Thursday, May 21, 2015

Canning 101

Canning 101
Taught by Becca Clayton

  1. Prepare your food to be canned- shell the peas, snap the beans to the size you want, take the corn off the cob, peel the tomatoes or peaches (dip in boiling water for a few minutes and then cold water to make it easy), cook down the applesauce and strain out the seeds/peels, make a big pot of chili, cook your jam, etc.
  2. Prepare your supplies- hot, clean jars or lids (make sure the jar is lip has no breaks in it), canner full of hot water ready to go, jar lifter, a wet paper towel to clean the jar rims before putting on lids, a butter knife for getting out air bubbles if needed.
  3. Put the food in the jar-
    1. Cold Pack- things that aren't cooked ahead of time can be put in the jar while “cold” (or room temperature) and then covered with hot or boiling water. Examples include green beans, corn, peaches.
    2. Hot Pack- things that are cooked ahead of time are put in the jar while hot. Usually these things have their own sauce (like jam or soup), but if not, cover with hot or boiling water.
  4. Put the lid on the jar-
    1. Headspace- You want to have ¼ to ½ inch headspace, or air, at the top of the jar. This is so that as the food heats it can expand without spilling out of the jar. This also provides the air that will create the vacuum seal. So leave headspace. You can use a butter knife to get air bubbles out of the food (such as in a peach half or amid the green beans), then add more liquid if needed to get the headspace right. It is okay if there is more headspace, but it doesn't look as pretty and food that is out of the water may discolor over time.
    2. Clean the lip of the jar- food that is left on here can interfere with a good seal.
    3. Place a hot lid on the jar and hand tighten on a rim or band. Don't screw it down tight. We want air to be able to escape as it heats.
  5. Run the canner- Put each jar in the canner, on opposite sides to keep the rack balanced so they don't all tip over. Once the canner is full or you are out of jars to put in it, process the food for the length of time or at the pounds of pressure your recipe or chart says is necessary.
  6. Last steps- When the canning time is complete, turn off the heat and let the canner sit and cool for about 10 minutes (or until the pressure is gone in a pressure canner). Then tilt the lid and let it cool more. Then use the jar lifter to remove the jars. Set them on a dry towel in a place where they will be safe from being touched or having a sudden change in temperature because either could crack the glass. Let them cool for 24 hrs, then wipe the jars down clean, label them, and store them where you plan to keep them.

A note about canning times:

Waterbath: You wait until the canner is boiling again to start the timer. You want to turn the heat down some then so that it doesn't boil over, but if it stops boiling then you have to restart your timer once it boils again.

Steam Canning: You wait until the steam has been coming out of the hole with out any break for 10 minutes. Then you start your timer. You want to turn the heat down some so you don't boil all the water off, but if the steam stops coming out you have to then let it vent for 10 minutes again before starting the timer again.

Pressure Canning: You wait until it reaches the required pressure before starting the timer. You want to turn the heat down some so you don't go to a higher pressure than needed, but if it dips below the pressure then you have to restart the timer once you get it back to pressure.

High Altitude requires more canning/processing time.

Which Type of Canner Do I Use?

Hard and fast rule: You must pressure can low acid foods. This basically means anything that isn't fruit. Your recipe should say whether to pressure can it or not. If there is a mixture of different types of foods (i.e. soup or spaghetti sauce) and one of the foods is low acid, process it as a low acid food. The recipe/canning table should say how long to process it for, but if you can't find that then can/process it for the longest time any of the individual ingredients would require.

Foods that must be pressure canned: vegetables, meat, soup, spaghetti sauce with meat, etc.
Foods that don' need pressure canning: most fruits, tomatoes with added lemon juice (follow the recipe)

Steam Canner- 
 Pros: Heats up quicker, doesn't take as much water
 Cons: Not currently approved by the USDA because of fears that it may not heat through the glass as thoroughly

Waterbath Canner- 
 Pros: Tried and true with lots of research to prove its effectiveness
 Cons: Takes a long time to bring to a boil and uses a lot of water, heavy to move around

Pressure Canner- 
 Pros: Allows you to process low acid foods, can also be used as a pressure cooker, can also be used as a steam canner
 Cons: People are intimidated by it and scared of the high pressure, sometimes they are somewhat smaller than waterbath canners and may not hold as many jars.

