Go Local Year Round by Canning and Drying
Canning and preserving has been around for centuries, and for good reason to. Canning is a simple and effective method for preserving your food and making it last for up to YEARS longer. Some preserved items have even been able to last for up to 30 years after it has been pick, such as canned freeze dried lentils, which were still edible 30 years later. So why not extend the life of your food with these simple canning and preserving tips.
The most common technique for canning is called water bathing, this is best used for high-acid foods such as fruits, pickled produce, or salsa. Canning works by applying heat to food in a closed glass jar to prolong the life of the food and put the natural spoilage at bay, while also removing all of the air to create a seal.
You will need:
- A large deep pot with the lid (the pot has to be large enough to be able to fully immerse the jars with one or two inches of water covering on top)
- A Rack that fits into your pot (you need a rack so that your cans do not directly touch the bottom of the pot and so water can circulate around the jars, you can make your own rack with aluminum foil but twisting the foil to create 8 long tubes, use three of the tubes to form a circle then the other 5 to create a grate like pattern in the center of the circle)
- Glass jars (sterilized), lids and bands (preferably new ones)
- Ladle and funnel
- Jar lifter (if you do not have one wrap rubber bands around the clamps of a tong)
- Towels and pot holders
- And the prepared product that you will be canning. Be aware that when you are preparing your ingredients before canning the freshest, tastiest product will preserve the best, do not use any products that are near their spoiling point.
Step 1: Check your jars, lids and seals for any cracks or dents, if the jars cannot fully seal they will not preserve.
Step 2: Keep your jars and seals warm, you can do this in one of two ways. You can keep your jars and seals warm in the dishwasher by using them shortly after they have run through the dishwasher cycle. The second option is to keep your jars and seals in a warm sauce pot while the water in the pot is at a simmer, leave them in until you are ready to use them. Your lids can stay at room temperature.
Step 3: Be aware of and use the suggested head space, and time frame for preserving your product on the recipe you prepared it from.
Step 4: Using your funnel fill the warm jars with your item that is going to be canned, again leaving the recommended amount of head space at the top of the can. Make sure there are no air bubbles throughout your food, you can do this by running a plastic ladle around the inside of your jars. With a damp towel wipe down the opening of the jar to free it of any mess. Place the seal on top and firmly screw the lid onto the jar, make sure the lid is tight but not so tight that it cannot be opened in the future.
Step 5: Place your rack at the bottom of your large deep pot and fill it half way up with water. Cover the pot with your lid then bring and maintain your water at a full boil.
Step 6: Gently lower your jars into the pot of hot water, make sure your rack is secure and your jars are not touching the bottom of the pot, or each other. You want the boiling water to be able to flow freely around the jars. Add more hot water if you do not have enough in the pot. Your jars all need to be immersed into the water with two inches of water over top.
Step 7: Begin timing your jars as the instructions for your recipe requires. Continuously check during the duration to ensure that your water is maintaining a boil.
Step 8: Once the time is up turn down the water fully and let the jars sit in the pot for 5 minutes before carefully taking each jar out of the water. If you have a jar lifter use them to take the jars out one at a time. If not you can use your homemade jar lifter with tongs wrapped in elastic bands. Set the jars on a thick towel or wooden cutting board to cool down.
Step 9: Give your jars 12-24 hours to cool down and fully seal up. During this time you will hear the lids making popping noises as they pull down the seals. Be careful not to push down the seals yourself as you let them cool, let them be pulled down and sealed naturally by the jars.
Step 10: After you have left the jars to cool for a sufficient amount of time you can now test the seals by pushing on the top of the jars. They should not be able to make that signature clicking noise, and if a jar has not pulled the seal down yet then the jar did not seal properly. For any jars that do not have their seal pulled down put them in your fridge and eat within a few days, the food is still good and edible, but it will not be preserved.
Step 11: Rinse off the jar, and make sure to label it with the type of food and date of canning before storing it.
Step 12: Enjoy your preserves many different times throughout your future!
Although canning may be the most popular it is not the only preserving technique. You can also dry your fruits and vegetables. Many different fruits and vegetables can be dried out, some that are best are fruits with high sugar and low moisture content, root vegetables, peppers, peas or shelled beans.
Step 1: Prepare food as needed, either mash into a pulp, finely chop, or string.
- Peaches and like fruits work well when being turned into a leather. This is done by mashing the peaches up into a pulp (it is best to use extremely ripe peaches). Then take the pulp and spread it out onto a clean surface (preferably one where the peaches can stay for a period of time and can be peeled off of, such as a cooking sheet with wax paper), the pulp should be spread out to 1/4 inch thick.
- Other fruits and vegetables cans be finely chopped or cubed then spread across a cheesecloth over a hard surface, with an additional cheesecloth on top, (stir occasionally).
- Other items can be tied up and strung out along a piece of string, such as peppers or peas. Simply tie up one end of the item along a string with a decent amount of space in-between each item.
Step 2: After preparation leave items out to dry in a warm, sun filled area, some items can take up to a few days to dry (the chopped items typically take longer than the other two methods).
Step 3: Once the items are dry it is very important to keep them dry, if the newly dried fruits and vegetables become even slightly damp once again they will rapidly spoil. It is best to store the dried produce in an air tight container to ensure it will stay dry. When storing remember to label the items with names and dates on them.
The process of drying is as simple as prepping and leaving out to dry! The fruits and vegetables will preserve for a long period of time, if stored properly. Also when an item is dried it retains a lot more of its nutritional value in comparison to if the item is canned, allowing you to enjoy fruits and vegetables off season.
Go out and pick up some fresh local produce today from a Farmers Market, local farm or your very own backyard and preserve it while it has reached its peak during the growing season. Preserving can be completed in multiple ways to help ensure that you can enjoy your produce at any time during the year.
Written By: Brittney Massey