Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Canning Season Continues

Many of you reading this blog today have never "Canned" food in your life.  For those of you that have canned before or do it regularly now, this is just a little refresher.  Might even be a few items you forgot about regarding the process.  Whichever group you are in, I hope this well help you try it or do it more.

Many vegetables and fruits work well with canning.  For the recipes this week, I have one using cucumbers and the other tomatoes.  Both are for pickles.  The Wednesday recipe is for "Spicy Dill Pickles" and is great for those wanting a little kick in their pickle.  Thursday is "Green Tomato Pickles" and both recipes can be spicy or not.  Of course that is one of the nice things about food, you can adjust it to your own palate.

Let's get started.  Canning does take some special equipment but it is not that big of an expense.  There are 2 ways to can vegetables and fruit.  One is using a stove-top "Water-Bath Canner."  It comes with a large canning pot, lid and insert rack that separates the jars while in the boiling water-bath.  This is the only way I have ever canned or even seen it done.  I observed my grandmothers and both watched and helped my mother with this canning method.  The other is using a "Steam-Pressure Canner" which I won't be covering as I have no practical knowledge of using one.

You will need glass jars, flat lids and ring bands to put the food in to process.  The jars should  be the type that are made specifically for canning food.  They also need to be without any defects.  The jars and bands can be reused many times but the lids should be a one time only use.  You want to make sure you always get a good seal on the jar.  You can buy a kit that gives you a jar funnel, bubble remover & headspace tool, magnetic lid lifter and jar lifter (tongs).

The funnel helps you from making a mess filling the jars.  The bubble/headspace tool does just that, helps get bubbles out of the product in the jars and helps determine the correct fullness of jars.  The magnetic lid lifter helps get the lids and bands out of boiling water without getting burnt.  The jar lifter helps fill and empty the canner with your full jars for the water-bath.  This helps keep you from getting burnt hot water too.

An optional item would be labels.  You can get labels to stick on the glass jars or just write the needed information on the lid.  You want to be sure to put the name of the canned item and the date processed on the label or lid.

Another process you want to follow is cleaning the jars before filling them.  You can wash them in the sink with soapy water, rinse with hot water and let dry/drain on a rack.  I use my dishwasher to clean my jars.  You want the jars to be hot/warm when you fill them so they don't crack or break.  By using my dishwasher, the  jars are clean and hot as I run it just in time to use the jars.  Some people put their empty jars in a boiling water-bath before filling with product.  But that really isn't necessary.  The jars s well as the food will be sterilized during processing.

One more thought on the jars.  I recommend that you try to use "Wide-Mouth" jars as they are easier to fill and empty once you open them.  Also, think about what you are canning and how it will be used.  That will help you decide on whether you want to use quart or pint jars.  After going through the process of canning food to save and consume later, you don't want any of it going to waste because you didn't use it fast enough.

I've only touched on the subject of home-canning today.  My advise is to do a little research and follow directions on boxes of any equipment you will use.  Have fun with canning and "Happy Cooking" until next week.

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