Canning: Why You Should, and How to Do It
Preserving summer fruits and veggies is easier than you think.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: August 15th, 2012
ummer is winding down, and if you haven't already been dealing with a surplus of tomatoes from your garden or struggling to use up your farmer's market goods before they spoil, you might find yourself trying to do just that as school starts and your time is taken up by getting the kids on the bus and helping with homework. Thankfully, canning is an easy way to preserve that summer produce so you can enjoy it all winter long (and if you're lucky, all the way til next summer). But how do you do it? And why, aside from prolonging your bounty, should you do it?
Thanks to most produce having a high water content, fresh foods are prone to fast spoilage; things like loss of moisture, bacteria growth, and reactions with oxygen contribute to their deterioration. And if you want more than say, a week's worth of use from your fruits and veggies, canning is a good way to do it. While it might seem like an arduous task, it's really not.
If you want more than a week's worth of use from fresh produce, canning is a good way to extend its life.
The canning process typically involves thoroughly washing your produce, peeling it (some, at least), adding some sort of acid (again, to some foods), and packing them into jars using the boiling-water method or a pressure canner.
The process removed oxygen from coming into contact with the food, as well as destroys enzymes that would spoil the food, and it prevents the growth of bacteria and molds. Vacuum sealing the jars keeps liquid in, but air and microorganisms out.
So again: how do you do it? And which foods are best?
Foods best suited for canning are fresh—at best, within six to 12 hours of their harvest. Now, with most of our lifestyles, this isn't typically possible, so just pick the freshest produce you can—fruits and veggies that are at the peak of their quality; you'll want foods that are not underripe or overripe. With fruits, you'll want to keep the fruit peeled and cut up in a solution of three grams ascorbic acid (vitamin C—about one level teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder weighs three grams) to one gallon of cold water. This solution helps maintain the color as well as, quite literally, preserve the food via adding an acid to the mix.
Using recipes you can find online, process the foods as such and then fill the hot mixture into jars. Leave the appropriate amount of headspace (space at the top of the jar as indicated in recipes), then tighten the rubber rings and lids tightly (though not "as tightly as possible; you'll want to open these later, right?). Process the jars in boiling water (again, as indicated in recipes, you'll submerge the filled jars in boiling water) for the recommended amount of time, then allow the jars to cool on a towel-lined countertop until they are room temperature. As they cool, you'll hear the lids "ping" as they seal.
Here are a few of our favorite tutorials for canning, which are coincidentally all from the same website:
Stone fruits, like peaches and plums