Would you like to enjoy eating fresh, quality food without chemical preservatives or additives? Would you like to save money? If so, you should try home canning. Once you see how easy it is, and how great it tastes, you will never want to buy canned food from the store again!
You can purchase fresh seasonal produce when it’s on sale and preserve it for use throughout the year. To take home canning a step further, you can pick your own produce in the wild, at a pick-your-own farm or in your backyard vegetable garden.
With home canning, you will know exactly what your family is eating. Home canning relies on natural preservatives like lemon juice, vinegar or salt. Since you are preserving the food yourself, you are in control of each step. You can prepare the food exactly how you like it, as long as you are following a tested recipe.
For jellies and jams, recipes can be found inside the package of pectin, which is an ingredient you will need to purchase to naturally thicken the preserves. Sure Jell is one popular brand of pectin. Another great source for recipes is the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. This is generally considered the home-canner’s bible. You may also want to browse through recipes, canning instructions and more at pickyourown.org.
Culinary enthusiasts may be used to adding or deleting ingredients according to their whims. With home canning, this is generally not recommended, and recipes need to be followed exactly. The recipe will state if ingredients are optional. In addition, the recipes need to be specifically for canning.
Once you find a canning recipe that interests you, be sure it is a recipe no more than twenty-five years old. Some of your grandmother’s recipes are not safe, even if she swears by them. One of the older methods of canning, the open kettle method, is very dangerous. Basically, it involves heating the food on the stove, pouring it into hot jars and sealing them.
If you follow the open kettle method of canning, you are playing Russian roulette with food poisoning. You must process all home-canned foods in a water bath or pressure canner. Some types of food poisoning that may occur with improperly canned foods, such as botulism, are lethal. Don’t let this scare you off, though; if you process your home-canned foods for recommended times in a canner, they will be perfectly safe.
To get started canning high-acid foods like jams, jellies, tomatoes, pickles, relishes, sauces and salsas you will need only a few items that may not be in your kitchen:
• Standard glass mason canning jars
• Self-sealing canning lids and rings
• Jar lifter
• Lid lifter
• Jar rack
• Water bath canner
• Jelly strainer or cheesecloth if making jelly
At first glance, this seems like a lot of equipment. However, most water bath canners come with a rack, and some even come with all of the utensils you will need for canning. Depending on the quality you are looking for, you should be able to purchase all of your items for between $35 and $60. Canning jars are usually sold with the lids and rings. Lids are not reusable, so you will have to buy them each time you can, but the jars and rings may be reused as many times as desired. To can low-acid foods, including most vegetables and meats, you will need a pressure canner. This type of canner is a bit more expensive, but it is necessary to safely preserve foods with low acid content.
Home-canning is not difficult, as long as you follow the recipes and instructions. The satisfaction that comes from knowing exactly what your family is eating will be tremendous, and you will be able to enjoy the just-picked taste of fresh fruits and vegetables all year long.