Canning to Preserve Food
This quick guide provides an overview of how canning can be easy, fun, and rewarding. Canning can be a safe and economical way to preserve quality food at home. Disregarding the value of your labor, canning homegrown food may save you half the cost of buying commercially canned food. Canning their favorite and special products to be enjoyed by family and to share with friends is a fulfilling experience and a source of pride for many people. While providing a level of satisfaction that you are being self-sufficient and self-reliant, canning foods can be done year round. During the Fall months, canning is most popular as seasonal harvests are collected and preserved for storage.
For the sake of safety, pressure canning is the only recommended method for canning meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetables. The bacterium Clostridium botulinum is destroyed in low-acid foods when they are processed at the correct time and pressure in pressure canners. Using boiling water canners for these foods poses a real risk of botulism poisoning. This is bad and in some cases may result in death.
The high percentage of water in most fresh foods makes them very perishable. They spoil or lose their quality for several reasons:
-- growth of undesirable microorganisms—bacteria, molds, and yeasts,
-- activity of food enzymes
-- reactions with oxygen
-- moisture loss
Microorganisms live and multiply quickly on the surfaces of fresh food and on the inside of bruised, insect-damaged, and diseased food. Oxygen and enzymes are present throughout fresh food tissues.
Proper canning practices include:
-- carefully selecting and washing fresh food
-- peeling some fresh foods
-- hot packing many foods
-- adding acids (lemon juice or vinegar) to some foods
-- using acceptable jars and self-sealing lids
-- processing jars in a boiling-water or a professional pressure canner for the correct period of time
Collectively, these practices remove oxygen; destroy enzymes; prevent the growth of undesirable bacteria, yeasts, and molds; and help form a high vacuum in jars. Good vacuums form tight seals which keep liquid in and air and microorganisms out.
Begin with good-quality fresh foods suitable for canning. Quality varies among varieties of fruits and vegetables. Examine food carefully for freshness and wholesomeness. Discard diseased and moldy food. Trim small diseased lesions or spots from food.
Can fruits and vegetables picked from your garden or purchased from nearby producers when the products are at their peak of quality-within 6 to 12 hours after harvest for most vegetables. For best quality, apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums should be ripened 1 or more days between harvest and canning. If you must delay the canning of other fresh produce, keep it in a shady, cool place.
Fresh home-slaughtered red meats and poultry should be chilled and canned without delay. Do not can meat from sickly or diseased animals. Ice fish and sea foods after harvest, eviscerate immediately, and can them within 2 days.
Food may be canned in glass jars or metal containers. Metal containers can be used only once. They require special sealing equipment and are much more costly than jars. Regular and wide-mouth Mason-type, threaded, home-canning jars with self-sealing lids are the best choice. They are available in 1/2 pint, pint, 1-1/2 pint, quart, and 1/2 gallon sizes. The standard jar mouth opening is about 2-3/8 inches. Wide-mouth jars have openings of about 3 inches, making them more easily filled and emptied. Half-gallon jars may be used for canning very acid juices. Regular-mouth decorator jelly jars are available in 8 and 12 ounce sizes. With careful use and handling, Mason jars may be reused many times, requiring only new lids each time. When jars and lids are used properly, jar seals and vacuums are excellent and jar breakage is rare.
If lids are tightly vacuum sealed on cooled jars, remove screw bands, wash the lid and jar to remove food residue; then rinse and dry jars. Label and date the jars and store them in a clean, cool, dark, dry place. Do not store jars above 95°F or near hot pipes, a range, a furnace, under a sink, in hot attic, in a hot garage, or in direct sunlight. Under these conditions, food will lose quality in a few weeks or months and may spoil. Dampness may corrode metal lids, break seals, and allow re-contamination and spoilage.
Canning vs. Freezing
The Canning preservation method is better than freezing because it uses no energy during its storage and is completely immune to power outage. Properly canned foods can last for many years and will provide a means to enjoy foods that are no longer freshly obtainable due to seasonal change, drought or disaster.