Are You Ready For The Canning Season?
By Pamela Redwine
With the economy the way it is, there is no doubt that many people are considering planting a garden this year. Make the most of your vegetables by “putting them up” for later on in the year. Canning is an important, safe method of food preservation if practiced properly. The canning process involves placing foods in jars or cans and heating them to a temperature that destroys microorganisms that could be a health hazard or cause the food to spoil. Canning also inactivates enzymes that could cause the food to spoil. Air is driven from the jar or can during heating and as it cools a vacuum seal is formed. This vacuum seal prevents air from getting back into the product bringing with it microorganisms to recontaminate the food.
There are two safe ways of canning, depending on the type of food being canned. These are the boiling water canner method and the pressure canner method. The boiling water bath method is safe for fruits, tomatoes and pickles as well as jam, jellies and other preserves. In this method, jars of food are heated completely covered with boiling water.
Pressure canning is the only safe method of canning vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood. Jars of food are placed in 2 to 3 inches of water in a pressure canner which is heated to a temperature of at least 240 degrees F. This temperature can only be reached in a pressure canner.
There are several essential items that you will need if you are going to can produce.
• Water Bath Canner – A large covered cooking pot with a rack. Any large metal container may be used as long as it is deep enough for 1 inch of briskly boiling water to cover the jars. The diameter of the canner should be no more than 4 inches wider than the diameter of your stove’s burner to ensure proper treatment of all jars. The canner must have a tight-fitting lid and a rack. The rack keeps the jars from touching the bottom of the canner and allows the water to circulate freely under the jars. If the rack has dividers, jars will not touch each other or fall against the sides of the canner during processing.
• Pressure Canner – A specially made heavy pot that has a lid that can be closed tightly to prevent steam from escaping. The lid is fitted with a vent (or petcock), a dial or weighted pressure gauge and a safety fuse. Newer models have an extra cover lock as an added precaution. It may or may not have a gasket. The pressure canner also has a rack.
• Canning Jars and Lids – Mason-type jars specifically designed for home canning are best. Canning jars come in a variety of sizes from half-pint jars to half-gallon jars. Pint and quart jars are the most commonly used sizes. Jars also come in both the regular and wide-mouth styles. If properly used, jars may be reused indefinitely.
• Two Piece lids – this type consists of a flat metal disc which has a sealing compound around the outer edge and a separate metal screw band. The lid is used only once; the screw band may be used over and over, unless it rusts or is bent. Lids should be good for at least 5 years after manufacturer.
Article Source: So Easy To Preserve: fifth edition