Canning and Preserving 101

First invented during Napoleon’s time as a means of feeding troops healthfully during a march, canning is used today as a useful method to preserve garden fresh fruits and vegetables. Never canned before? Canning entails placing fresh or cooked produce in jars and heating them to a temperature that microorganisms are unable to survive in.  If done effectively; canning can prevent unnecessary waste, save money, and provide healthy food for your family all year long, as well as in an emergency situation.  Essentially, there are two options for home canning: one is water bath canning and the other is pressure cooker canning.  While both effective, this post details water bath canning as it is slightly more user friendly for first time canners.

Selecting The Correct Jar: Mason and ball jars are the two safest and most effective jars to use because they are designed to heat at high temperatures, and come with a two piece self-sealing lid.  Do no use commercial mayonnaise, baby food or pickle jars, as these are not suitable for high temperatures.

Supplies Needed for Canning: Much like with any hobby, the start up costs for canning can seem daunting.  Yet as each year passes, count on saving money as you can reuse jars, canning racks, and other food preserving tools.   There are several canning kits that are available on the market, or perhaps think about purchasing these items separately:

*A large traditional cooking pot, specialized canning pot or pressure cooker to place jars in. Whichever you choose, be sure it has a secure lid to prevent spills.  The pot should also be large enough to fit in each jar with room at the top for water to flow.  Be sure it is no more than 4 inches wider than the burner to ensure an even temperature.

*A jar rack works well to ensure water flow, and to space the jars properly; which will prevent cracking.  If a jar rack is unavailable, some choose to use sanitized cotton cloths to separate and cushion each jar.

*Jar funnels helps to easily ladle food in each jar, and prevents fingers from touching the jar lid.

*Several Mason or Ball Jars with two-piece self-sealing lids.

*Other Useful Supplies: Mixing bowls, saucepans, clean towels, a timer, measuring cups, tongs, a ladle, and a cutting board will all help ensure a smooth canning process.

Basic Step-By-Step Water Bath Canning: This process is ideal for canning acidic foods like fruit, jams, preserves, jellies, pickles and tomato sauce.

1. Sanitize all jars and lids by dishwashing them first, and then adding them to a large pot of boiling water.  Allow all jars to soak for at least 5 minutes.  Remove each jar with sanitized tongs, and place them on a clean towel.

2. Using sanitized tongs for larger pieces of food, or a jar funnel for sauces and jams;  gently place the food into each jar.  Leave approximately ¾ of an inch at the top for the lid. Be sure to use fresh and seasonal produce for optimum taste and expiration life.

3. Seal each jar by placing the small metal disc on the lid of the jar, and twisting the circular piece until securely fastened

4. Place the jar rack inside a large pot of boiling water, allowing the handles to come up from the top.  Carefully lower each filled jar into the boiling water, until all jars are set and carefully spaced. Using the jar rack handles, lower in the jars and fold the handles inside the cooking pot.  Allow the jars to soak for approximately 30 minutes.

5. Carefully remove the jars using tongs, and allow them time to cool off.  Jars should be stored in a cool, dark and dry place to preserve the jar’s contents.

Looking for a great recipe to get your canning off to the right start? Tomato sauces are excellent choices for first time canners.  The Producer includes the Rose Tomato, an heirloom variety with a beautiful, deep rose pink color. Meaty and flavorful, these tomatoes are perfect for tomato sauces.

Classic Heirloom Tomato And Basil Sauce

(Will make enough sauce for 2 jars)

 ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, diced

½ medium carrot, diced

½ stalk celery, diced

3-4 large garlic cloves, sliced

3-4 pounds of very ripe heirloom Rose Tomatoes

2 cups fresh basil, remove stems and coarsely chop

salt and pepper to taste

Method: Peel off the skin of each tomato using a small knife.  Or for easier peeling, cut a small “x” at the bottom of each tomato.  Then blanche them in hot water for about 30 seconds, and rinse under cold water. Once cool, squeeze the tomatoes to remove the seeds and juice, and reserve it for later. Use a potato masher to mash the tomatoes into small pieces.

Heat a large pot to medium high, and add the olive oil, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic cloves.  Add a few pinches of salt and pepper, and allow the vegetables to soften for 10 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes and basil, and turn the heat to medium low, allowing the mixture to come to a gentle simmer.

Allow the sauce to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring ever few minutes.  If the sauce is becoming too thick, slowly add the reserved tomato juices until it is the consistency you prefer.  Preserve this flavorful sauce by using the step-by-step instructions above.

What are your favorite sauces, jams and produce to can? 

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