Where do I Find Recipes?

  1. The Internet
  2. Canning books and old cookbooks- check out the library
  3. Family recipes
  4. Word of mouth- ask your friends
  5. Inside pectin boxes or on packaging of other canning supplies
  6. USDA extension office- they can also check your old pressure canner to make sure it is displaying an accurate pressure reading.

Where Do I Find Canning Supplies?

  1. Your mom or grandma- Ask her! She may have a lot of stuff to give you for free!
  2. Walmart has canning supplies and even canners for good prices, but it may be seasonal
  3. Kroger and Harris Teeter both consistently have pectin, lids, and jars.
What Can You Can?

A lot more than you would think! I have personally canned spaghetti sauce, jams of all kinds, tomatoes, peaches, pears, applesauce, apricots, corn, green beans, chili sauce, apple pie filling, pickles, and jalapeno peppers. You can can meats- it makes tender meat, quick dinner prep, and preserves meat without taking freezer space. You can can dinner- soup, chili, spaghetti sauce. You can can family favorites- Mom's special chili sauce or Grandma's famous pickles. You can can lemonade or tomato juice. You can even "can" cakes or bread  (see recipes below)! You can't can foods that are too thick- like pumpkin- though, because the heat doesn't penetrate all the way through to the center. Other foods, like whole berries, preserve better with freezing because they lose their color when canned, or get mushy.

Does Canning Save Money?

It depends. At first canning costs a lot because you have to buy jars and lids and supplies. Most of those supplies are reusable year after year, so then you just have the cost of lids and the food that goes in the jars. Canning does give you the power to control exactly what goes into your food and also a way to preserve an overabundance of food during one season for use in another season. And home canned food tastes better than store bought canned food.

Tips for reducing the cost:

  1. Free or Affordable Canning Jars- Ask around. Many relatives or ward members have boxes of canning jars in their attic that they no longer use and would love to give away. You can also find them at garage sales and thrift stores. Some glass mayonnaise jars can be used for canning. Just check and see if the canning rings fit their threads. If so, you can use them.

    1. Free or Affordable Food- Grow food in your garden, ask around and let people know you would be willing to take their extra produce or fruit from a fruit tree in their yard, buy food in season and/or in bulk when on sale or at the farmer's market. The farmer's market will give you better quality produce for canning than the grocery store and you can usually negotiate with the sellers about price. Know that the price will fluctuate from year to year based on the harvest that year.

    1. Supplies- You can buy pectin on sale at the end of jam season and use it the next year. The same is true for canning lids. Re-use your rings until they get rusty. If they have some rust, use them for the jars you give away or for jars in your fridge or storage, but not for canning itself.

A note about pectin: I buy the powdered pectin. It is more affordable and I have never gotten a good thick jam set from using liquid or no-cook pectin.

Is it Safe?

The Ball Blue Book or USDA guidelines are the gold standard to insure safety. The information from both is available online. They are the basic standards that you find all over the internet for how long to process foods for and it is based on years of research. Follow their standards and you will be safe. Or, as my grandma-in-law said, “A good can is all about cleanliness!”

And here is a handout from a class that my friend Teri Davis taught.  She gave me permission to post this on the blog.  There are some delicious and interesting recipes at the end of it.

Why do we need to use pressure canning?  

Simply cooking food doesn't ensure that it is free of bacteria. Once you can the food, you are putting the food in a perfect environment for bacterial growth. Botulism is one of the ugliest germs that grows in a can which has been improperly stored – and botulism can kill people! Even boiling water will not kill botulism spores. We use a pressure canner to reach temperatures much higher than 212F/100C that will ensure all of the botulism spores are completely eradicated.

