In the last five months, many of us have turned to gardening to pass our time while staying at home; some perhaps trying their hand at growing their own food. And if you’re like many of us, you may have gotten a little over-zealous with your planting. Having reaped what you sowed; you now have heaps of produce stockpiled in your kitchen that you can’t possibly consume before it spoils. What’s a food-waste conscious person to do? Can it!
Canning at home is fairly straightforward and doesn’t require too many gadgets. The process works by wielding heat and pressure to sanitize and seal. Today, there are two safe ways to can at home: water bath canning (a lower-temperature process suitable for highly acidic foods, like fruits) and pressure canning (a higher-temperature process suitable for other foods, like vegetables). In each case, a jar of the desired food is heated until the contents expand, changing the internal pressure. The heat, when applied for the required amount of time, kills molds, yeasts, enzymes, and bacteria that may be present. Gases are vented from the jar and by the time the processing period is finished, the pressure outside the jar is greater than the pressure within. This difference in pressure pulls the lid down, forming a vacuum seal that prevents new bacteria from entering.
We spoke with a local canning enthusiast who shared some of her tips and tricks with us. With a primary focus on tomatoes, she plants in mid-April and spends all of August canning a yield of anywhere from 50-100 jars of various preserved recipes. “I grew up learning to can with my grandmother and have now returned to it. Having experimented with it on my own for about six or seven years – it’s been a learning experience!” She stresses caution and attention to detail when it comes to the canning process, but advocates for experimenting with recipes. “Canning has been around for a long time and a lot of those old recipes used a lot of pectin and sugar, but newer canning recipes have evolved with the times and changing taste trends.”
What happens if you don’t follow the canning process correctly? At best, a tummy ache. At worst, botulism. “Cleanliness is key,” reports our local canner, “Sterilize the jars, disinfect the countertops – you can never have anything be too clean!” Fortunately, as long as you can follow directions and keep time, it’s a fairly fool-proof endeavor.
So, what do you need to start canning? If you’re starting out with the water bath method, all you need are glass preserving jars (check for cracks or chips) with new lids, a large pot (big enough to fit your jars and have 2-3 inches of water on top) with a lid and a rack that will fit inside it (to elevate the jars), your recipe ingredients, and something to lift the jars out of the water with. Pressure canning requires a specialized appliance. Our local enthusiast recommends the All-American Pressure Canner. “I recommend getting a tried and trusted brand – if the screws don’t hold, these appliances have been known to blow up!”
For those interested in planting or purchasing tomatoes for canning, she recommends opting for the traditional Roma or San Marzano varieties, rather than Heirloom. “Romas and San Marzanos have much more flesh and fewer seeds than the juicy or watery Heirloom.” Below are a couple of her favorite simple recipes. At the time this article is being written, she is trying out a new plum chutney recipe. We look forward to hearing how it turns out!
More information about canning and recipe ideas can be found at this trusted site: https://www.freshpreserving.com/
10 cups minced zucchini (skin on) 4 tbsp Kosher or Pickling salt
2 cloves garlic crushed
4 cups minced onion
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups bell pepper (assorted colors)
5 cups sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp dry nutmeg
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp turmeric
Soak first 4 ingredients overnight in fridge. The next day, rinse several times.
Add all ingredients in large pot, blend well, bring to boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Fill hot jars to 1/4 inch head-space and water processes for 10 minutes.
Cherry Tomato Ketchup
4 pints or 8 cups ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 cups red wine vinegar or apple vinegar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
4 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Optional, 2 minced and seeded jalapeños
In a wide skillet, simmer tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper until a thick jamlike mixture forms and liquid evaporates, 20 to 25 minutes. Puree until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Store in refrigerator or can using pressure cooker.
Both recipes passed down from a neighbor.
Canning is a process that originated in France. In 1795 – amid battles in Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, and the Caribbean – Napoleon announced a 12,000-franc reward for anyone who could come up with a novel way to preserve food for his soldiers. Nicolas Appert, a young chef from the Champagne region, was up to the challenge. His solution? Pack food into air-tight sealed champagne bottles with a combination of lime and cheese. And yes, it worked!