Congratulations. Your garden has produced a bountiful harvest and now you’re ready to preserve your vegetables for year round enjoyment. Canning them is the best way to retain their textures and flavors over long periods of time. Although the process of canning may seem complicated and dangerous, it it actually very easy and safe if done properly. The following information provides useful tips on how to properly, and safely, can vegetables.
The process of canning is completed by raising the temperature of canning jars to 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit within a pressurized cooker over a period of time. This destroys the bacterias and germs that can spoil food or create health problems and drives air out of the jars replacing it with water vapor. As the jars cool after removal from the cooker, the water vapors condense and create a vacuum that seals the lid bands for safe preservation of the food. Once properly sealed, the jars are safe from further contamination. All vegetables can be safely preserved using this method.
For canning your vegetables, the following items will be required:
Canning Jars with Lid Bands
Canning Lids with Sealing Bands
Jar Lifting Forceps
Heavy Salt (i.e. kosher or sea salts). Processed table salts can soften the vegetables over time.
It is essential to use a pressure cooker when canning vegetables! Many foods can be canned using a boiling water container, which is basically a large pot with a fitted lid that is filled with boiling water. But this method is only safe for foods like jams, jellies or pickles that already contain bacteria hindering properties. The only safe way to can vegetables is with a pressurized cooker. Although there have been many horror stories about exploding pressure cookers, the truth is that all modern pressure cookers have safety release valves that prevent them from building up too much pressure. Read the instruction manual that comes with your cooker carefully before using.
To begin, prepare and boil your vegetables in salted water for 3 to 5 minutes. Fill jars with the vegetables and cooking liquid, leaving a 1-inch head space for allowing food to expand while in the pressure cooker. Be sure to check all jars for cracks or nicks before using, especially around the lid area.
Wipe the rim of the jar before sealing to remove any debris that would prevent a good seal. Slightly heat the lids before placing on jars, but do not boil them as it will destroy the rubber seals. If you see any air bubbles in the jar before sealing, use a plastic knife placed into the jar to allow the air to escape. Do not use any metal as this can cause scratches in jars that lead to possible breakage.
Once your jars lids are tightened into place, place the jars into the heated pressure cooker. Do not place jars into cold water as this can cause cracking or breaking. Secure the lid on your cooker and bring the pressure to required levels.
Necessary pressure levels and cooking times will vary depending on where you live. Higher altitude areas will require higher pressures for adequate sealing of the jars. Your instruction manual will provide that information or it can be found on the USDA website. Do not shorten recommended cooking times.
Once your jars have completed cooking, allow the pressure cooker to decompress and cool before opening the lid. Removing the lid too quickly can cause scalding steam to be released. Remove the jars from the cooker and place on a suitable cooling surface.
As the jars are cooling, you should hear a clear snap of the lids that indicate a vacuum seal has been achieved. Many lids are now available with small indicator buttons in the middle that shows that the jar is properly sealed. These type of lids are recommended for anyone new to the canning process.