Things you should know before preserving or canning

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Canning and preserving food from your garden or local farmers market is a great way to save money and give your family fresh fruit preserves and vegetables year round. As yummy as it sounds to make your own jams, preserves, and being able to help your family eat healthier with super fresh foods it may seem intimidating, difficult or complicated. With these few things you should know before you start canning or preserving you will be well on your way to eating fresh foods in no time.

There are two types of foods– high acids, such as fruits and tomatoes, and low acids, which includes vegetables, meat, and seafood. Knowing the acidity of the food you wish to can is very important because it determines how you go about canning it. There are two types of canning. There is pressure canning which is used for low acid foods and boiling-water bath which is used for high acid foods. Now pressure canning is a method that uses a specially made kettle with a lockable lid. You fill it with water, place your jars on the rack within the pressure cooker so they will not break and follow the directions that come with the pressure cooker.

The second method for canning food is the water bath method. This is the method that most people start out with and find to be a bit simpler. To do the water bath method you will use a three piece enamelwear set that comes in varying sizes and is sold commercially. These sets consist of a pot, a lid, and a rack to hold your jars off the bottom of the pot as to avoid breaking the jars. The water bath method also works with any large pot you may already own. The important thing when using a different pot is to insure that your jars are completely submerged in the water and not touching the bottom of the pot. This may be difficult to do without a rack. However, this can be remedied with a dish towel and boiling the water at a lower temperature. When choosing to use a pot from your home, you put a dish towel at the bottom of your pot, then place your jars a considerable distance from each other. Without a rack, the boiling water could cause the jars to hit one another causing them to break so do be careful.

Both of these methods start out however with the same basic things. You will need to obtain jars, lids, and bands. It is very important that whenever you start canning that you thoroughly clean out the jars, lids, and bands. This insures that your food does not become contaminated with the bacteria that is already on the jars whether from the store or if reusing the cans. Remember this is food your family will be eating and always be overcautious. Once you have canned your food, it is always important to mark the date that it was caned. This may sound strange but just because food is canned does not mean it will last forever. Any food that has been canned over a year ago is no longer good and should be thrown away. The jar can then be cleaned and reused. Make sure whenever you open any homemade canned food that you also check the color and the smell. If it doesn’t smell or look right do not consume it. Always be safe. There are some foods however that do change color when they have been canned such as garlic, pears, and other fruits. This is a natural part of the canning process and should not affect the smell or the taste of the food.

Canning is a well loved and cherished past time that has been handed down through generations. Though it was once a necessity for survival, it has become a creative labor of love.

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