Your home garden paid off this summer, but the time to enjoy fresh produce from the backyard is rapidly coming to an end. So, why not try the next best thing? Canning your produce requires very little in the way of specialized equipment and helps you keep fresh tastes around a little longer.
Most fruits, which naturally have high acid content, may be canned in a large pot of boiling water. Most vegetables, meanwhile, have lower acid content and require a pressure cooker to protect against dangerous bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum, which produces the sometimes-deadly botulism toxin.
The procedures for both types of canning are similar.
Here’s what you need to get started in your own home:
+ Jars and lids – Jars and lids specifically designed for canning are the only option to prevent unwanted bacteria, yeasts or molds from entering the product and to withstand the high-temperature process. A three-piece system is recommended — it should include the jar itself, a flat metal lid with a sealing compound and a lid-sealing screw band that joins the two. The jars and screw bands can be reused, but the lid itself should not.
+ A recipe – Use a process from a previously published recipe to make sure you follow the item-specific temperatures, boil times and sanitation procedures. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a good resource. http://nchfp.uga.edu/
+ Utensils – To make sure you’ve hit the right temperatures, you’ll need a thermometer. And to help remove hot jars from their sterilizing bath, you’ll want a jar lifter.
+ A large pot or pressure cooker – Check your recipe to see which method is best suited to the type of produce you wish to preserve.
+ Your favorite produce – Canning extends the life of many of your homegrown goods, so be sure to try many different options. Your wintertime meals and your stomach will thank you for it.