July 26, 2011

Tip of the day—Part 5 Food Preservation Series

Today as part of the food preservation series, we’ll review water bath and pressure canning methods.

Water Bath Canning.  This form is done with high acid foods such as fruits, tomatoes, and foods in vinegar.  This time of the year—jams and jellies, pickles, relishes, salsas, and tomatoes

Pros

  • Fresh jams, jellies, salsas, and pickles are far superior to store bought.
  • These items make excellent gifts.
  • While this method requires more effort than dehydration or freezing, it does not take as long as you might think.
  • The food lasts for a long time, and it requires virtually no maintenance.  It is shelf stable. 
  • It is ready to eat once the jar is opened, making it a good food for emergency preparedness.

Cons

  • More equipment is needed. 
  • It is helpful to watch someone else can before you try to do it yourself.
  • If foods are not preserved properly, there is a chance you could get sick from eating the foods.

Pressure Canning.  This form of canning is done with low acid foods such as vegetables.  This time of the year—Most veggies, green beans and shelling beans

Pros

  • The food lasts for a long time, and it requires virtually no maintenance.  It is shelf stable. 
  • It is ready to eat once the jar is opened, making it a good food for emergency preparedness.
  • These save room in your freezer for other foods.
  • I think that they make a beautiful display of foods. 

Cons--

  • A pressure canner is a must have to do this kind of food preservation.  These can be expensive.  I highly recommend you buy one new for safety reasons.  If you have a hand me down, however, you can contact your county’s agricultural extension agency to find out about having the gauges and seals checked.  Locally, you can also go to Stormers True Value Hardware 8618 Asheville Hwy ,Knoxville, TN 37924, to have your canner checked.
  • If foods are not preserved properly, there is a chance you could get sick from eating the foods.

Tips for Canning Foods:

  • Stick with the recipe. When you get more experienced, you will have a better feel for what parts of the recipe you can adjust and which you can’t. When starting out, make sure you follow the recipe exactly to avoid any problems with spoilage.
  • When you first start canning, join a friend or family member to learn from him or her. Not only will you gain the experience, it will be more fun and less work.
  • Don’t try the Weck jars until you have a little experience under your belt (www.weckcanning.com). The tongue of the Weck seal will point down when sealed, but a novice might not recognize a proper seal from an improper one. The traditional Ball jar lids pop when sealed, making it more obvious if you’ve used proper technique. While the Weck jars are not hard to use, wait a while until you have a little more experience.
  • When using the Ball, Mason, or Kerr type of jar and lid system, always use new lids when water bath or pressure canning.
  • Don’t use mayo or salsa jars for canning. This practice came into place when manufacturers would give customers a little freebie by storing their foods in jars that the home canner could reuse. Now the jars at the grocery are too thin and can shatter with varied temperatures and pressures.
  • When pressure canning, have your gauges and seals checked regularly.
  • Don’t use large pressure canners on glass-top stoves.
  • Apple peeler/slicers will make apple sauce and butter a cinch. Apple corers will make pear and apple preserving easier. Cherry pitters are a must if you are going to can cherries.
  • To make peeling tomatoes and peaches easy, score the bottom of the fruit and pop into boiling water. Boil for 1-2 min. and then submerge in an ice bath. The peels will come right off.
  • Don’t squeeze jelly bags when making jelly. Your jelly will turn out cloudy—not inedible, just not as pretty.
  • When making jam, add a sliver of butter to reduce froth. When the jam is made, skim off any froth before adding to the jars so that it is prettier. Save the froth and enjoy it as a taste test.
  • Grape or muscadine jelly can sometimes turn out grainy due to the amount of tannins in the fruit. To remove some of the graininess, you can reprocess it or reheat it.
  • To avoid overflow—1. Use the hot pack method. 2. When jars are finished processing when water bath canning, turn off the heat, remove the lid and let the jars sit in the water for 5 minutes. This will help to equalize the pressure. 3. Make sure that your headspace is at the proper level.
  • Discard jars if you notice any bubbling when cooled and on the shelf. Do the finger lift test to make sure jars are sealed properly. Smell the food to make sure it doesn’t have any odor. With low acid foods, smell once they’ve been cooked, as sometimes the odor is not pronounced until heated.
  • Don’t despair if you have a jar overflow or not enough to fill for processing—just pop them into the fridge and enjoy the food in the next couple of weeks.

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