Saturday, December 22, 2012

Preserving the Harvest - Canning

clip_image002The one thing with having a home garden is that for one part of the year you are inundated with a large selection food, while the other part you have either nothing or the limited winter crops you are able to grow. The one thing we do as a family is to can the overabundance for use during leaner months. Now there are two methods to canning, water bath and pressure. Water bath canning restricts you to only acidic foods and sauces (for example salsa, jam, pickled vegetables, etc.). However, the equipment required to get started is easy to come by - a large pot and enough canning jars, rings and lids. The basic procedure is to clean and sterilize the jars and lids by keeping them submersed in boiling water for at 10 minutes. You then fill them with the stuff you are canning, clean the rims, place on the lid and ring then submerse the jar into the boiling water and leave them in there for the length of time called for in the recipe. Pressure canning on the other hand allows you to can just about anything because of the simple fact that as the pressure increases the temperature needed for water to boil. The higher temperature kills bacteria and their hardened spores that normally survive the boiling water method like Clostridium Botulinum  which causes botulism poisoning. However, with pressure canning you need a pressure canner and really should only use the mason style canning jars to make sure the jars don’t crack under the stress of canning. Pressure canning can also reduce the time you need to spend canning for certain recipes (see the blackberry jam recipe at the end for an example).
Note: There are old pressure canning stories of exploding pressure canners. Now a days there are many safety features that will release the pressure before it would be in danger of exploding. Our pressure canner will blow out a rubber plug if the inside pressure gets too high, however once blown you need to buy a new plug and you should investigate why it over pressured in the first place.
Now with both canning methods you basically fill the jars with the food item until it is about an inch away from the top (follow the recipe if it says differently). Then wipe the rim so that any spilled food will not interfere with the seal. Place on the lid and then the ring so that it barely touches. The ring is to prevent water from entering but needs to allow the superheated air to escape during the canning process. If you are water bath canning then make sure they are submerged in the water and for pressure canning make sure you have the manufacturer recommended water in the base. Put on the canner lid and turn on the heat. For pressure canning do not apply the weight until the steam starts escaping, this allows the air to escape and reach at least 100 °C before starting you canning. Wait for the pressure to build and then start your timer. Once the timer goes off, turn off the heat and wait to remove the jars until the pressure returns to normal (this might take 10-30 minutes depending on the volume of air in the canner). Do NOT remove the weight to rapidly depressurize the canner as this could cause the jars to shatter due to the rapid heat change). Let the jars cool (for pressure canning that can take the entire night) and your food will be preserved for a long time. Now here are some recipes from my garden. Blackberry Jam
  • 4 cups Blackberries
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¾ cup honey (¼ cup more if you like a sweet jam, ¼ less if you like a tart jam)
  • Pectin packet
Rinse and cook the blackberries mashing them while they cook. Add lemon juice and bring to a boil. Mix honey and pectin separately and then add to juice mixture and return mixture to a boil. Fill 1 quart or 2 pint jars up to a ¼ inch from the top. Place in canner and water can for 10 minutes or pressure can at 11 psi for 4 minutes. Carrots
  • Carrots – cut lengthwise to the height of the jar (minus an inch)
  • Optional – Dashes of Pepper and oregano for flavoring
Pack the carrots as tight as possible and cover with boiling seasoned water, apply lids and can at 11 psi for at least 25 minutes (30 if you are using quart jars).

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