Once upon a time, pantry shelves lined with an abundance of stately jars filled with freshly preserved fruits and vegetables were a source of pride for homemakers, because their handiwork in the kitchen could be counted on to sustain the family through the winter.
Today’s supermarkets offer thousands of convenient products, making home food preservation a choice rather than the necessity it once was. However, the pleasure of preserving foods is appealing to a growing numbers of families who want high-quality food at a reasonable cost.
Family matriarchs are once again teaching the next generation of women and men how to preserve food without chemicals and preservatives.
Before you get started preserving your bounty, there are a few things you need to know and remember.
First and foremost, use fresh fruits and vegetables at their peak. It only makes sense that the fresher the ingredients when you preserve them, the better flavor they will have when you crack open the jar months later.
Secondly, make sure to read through the recipe before you begin – and plan to follow the recipe exactly. Ingredients work best in specific quantities, so measure carefully. In addition, resist the temptation to add extra ingredients or make substitutions, and don’t double the recipe. If you want to preserve more, do it in multiple batches.
Lastly, always gather and organize all the ingredients, jars and lids, and utensils you’ll need. Once you get started, you don’t want to realize you don’t have all the ingredients needed or remember that you loaned your canner to the neighbor.
Things to Keep In Mind
As you prepare to put up the harvest this season, here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your canning efforts are successful.
• Can only the amount you’ll use in a year. Properly sealed food kept longer will be safe to eat, but may lose nutritional value and quality.
• Select standard canning jars made of tempered glass that can withstand high temperatures.
• Use jars in sizes suitable for the product being canned, as well as your family’s needs. Large-mouth jars are great for packing whole tomatoes and peach halves. Quart jars are a convenient size for vegetables and fruits for families of four or more.
• Jar lids and rings come with new canning jars, but if you’re working with used jars, select appropriate lids. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for pre-treatment.
• A boiling water bath canner is needed for processing high-acid foods like fruits, tomatoes, pickles, and tomato and fruit juices. A steam pressure canner is essential in canning low-acid foods, such as vegetables, and ensures destruction of microorganisms that cause spoilage.
• Every canning step should be carried through as quickly as possible. Two hours from harvest to container is a good rule of thumb.
• After the processed jars have cooled for 12 hours, tap the center of each lid with a spoon. A clear, ringing sound indicates a good seal, while a thudding sound indicates that an imperfect seal is possible. If a jar doesn’t seal, either refrigerate the food and use it soon, or reprocess the jar.
• Write the name of the recipe and the date it was canned on the jar lid.
• Store canned foods in a dry, dark, cool place (70 degrees Fahrenheit or below) to retain freshness.
• Before opening any home-canned foods, clean and inspect the jars and lids. When opening, look for spurting, a cloudy or frothy liquid, a strange odor, or a slimy texture, all of which are signs the food has spoiled.
Home Canning Recipes
Homemade Salsa Recipe for Canning
Basil-Garlic Tomato Sauce Recipe
Best Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
Homemade Apple Butter Recipe
Canned Pears Recipe
Canning Applesauce Recipe
Dill Pickled Okra Recipe
Kosher Homemade Dill Pickles Recipe
Rhubarb Chutney Recipe
Old-Fashioned Sweet Corn Relish Recipe
Spiced Blackberry Preserves Recipe
Strawberry Preserves Recipe
Spiced Blueberry Jam Recipe
Sugar-Free Peach Jam Recipe
Water Bath Canning
Jars must be pre-sterilized before canning with a water bath canner because the water temperatures are not high enough to kill any bacteria on the jars.
To sterilize the jars, fill the canner with water and jars. Bring the canner to a boil, and boil the jars for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, and cover. Leave the jars in the hot water until you’re ready to fill them.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the lids to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to sterilize them. Turn off heat, and cover. Leave the lids in the hot water until you’re ready to use them.
Once all of your jars have been filled and the lids have been put on, place the jars on a rack in the canner or a large stockpot of boiling water. The water should cover the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Cover the canner and bring the water to a boil. Boil for the amount of time specified in the recipe.
After processing your food, remove the jars from the water and place them on a towel to cool. Check the jars as you take them out, and if any do not seal, either put them in the refrigerator and use them soon, or reprocess them.
Jam and Jelly Tips
Making jam and jelly no longer requires spending hours in a hot kitchen like it once did. Convenient products like prepared pectins, jars with easy-seal lids, and prepared artificial sweeteners help preserve summer-fresh flavors quickly.
Here are some tips to follow to help you make the best jams and jellies.
• Follow recipes and step-by-step instructions exactly.
• Measure precisely. Don’t guess.
• Do not double recipes. Working with larger quantities can change the food chemistry between ingredients. If you have a bumper crop, make several individual batches.
• Do not substitute any of the ingredients in a given recipe.
• Many recipes call for butter or margarine to reduce foaming; if your recipe calls for it, be sure to add it.
• Ladle jelly quickly into jars to eliminate air bubbles. This is especially important for clear jellies, as air bubbles can make clear jellies appear cloudy.
• Prepare jars according to manufacturer’s instructions, and always do so prior to ingredient preparation.
• If a homemade jam or jelly should become moldy, discard the entire jar.
• Contaminants that may cause spoilage are usually destroyed when hot fruit mixtures are ladled into prepared jars immediately, covered and inverted for 5 minutes to seal after the jam or jelly is cooked, and many people still use this method. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends sealing jars with the hot water bath method, because the hotter temperatures provide more protection against contaminants.• To use the hot water bath method for jams and jellies, place filled jars on a rack in a canner or large pot of boiling water. The water should cover the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Cover the canner and bring the water to a boil. Boil for the amount of time specified in the recipe. If your jam or jelly recipe doesn’t give a time, a good rule of thumb is 5 minutes for half-pints or 10 minutes for pints. Remove jars from the canner, and let them cool. Check seals. If any jars do not seal, either refrigerate and use them soon, or reprocess them.
• Wipe jars of cooled jams and jellies with a clean, damp cloth before storing. Label the jars with the name of the contents and the date of preparation. Store unopened jars in a cool, dry place. Use unopened jams and jellies within 1 year. Once opened, jams and jellies need to be refrigerated – and used within 3 weeks.