Canning & Preserving Base Camp
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-Mason Jars with two-piece lids (1st piece: flat metal disk with a rubber gasket - 2nd piece: screw-on band made for holding the flat metal disk in place)
-Canning Tongs are recommended for the safe placement of jars in and out ofhot water
-Pressure Canner or a Large Pot for boiling
-Soft plastic spatula
-Large ladle or large spoon
1. Wash your jars and lids in hot water with soap. Next, place the jars and lids into a large pot of boiling water for 10-12 minutes to sterilize them. Take the jars out of the boiling water and leave the lids in until you are ready to use them. This will keep them from being contaminated by coming in contact with something that is not sterilized.
2. Now you want to prep your fruit and/or vegetables. I would recommend using the freshest produce to ensure that they have the highest nutritional value possible. Allowing your fruits and vegetables to sit gives them a chance to lose precious nutritional contents. Avoid using any produce that have blemishes and/or are overripe. As a rule of thumb, process the produce immediately after harvesting them or at least as close to it as possible. Storing fruits in an ascorbic acid solution will help prevent them from browning. I highly recommend not using any kitchen utensils or products made of iron, copper or aluminum to prevent discoloration of the produce.
Filling the Jars
3. Using a ladle or large spoon, place the produce into the jars being careful not to overcrowd the jar. Due to the expansion of the produce during the boiling process in the next step, it is essential that you do not fill the jars completely to the top. Leave room (approximately 1/2 inch) between the contents and the top of the jar. Every jar may require a different amount of room to expand depending on the physics of the jar contents. Trust me, you do not want the mess from overcrowding the jars. Next, with the exception of jams, jellies and preserves, pour either a pickling solution, boiling water or juice to cover your produce. If you are using water, I recommend using soft bottled water as opposed to hard water. Gently push down on the produce with a soft plastic spatula to ensure that it is submerged beneath the liquid. Make sure that there aren't any visible air bubbles in the jar. Use a clean cloth or damp paper towel to clean off the jar rims. Remove your sterile lids, using your canning tongs, from the bath and place them on the jars. Refer to the specifications provided by the jar manufacturer to tighten the lids on the jars.
4. Some of you will be using a boiling-water canner (large pot) and others will be using a pressure canner. For a boiling-water canner, the water should typically be 1-2 inches above the top of the jars. If you are using a pressure canner, refer to the manufacturer's instructions to determine how much water is needed in the canner. Typically, you want 1-2 inches of water above the tops of the canning jar but the instructions should let you know how much water is needed in the canner before the jars are inserted.
Next, preheat the water in your canner to 180º F for hot produce and 140º F for cold/raw produce to prevent jars from cracking when you insert them into the canner. For the next step, the boiling/pressure time ultimately depends on the type of produce you are canning as well as your region. If you are using a pressure canner, refer to the manufacturer information due to the differences in canner types and altitude differences.
5. Remove the jars and place them on a safe surface such as a wooden surface or on several layers of towels to protect your countertops. During the cooling process, the lids will seal themselves nicely to the jars, like a vacuum seal effect. After cooling, you can check the integrity of the seal by pressing down on the center of each lid with one finger. The lid should not give when pressing down on it or pop up after pressing down on it. If a jar doesn't have a good seal, only store it in a refrigerator, for it should be consumed soon.
Label & Store
6. Finally, you are ready to label your product. Whether you choose to write on the lid of the jars or attach labels to the jar to write on, include the name of the contents and the date of canning. Store your jars in a dry, dark, cool place to preserve the nutrients and to prevent corrosion of the lids.
Note: Information provided in this article is based on my experience only. Always refer to manufacturer instructions to ensure that you are canning and preserving correctly/safely. If you are unsure of anything involved with the process(es) in this article, research the process so that you feel comfortable and stay safe. Good luck to you and have fun!
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