Preserving Summer’s Bounty
Home canning captures the freshness of the harvest.
Is there any better time to embrace the local food movement than in the middle of harvest – when the bounty of veggies and fruits is at its peak?
The trick is to extend your family’s commitment to eating food that’s produced within 100 miles of your home into the winter season.
And the best way to do that is to adopt the time-honoured method of our mothers and grandmothers – home canning. Canning preserves the taste and texture of freshly-picked produce well into the cold months. If you’ve never smelled and tasted your own home-made peach jam on a brisk February morning, you are in for a treat.
If you balk at the work involved, remember you have your family to help, by picking and preparing veggies and fruits and labelling bottles.
Different types of canning
Home canning is not difficult, but it’s important to use up-to-date recipes that specify the type of processor as well as the processing time needed to prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause botulism.
For beginners, it’s easiest to preserve foods containing high amounts of acid. Botulism spores don’t grow in a high acid environment (although other microorganisms do) so these foods can be processed in a boiling water canner which reaches a temperature of 212° F. High acid foods include fruits, fruit juices, jams, jellies, salsa, pickles, relishes, etc.
Low acid foods, such as vegetables, soups, stews, stocks, meat, poultry and seafood, must be processed at a temperature of 240° F to kill botulism spores. This can only be achieved in a pressure canner. Make sure you thoroughly read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions that come with your pressure canner.
There are several steps to the canning process:
- Prepare jars. Wash jars, lids and bands in hot soapy water and rinse. Heat jars and lids in a saucepan filled with water until simmering. Keep hot until ready to use. Keep bands at room temperature.
- Prepare canner. a) Boiling water canner – place empty rack inside boiling water canner, half-fill canner with water and bring to a simmer. b) pressure canner – fill with two to three inches of water and bring to a simmer.
- Prepare recipe.
- Fill jars. Remove hot jar from water using tongs, empty water from jar, then fill with prepared food, leaving specified headspace. Clean rim of jar with a clean, damp cloth.
- Top jar with lid and band. Remove lid from hot water using tongs. Centre lid on jar and screw band on lightly.
a) Boiling water canner. Place jars in rack. Water should be two inches above jars. Put on lid. Bring water to a full boil. Continue boiling for specified time. Turn off the heat and remove canner lid. Wait five minutes, remove jars and place upright on a towel.
b) Pressure canner – place filled jars in canner. Lock canner lid in place, with vent pipe open. Turn heat to high. When steam starts to escape continuously, set timer and vent for 10 minutes. Close vent with weight (see manufacturer’s instructions). Adjust heat until proper pressure is achieved and process for specified time. Remove canner from heat and leave undisturbed until pressure returns to zero. Wait two minutes. Remove weight and unlock lid, tilting away from you. Remove jars from canner and set upright on a towel.
- Check for seal. Leave undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Centre of lid should curve downward. Do not retighten screw bands. (You may reprocess unsealed jars immediately or store in refrigerator.) Store sealed jars in a cool, dry place.
Preserving your own food not only has benefits to the environment and your family’s bellies, it helps save money. So what are you waiting for? Grab the kids and get started.