropriate canner necessary for the type of food being canned.

Jars - Glass home canning jars, sometimes called Mason jars, are the only glass jars recommended for home canning. They come in a wide variety of sizes and styles. The jars are especially made so the home canning closures will seal well when the manufacturer's instructions are followed. The glass in the jars is tempered to withstand the heat of the steam-pressure canner. Jars are available with regular and wide-mouth openings in sizes ranging from 4 ounces to one half gallon. Always select the size jar called for by the recipe, and follow the recipe processing time exactly.

Closures - The home canning two piece vacuum cap, a lid and band, comes in regular and wide mouth sizes. The set consists of a flat metal lid with a flanged edge, the underside of which has a rubber-like sealing compound, and a threaded metal screw band that fits over the rim of the jar to hold the lid in place during processing. The lid is not reusable, the band can be reused if it is in good condition.

Boiling Water Canner - Foods high in acid (fruits) can be processed in a boiling -water canner. The heat is transferred by the boiling water , 212F at Sea Level, which completely covers the jar and two piece cap by 1 to 2 inches. They are made of porcelain -coated steel or aluminum. They are available commercially at a low price.

Steam-Pressure Canner - Low-acid foods (vegetables) must be processed in a steam-pressure canner. The steam in the pressure canner circulates around the jar, transferring heat and bringing the food to an internal temperature of 240 F. Although purchasing a steam-pressure canner may be costly, it is essential if you are going to can low-acid foods.

Small Canning Utensils - Specifically designed utensils for home canning, while not essential, help make the canning process easier and safer. Most pieces are available where home canning supplies are sold or direct from a manufacturer of canning products:
Jar lifter - Lifts any size home canning jar, is rubber coated for a sure grip and has a heat-resistant handle to protect hands.
Jar Funnel - aids in filling regular and wide mouth jars and is best made of plastic.
Plastic Spatula - helps remove excess air from the jar without damaging the glass.
Lid Wand - has a magnetized tip and plastic, heat resistant handle from lifting lids from hot water.

The process for each food varies but all have some similarities. Vegetables can be canned as part of a recipe with other vegetables or alone. Fruits can be canned alone or as jams, sauces, etc. To give you an idea, the following is a description of canning a vegetable alone.

Canning Green Beans , Step by Step
1) Read recipe instructions; assemble equipment and ingredients before starting. Follow guidelines for recipe preparation, jar size, canning method and processing time. Do not make changes in recommended guidelines.
2) Visually examine canning jars for nicks, cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges that may prevent sealing or cause breakage. Examine canning lids to ensure they are free of scratches and the sealing compound is even and complete. Check bands for proper fit.
3) Wash jars and two piece caps in hot, soapy water. Rinse well. Dry bands; set aside. Heat jars and lids in a saucepot of simmering water (180 F). DO NOT BOIL LIDS. Allow jars and lids to remain in hot water until ready for use, removing one at a time as needed.
4) Select fresh green beans which are young tender and crisp. Wash beans in several changes of water; lift beans out of water and drain.
5) Remove strings and trim ends. Cut or break beans into uniform pieces. Prepare only enough for one canner load.
6) Cover beans with boiling water; boil 5 minutes. Remove beans from cooking water.
7) Remove canning jar from hot water with a jar lifter; set jar on a towel. Add 1 teaspoon salt per quart or 1/2 teaspoon salt per pint, if desired. Carefully ladle hot cooking liquid or boiling water over beans, leaving 1-inch headspace.
8) Run a metallic spatula between green beans and jar; press back gently on beans to release trapped air bubbles. Repeat procedure 2 to 3 times around jar.
9) Wipe rims and threads of jar with a clean, damp cloth. Remove lid from hot water with tongs or lid wand. Place lid on jar rim with sealing compound next to glass. Screw band down evenly and firmly, just until resistance is met.
10) As each jar is filled, set it onto the rack in the steam-pressure canner. The canner should contain 2 to 3 inches of hot water; keep water at a simmer (180 F) until all filled jars are placed in the canner. Check the water level; add boiling water, if necessary.
11) Put cover onto canner and turn to lock lid in place. Adjust heat; bring water to a boil, leave vent open until steam has escaped steadily for 10 minutes. Put weight on vent.
12) Bring pressure to 10 pounds for altitudes at or below 1,000 feet above sea level. Keep pressure steady during entire processing period. Process pints 20 minutes, quarts 25 minutes. When processing is complete, turn off heat.
13) Let pressure return to 0 naturally. Wait 2 minutes to open vent. Unfasten cover; raise canner lid towards you, allowing steam to escape in opposite direction. Lift off cover. Let jars set in canner 5 to 10 minutes to adjust to the lower temperature. Remove jars from canner and set them upright, 1 to 2 inches apart, on a towel to cool. Do not retighten bands. Let jars cool 12 to 24 hours.
14) After jars are cooled, check lids for a seal by pressing on the center of each lid. If the center is pulled down and does not flex, remove the band and try to lift the lid off with your fingertips. If the lid does not flex and you cannot lift it off, the lid has a good vacuum seal. Wipe off lid and jar surface with a clean, damp cloth to remove food particles or residue. Label, store jars in a cool, dry, dark place.

1 comment:

Jana said...

interesting! Now I know about canning!