Our grandmothers canned and preserved food, so why don't we? Although it's a bit of a lost art, canning still has its place, especially considering the tough economic times we are all facing. If you are a canning rookie, don't be intimidated. All you need is some fresh food, a few supplies and a little know-how to get started.
Patrice Lewis is a self-taught canner with over twenty years of experience and the creative mind behind the popular blog Rural Revolution. Her insight and encouragement will motivate any busy mom to get canning!
A domestic art
Perhaps you have vivid memories of a pantry filled with glass jars full of preserves or basement shelves covered in stored food. Canning is a way to preserve food so that you can enjoy it out-of-season or store it for emergencies. "Home canning is the preservation of food through high temperatures which eliminates bacterial contamination and subsequently seals the jars against any future contamination," says Lewis. "Properly done, the sterilized food is safe to store at room temperature and remains edible for years."
The fruit of your labor
People choose to can for a myriad of reasons, including emergency preparedness and preserving out-of-season food. If you need to be convinced to at least try canning (for whatever reason you chose), maybe you should taste some home canned food and compare it to a store-bought version.
"The canner is the artist and can adjust the food to the family's tastes and preferences," says Lewis. "The freshness of the food is under the control of the canner. Fruits and vegetables can be picked at the peak of their flavor and preserved immediately, rather than depending on the bland tasteless mega-fields of tomatoes which are picked all at once, artificially ripened, then commercially canned with additives to disguise the bland flavor."
The canning process
There are two types of canning: Water-bath canning and pressure-canning. Any food items that are acidic or high in sugar can be safely water-bathed. Pressure-canning is required for low-acid foods (which includes most meats and vegetables) to prevent bacteria growth. "To water-bath can, the food is placed in sterile jars, then topped with lids and rings," says Lewis. "The jars are placed in a large pot with a metal rack at the bottom and covered with water. Allow the water to come to a rolling boil for a set period of time. When the set time in boiling water has elapsed, the jars are lifted out of the boiling water and allowed to cool."
Pressure-canning was once intimidating, but the process is safe as long as you pay attention to what you're doing. "A pressure-canner super heats the contents of the jars to sterilize the food," says Lewis. "Clip a kitchen timer to your collar so you won't forget to monitor the pressure. You must follow the manufacturer's directions precisely when using a pressure canner."
A reliable reference book is an essential tool that will help make your first canning experience a fruitful one.