Canning Your Fall Harvest
Start your canning process with the freshest, most tender produce from your garden. The quicker you get it from garden to jar, the better your vegetables will taste come the late winter. Wash all your produce thoroughly, and peel those with tough or tasteless skin. Don’t soak your vegetables before canning, as they will lose their extra boost of nutrition and flavor.
The Best Vegetables For Canning And Preserving
Cucumbers, peppers, or zucchini can make great pickles
Tomatoes, onions and peppers can be canned together for salsa or pasta sauce
When selecting your canning jars, only use ones specifically designed for home canning, and ensure that they are all free of cracks. Check all sealing materials (lids, rings) for dents or flaws that will prevent an airtight seal. Don’t use commercial jars from previously purchased foods like spaghetti sauce, as the jars may collapse under the pressure required to properly preserve your food in a bacteria-free environment. Before starting the packing process, boil all jars and lids to ensure that they are free of bacteria. Vegetables are best preserved using a pressure cooker, and fruits and berries are best prepared in a water bath method.
Filling your jars with vegetables can be done in two different ways, the raw pack or hot pack. The raw pack method involves tightly packing non-starchy vegetables into a jar, and cover with boiling water. Starchy vegetables should be loosely packed, because they expand in the canning process. The hot pack method is ideal for low-acid foods, including most vegetables. In this manner, you steam or boil the vegetables briefly, then fill the jar, adding the cooking water around them to fill. Using this method, the vegetables should also be more loosely packed. Whichever method you use, ensure that you have covered your vegetables completely with water, but leave enough room at the top for some air to ensure the necessary seal can be created. You can also add additional salt and spices at this time, but note that they do not aid the preservation process, only enhance the flavor of the vegetables.
Each pressure cooker will have specific directions from the manufacturer to ensure that the canning process will go smoothly, so be sure to read and follow those guidelines for your safety, as well as to ensure the best results. Once you have completed the process, allow the jars to cool in a dry, non-drafty environment (such as a pantry) before testing the seals and labeling the jars for storage.
If a jar shows signs of foaming, discoloration, or has a loose, cracked, or bulging lid, discard that jar and do not eat it. Vegetables can also contain some toxins, such as botulism, without showing any indication of spoilage; for the best observation of food safety, always boil home-canned vegetables for 10-20 minutes before tasting.
By keeping these tips in mind, you can safely enjoy your fresh vegetable harvest throughout the cold, dark nights of winter, and have the benefit of good, natural foods at every meal.
This is a guest post by Lisa Vance. Lisa suggests visiting Chefs.com for information about food insight for the food enthusiast.