Home canning is experiencing a comeback, and according to those who love it, there are some pretty good reasons why.
While canning your own food is certainly more difficult than walking into a nearby supermarket, it produces better quality food, saves money, and also helps build self-reliance.
Belvie Whitt, 76, of Henagar, has been canning foods her whole life and relies on the food she prepares year-round.
“Every summer,” she said, “I can tomatoes for soups and stews. I also can green beans, fruit, peppers and homemade soup and even salsa.”
According to motherearthnews.com, there are many ways to can your own food, but the simplest is called, ‘water bath canning.’
Water bath canning is easy because no pressure cooker is needed.
Food is simply put into jars, topped with a flat lid, and boiled in an open pan of water until the air leaves the jar and the lid seals.
“A more advanced method is pressure canning,” the website said. “It requires a little more skill and some specialized equipment, but it will unlock a wide world of food and flavor options. If you want to put up the main ingredients for many meals, rather than just supporting players and condiments, you’ll need to get into pressure canning.”
According to Wikipedia, “ordinary pressure cookers are not recommended for canning as their smaller size and the reduced thickness of the cooker wall will not allow for the correct building up and reducing time of pressure, which is factored into the overall processing time and therefore will not destroy all the harmful microorganisms.
The goal in using a pressure canner is to achieve a "botulinum cook" of 121°C for 3 minutes, throughout the entire volume of canned product. Canners often incorporate racks to hold Mason jars, and pressure canners are capable of achieving the elevated temperatures needed to prevent spoilage.”
Home canning is usually done in Mason jars instead of single-use commercial glass jars because they have thicker walls.
“The most common configuration is a Mason jar with a flat lid and screw ring,” Wikipedia said. “The lid is generally made of plated or painted steel, with an elastomeric washer or gasket bonded to the underside of the rim. The lid also incorporates a slightly dimpled shape, which acts as an indicator of the vacuum (or lack thereof) inside a sealed jar. A newer, reusable lid is now available that uses a flat plastic disk with a reusable rubber gasket. The ring threads onto the top of the jar over the lid to hold it in place while the jar cools after processing; the ring can be removed once a vacuum has been established in the jar.”
Jars are commonly in either pint or quart sizes, and are either standard or wide-mouth at the opening.
When a jar has cooled and is properly sealed, pressing the dimple on the lid will not make any sound. An improperly sealed jar will allow the dimple to move up and down, sometimes making a popping noise. Lack of this noise does not necessarily indicate that the food in the jar is properly preserved. Typically, during the cooling process, a properly sealed lid will pop once as the pressure inside the jar is reduced enough that atmospheric pressure pushes the lid inward.
“Once my jars are sealed and have cooled,” Whitt said, “I just fill the pantry with them and use them throughout the year.”
For some quick tips on canning your own food, try these books suggested on motherearth.news.com:
‘Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods,’ by Eugenia Bone. This book is for gourmand canners who care more about stocking your pantry with variety than quantity and for urban canners who think it’s cool to have a larder in Soho.
‘Put ‘Em Up! A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook.’ by Sherri Brooks Vinton. This is an inspiring resource for new canners and for folks who like to have pretty pictures along with exceptionally interesting recipes.
‘The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying, and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables,’ by Carol W. Costenbader. This is for you if you’re looking for a comprehensive canning guide with straightforward, easy-to-understand instructions.
‘The Joy of Pickling: 250 Flavor-Packed Recipes for All Kinds of Produce from Garden or Market,’ by Linda Ziedrich. This book will delight anyone who loves exploring history and culinary traditions. Of course, pickle love is a must!