If you are one of those talented gardeners who have had a successful year but find yourself with too much produce consider canning your fruit and veggies so they don’t get wasted. Spread out the enjoyment of your North Texas crops by creating great canned food. Canning is a terrific way to keep food from perishing for up to a year.
If you’ve never tried canning before don’t be intimated — it is a simple heat process. At the most basic level you put fresh food into jars that are sealable, heat them for a time and then cool down the jars. The cooling time causes an air pressure seal and the jars will stay tightly secure. This ensures freshness while keeping out unwanted micro-organisms.
Types of Canning
There are two types of basic canning – by boiling or by using a pressure cooker. For foods that are low in acid, like vegetables and meat, pressure canning is the recommended process. This method will have you place your food jars in a few inches of water in a special canning pressure cooker. The water will heat to at least a temperature of 240 which is necessary to kill harmful spores.
Foods that are high in acid, such as tomatoes and fruits, can be preserved with a much easier boiling process. Using this method you simply put your jars of food into a pot of water and boil for the amount of time indicated by the recipe. The jars must be completely submerged in water.
Tips for Safe Canning
While the canning process is pretty easy it is always important to practice safety measures. You need to make sure that you use clean jars that have no cracks or chips. The glass jars can be reused but you must use new lids and rings.
Sterilize all the equipment (jars, lids, and rings) by placing in a pot of cold water. Place a rack in the bottom of the pot to keep jars from touching the bottom, make sure jars are complete covered and bring water to a full boil, then lower the heat and boil gently for at least ten minutes. Do not touch the equipment when removing from the pot. Use tongs to keep from contaminating the sterilized pieces.
Most folks can their produce simply without added ingredients so they can add to recipes or spice it up later. But more creative cooks know there are endless ways to perk up the end product. You can add a variety of spices and herbs that appeal to your palate or mix the produce for a complete recipe. For example, salsa made from tomatoes, peppers and onions, or spaghetti sauce from tomatoes, onions and herbs.
Search for new recipes and extend the appeal of your bounty. To get you started, below is an easy recipe for a Southern favorite, Bread & Butter Pickles.
- 20 cups sliced cucumbers (about 12 medium)
- 3 cups sliced sweet onions (about 4 medium)
- 3 quarts ice water
- 1/2 cup canning salt
- 6 cups sugar
- 6 cups white vinegar
- 3 tablespoons mustard seed
- 3 teaspoons celery seed
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- Place cucumbers, onions in a large bowl. In another large bowl, mix ice water and salt; pour over vegetables. Let stand 3 hours.
- Rinse vegetables and drain well. Tightly pack vegetables into 9-10 hot 1-pint jars to within 1/2 in. of the top.
- In a large, heavy pot, bring sugar, vinegar, mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric and cloves to a boil. Carefully ladle hot liquid over vegetable mixture, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot liquid. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.
- Place jars into canner, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool.
You know you want to jump in and try your hand at canning. Let go of your doubts, have fun with the process and enjoy the best of your North Texas crops.