Thursday, July 16, 2009

Guest Post: Preserving the Fruits of the Earth

Preserving food by canning is a cost effective way to have fruits and vegetables all year round. While there is an initial cost in supplies it will pay for itself after a few uses, especially if you are able to preserve the produce from your own garden. Not only will it save you money the canned food will taste better since it is harvested and preserved at the peck of its flavor and healthier since you control exactly what goes into the jars and there are no preservatives or additives.

There are three basic things you need for canning, the fruits/vegetables, the jars and the canner. The produce should be young, tender and unbruised for best results. If you are picking the fruit from your own garden, it is best to preserve the food the same day you pick it. Ideally, canned food should be used within the year, but the jars will last for around three years.

The jars need to be especially made for canning and come with lids and rings. The most common jar is the Mason jar. While you are able to reuse the Mason jars and rings, the lids are only used once since the seal breaks when it is opened.

There are two types of canners a water bath canner and a pressure canner. A water bath canner is a large cooking pot with a tight fitting lid and a wire rack that keeps the jars from touching each other. This type of pot can be used with high acid foods which contains enough acid so the Clostridium Botulinum spores will not grow and produce their deadly tonic. High acidic foods include most fruits, tomatoes, jellies, jams and properly pickled vegetables.

A pressure canner is a specially-made heavy pot with a lid that can be closed steam-tight. The lid is fitted with a vent, a dial or weighted pressure gauge and a safety fuse. You will need to make sure the pressure canning is calibrated correctly. Use a pressure canner with low acidic foods such as meat, seafood, poultry, dairy products and vegetables. A pressure canner processes to an internal temperature of 240 degrees at ten pounds of pressure, which kills any microorganism that could spoil the food or make you sick.

Other pieces of equipment that aren’t necessary, but useful are a jar lifter, a jar funnel and a lid wand. You are able to get a complete water bath canning set from Amazon, Wal-mart or Target.

Before you begin, the jars will need to be boiled or run through the dishwasher and the lids and rings will need to be boiled for at least 10 minutes. Once your jars are ready to go, you will place your hot or cold items in the canning jar and leave “head space” for the food to have room to expand. Normally half an inch is enough room. Pour hot water or juice over the items then screw on bands tightly.

The process of canning is very simple. For the boiling water method, you will place the jars in the boiling water and make sure the water covers the jars by 1-2 inches. Proceed with the processing times, counting the minutes from the time the water comes back to a boil. When processing is completed, remove the jars to a dry place to allow them to cool. Try not to bump or move the jars around until you hear the top of the lid “pop” or 12-24 hours.

The pressure canning method is slightly different. You will pour two or three inches of water in the bottom of the pressure canner, add hot jars and lock canner lid in place. Allow the steam to escape from the canner in a steady flow for 15 minutes before you close the vent. This allows the steam to drive the air out of the canner so you can achieve the higher temperature. Set the timer after the canner has reached the desired pressure on the gauge. After processing time is complete, allow canner to cool naturally, remove the lid and allow jars to sit for 10-15 minutes before moving them to a dry place to cool. As noted before, try not to bump or move the jars around until you hear the top of the lid “pop” or for 12-24 hours.

One note of caution, you should follow recipes that have been tested and not change them. Adding a pinch of this or that can change the acidity of the finished product which can allow potentially dangerous organism to flourish. Also, do not use the open kettle method, steam canning or oven canning. These methods do not get hot enough to kill all the bacteria. has a great chart telling you what foods need to be canned using a pressure canner or a water bath canner and the processing time. You will find the link here.

While from start to finish it maybe a little time consuming, it is well worth the effort in the end. Happy Canning!

EML is stay-at-home mom and loves all that entails…cooking, cleaning,baking, tending to the garden, being a loving wife to her husband and praying for the grace to make their house a home. She and her husband have one daughter and hope to give her many sisters and brothers in the future. You can follow her tips at

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting. I love to hear your feedback!