Save money off your food budget; Start Canning!
Before refrigerators and freezers became an everyday household item, it was a way of life to CAN foods at the height of their season. As we're getting more aware of the chemical infestations and of the many biologically altered foods, more and more people are trying to return to a safer natural lifestyle.
Reasons to CAN and preserve:
- Save money - canning is done when the food is at its best, right from tree or garden, at the height of the season. The produce etc. is plentiful, therefore, cheap especially if bought in bulk or home grown.
- No unwanted additives - the only things going into the jars is what you put into them. You don't need to add artificial preservatives, or food colors, or spices etc.
- Save time prepping meals- this is a busy and full of hustle life style that most of us are leading. Having home-canned foods in the pantry will cut down in the planning and meal cooking time. No time wasted for food to un-thaw, no need to peel veggies etc.
- Gift giving- while there are home-canned jars in your pantry you always have that special gift for family and friends on hand.
Home-Canning is not hard. Like with everything there are a few rules to remember. Rule # 1 and the foremost important, on which all other rules rely is DO NOT TAKE SHORTCUTS WHEN HOME CANNING. This means do not use inferior product when canning. Canning preserves food but does not enhance the flavour or color. So what your canning is what you will have as end-product. (If you start out with shrivelled up fruit that's what you will have in your jars etc.) Do not cut the time short when processing jars, and have the right equipment for the type of preserving you're planning on.
Warning:it's natural for food to spoil when not processed in one way or another. With proper canning procedures the freshness, flavour and color can be kept at a maximum.
Spoiling agents: - Molds, bacteria, and yeast are the main spoilers to watch out for. As mentioned before with proper care these can all be eliminated.
- MOLD - any foreign substances in your jars can cause fuzzy mold. i.e. crumbs, unclean jars etc
- BACTERIA - likes low acid food which include most vegetables and meats. A rule of thumb, when bacteria has invaded foods, it becomes slimy and has an unpleasant odor and flavor. Bacteria is also the cause of food poisoning. The toxins can cause botulism.
- YEAST - causes foods to ferment and thus spoil.
- Only use the finest quality foods. Fruit and vegetables should feel fresh and firm. Smell and look ripe, with good color and no blemishes.
- Wash food thoroughly. Not only does dirt carry the spoiling bacteria but it also is very unpleasant to have grit between your teeth.
- Do not soak fruit or vegetables as this will soak out the flavours etc.
- Handle fruit and vegetables carefully so not to bruise or break the skin. Which again could introduce the spoiling bacteria etc.
- Have working area, canning equipment and jars with lids clean and ready.
- All jars and lids should be perfect. Jars without nicks or cracks. Lids should be soaked in boiling water for some time before placing onto jars to soften-up the sealing compound.
- Obtain reputable recipe book and follow the recipes, it's imperative that all steps are followed exactly. The accurate time and temperature of hot water bath or pressure canners will make the difference of good food prepared well, that can be enjoyed with pride or food that is only good for the garbage and that can endanger your families health.
- Leave enough head space in jars, don't over-stuff, as produce in jars will expand when being heat processed.
- Remove air bubbles from around food in jars, air left will again endanger foods with bacteria.
- Clean mouth of jar before 'lid-ing' to ensure a proper seal all around.
- Tighten rings firmly, this will push the sealing compound tightly against jar mouth thus assuring a good airtight seal.
- Before moving jars into pantry make sure jars are vacuum sealed. A jar that is properly sealed is slightly con-caved into the jar which will happen during the cooling period. (you will hear a low pop)
Needed equipment -
- PRESSURE CANNER - with dial gauge is the most important equipment needed for low acid foods (this is the most expensive investment but will last for many, many years)Read all instruction on this pot because it has a few different tricks to it.
- HOT WATER CANNER - for high acid foods has to be deep enough to accommodate canning jar height placed on a bottom rack an inch off the floor of pot plus an inch or two of water covering the jars. (these can be bought fairly inexpensively)
- MASON JARS - these come in many different sizes and shapes (wide-mouth, plain or deco sided etc). Small, 1/2 pint, for jellies and jams, medium, 1 pint size are good for fruit conserves, salsa, salmon, etc., large 1 quart size is best for multiple portion meals such as meats also small pickles whole or sliced, X-large, 1/2 gallon, great for bigger whole pickles and large family size soups etc. Always make sure you have enough jars on hand for the.
- LIDS and RINGS - these come in all the standard sizes. Rings are not needed to stay on jars once the seals are complete. However it doesn't harm to leave on either.
- SPOONS - long handled, slotted, ladle
- KNIFES - large for chopping, parring, and vegetable peeler
- MEASURING - cups, spoons and scales
- TONGS and JAR LIFTER
- JAR FUNNEL
- SPATULA - non-metallic
- COLANDER or STRAINER
For first time "Canners" I suggest canning 'high-acid' foods first. Apple sauce is always a great start or apple butter. ( most canning books will have recipes for both these items). Always remember that processing methods and and times are as different as the foods are different. Today all treatments and methods have been scientifically experimented with and by following a reputable canning book, preserving is a safe and great way to save money on food, and can become a great hobby.
My one and only all time favorite CANNING book was published in 1991 by the BALL CORPORATION (32 edition) By doing this article I discovered that Ball doesn't own the home-canning side of the business anymore but has sold the rights to http://www.freshpreserving.com/ . I like their site with a free e-newsletter full of recipes, craft ideas and information.
Another site which is mainly reading material For Your Information only 'Home-Canning How to avoid Botulism' www.bchealthguide.org/healthfiles/hfile22.stm