Preserving Summer’s Bounty

2016-6

savor Canning and Preserving Fresh Foods B y E m i l e e G e t t l e Preserving Summer’s Bounty The yearly ritual of preserving the abundance from our gardens conjures many warm memories. Canning, dehydrating and freezing is great for healthy eating, and it really brings gardening full circle. After all the work is done, and everything is sealed and labeled for the winter, I sit back, breathe a sweet sigh of accomplishment, and reflect on all that we gained in a season. CANNING Canning is the process of heating foods to a point where microorganisms that cause spoilage are destroyed and food is preserved with a vacuum seal. There are two main types of canning. Water bath canning is for foods with a high level of acidity (specifically, a pH of 4.6 or less). Pressure canning is for starchy foods with a low acid content (pH of 4.7 or higher). Home-canned food is just as safe as commercially canned food, if processed correctly. Until experience is gained, it’s important not to stray too far from a time-tested recipe in order to maintain an environment that prevents bacterial growth and reduce changes in appear-ance such as discoloration and texture. Follow each step in the canning process from start to finish (don’t cut corners!) to ensure a quality home-produced food product. At first glance, the process might seem complicated, but don’t be intimidated. With practice, the process becomes second nature, like making a favorite recipe for dinner. During canning sessions at my house, the kitchen is filled with bubbling pots and the sound of clink-ing and clanking glass jars, all waiting to be filled with our own “black gold,” the veggies from our backyard. EQUIPMENT Get your equipment ready before you begin. Here’s what is needed: WATER BATH CANNER Ball and other companies sell pots that are specifically labeled as “water bath canners,” but actually any large pot will do the trick. I prefer to work with an 8-quart pot. It’s used for two important purposes: To sterilize the jars and then process the filled jars. Canners are often available at second-hand stores. Just make sure to buy one with a tight-fitting lid. JARS & LIDS Only use jars designed specifically for home canning. New jars come with lids and bands. The jars and bands are reusable. Do not reuse the lids. Inspect lids and the lip of jars for dents or nicks (or, on older jars, there might be bubbles) before using. Discard any damaged lids or jars, as even a small imperfection could prevent the jar from sealing properly. The metal can become damaged so check carefully for that as well. CANNING RACK A canning rack is so helpful. I’ve burned my hands many times as a result of not using a rack. If buying a new canner, definitely get one with a rack. In a pinch, my grandmother Nellie taught me to put a dishtowel on the bottom of the canner, which is a great buffer for the glass jars and minimizes the clanking during the boiling phase. FUNNEL, TONGS & MAGNETIC L I D LIFTER These are the three musketeers for canning. The wide-mouthed funnel prevents splatters and splashes while filling the jars with produce. Tongs save hands from burns by gripping the piping-hot jars after they’ve been boiling and lids that are simmering. The magnetic lid lifter is a cool invention (I had one and always used it growing up). It’s used to remove lids from hot water after they’ve been sterilized. DISHTOWELS Use a clean dishtowel to wipe off the rim of the jar after it’s filled. If food residue is on the rim, the jar will not seal properly. After taking jars out of the canner, use towels to alleviate the dramatic change in temperature while the jars rest. Place the jars on top of a towel when they’ve been removed, and cover them with another towel to release heat gradually and provide for an optimal seal. TIMER Put a timer to good use as a reminder to achieve the proper 86 WBM june 2016


2016-6
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