Canning is a fun and economical way to preserve and consume food right in the comfort of your home. Outside of personal labor costs, canning foods can be one of the most cost effective ways to preserve food, especially if the food is homegrown. If fruits and vegetables are canned immediately following harvest, they can also be more nutritious than the fresh produce sold at grocery stores, despite the natural loss of nutrients that occurs during the canning process. Canning foods can make sure that surplus produce grown in home gardens does not go to waste, and in today’s current climate of watching what one eats, it can provide the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly where the food has been.
Directions for Canning
While different foods require different canning procedures, some basics can apply to almost any food item that can be canned. For hot water bath canning, which is good for acidic foods, begin by thoroughly washing jars, jar pieces and utensils that will be used in the canning process in very hot, soapy water and carefully inspect the jars for any cracks or defects. Then place the jars and screw rings into a large pot and fill it completely with water, raising the heat to medium-high until it simmers. Prepare the food according to the recipe, being careful to only use food that is at the peak of freshness. Then, fill the jars with a funnel and ladle, leaving about a half inch of space between the food and the top of the jar.
Wipe the edges of the jar clean, screw a lid to the jar and place the filled jar back in the pot. Increase the heat to high, until the water boils, and leave the jar in the pot according to the recipe. After this, turn off the heat and allow the jars to sit in the hot water for five minutes before removing them and allowing them to sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Finally, test the seal of the jar by removing the lid ring and pushing into the center – if the lid pops up, it is not properly sealed and needs to be stored in the fridge.
While fruits and tomatoes can be safely canned using the water bath method, meats and most vegetables require pressure canning. Standard water bath canning cannot reach the temperature needed to can these foods, which can lead to food safety issues. Pressure canner prices can range from $80 to $300, and typically require the same steps as water bath canning, including washing and inspecting utensils, filling the jars and testing the seal.
Tomatoes and Salsa
Meat and Poultry
Jellies and Jams
While canning can be a cost saving and satisfying home project, it is not without its risks. Botulism, a rare but life threatening bacteria, can develop in canned foods if they are not handled properly. It is very important to make sure that, whether using a water bath or pressure canner, the required temperatures are met to ensure food safety and quality. It is also important to keep any items, including hands, that are used in the canning process as clean as possible. Make sure to purchase well-made canning supplies, and always test lids after they have sat for 24 hours to make sure that the jar is sealed properly. Following these safety tips can ensure that both the canning process and consumption of home-made canned goods is as safe as it is enjoyable.