Any time you press on the center of the lid of your home canned foods and the seal has been popped, you need to throw that can out. The popped seal means it is filled with gas, and the gas has been created by botulism spores. There are very few times that I have properly stored a can with pressure canning and had the seal pop still. It stinks when that happens, but the food is not safe to eat.

There are two methods to begin canning:

1. Raw Packing – the food is not cooked before it is put into the cans. Instead, it is cooked by the heat of the pressure canning process. Why use it? Raw packing is convenient!

2. Heat Packing – the food is cooked before it is put into the cans. Pressure canning is still necessary to reach high enough temperatures that will kill all of the bacteria in the food. Why use it? Make a large pot of soup or chili, but it's too much? Can the leftovers!

Every pressure canner will have some kind of locking mechanism and a pressure valve.

Home canning jars with lids. Save money and avoid brand names. I promise the off-brand Walmart jars are just as good as the Ball brand jars!

Jar tongs for lifting hot jars.  

Wide-mouth jar funnel to help decrease the mess caused by filling the jar. Again, not absolutely necessary.

Jar labels – you always want to label what the food item is and the date that you canned it.  You can get fancy, or just use a sharpie on the lid.

Some people suggest running your jars through a sanitizing wash in the dish washer. Others suggest a rinse with soap and hot water, and a few are fine with just really hot (or boiling) water. Whatever makes you feel peace of mind is what you should choose. I usually just use really hot tap water and rinse a jar two or three times. Also rinse the lids

Whether you’re raw packing or heat packing, you need a recipe that contains liquid. The liquid is what heats up inside the pressure canner, killing all of the bad bacteria. There are a few exceptions to this rule, which we’ll talk about later.

Either way, you’ll fill the jar with your food of choice. I don’t like to waste anything, so I pack that bad boy really tight with the solid part of the recipe. I then spoon in the liquid part until the liquid reaches one inch below the rim of the jar.

It doesn’t matter if the liquid doesn’t fully cover the solid food. This space without liquid is called “head space” and is for liquid expansion when the jar is in the pressure canner.

Wipe the rim of the jar really well to remove food and liquid from the grooves. You want the lid to make a really tight seal and having food there will inhibit the seal. Put the lid on the jar and screw it tight. Place the jars in the pressure canner and follow the directions that came with your specific pressure canner. Each model is different.

If you need to find out what the suggested times and pressures are for a certain food, Google it! I find all of my recipes online, including the canning times. A lot of the time, the Ball home canning website has what I’m looking for.  Sometimes I find what I need in people’s home canning blogs or youtube videos.

The exceptions to the canning rules:

Foods with low (acidic) pH don’t need to be put in a pressure canner because the environment isn’t favorable for bacterial growth. Examples of these low pH foods are apples, tomatoes, and citrus fruits. Instead of using a pressure canner, use the hot water bath method.

(There is a fun cake recipe below that doesn’t use either heating method… but it still works!)

You should have enough knowledge to get started with your pressure canning. If you have any questions, Google them!  Reading through people’s blogs also give you lots of good ideas, tips, and tricks. There are hundreds of different canning methods, so find the one(s) that work best for you.

Here are some of my favorite recipes!

1. Shrimp and veggies

1 package cooked medium shrimp, thawed and tails removed
2 or 3 fresh zucchini, sliced into bite-size chunks
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tbsp butter (or alternative oil)
Water (amount varies)
Spices: Basil, salt, and pepper to taste

Put a large pot on the stove at medium temperature. Add butter (or other oil) until hot, followed by
zucchini, onion, tomatoes, and spices. Put a lid on top, occasionally checking on the food and stirring.
Once the zucchini and onions become soft, add the shrimp. Add enough water to cover ¾ of the food in the pot. Add more spices to taste at this point.  Reduce the heat and put a lid on the pot while you ready your jars – I suggest pints. Fill the jars with the food, but keep the broth level at ¾ of the volume. It doesn’t matter if some of the food is not covered in broth.  Can at 10lbs for 45 minutes.

2. Beef Stew

1 lb (give or take) of sliced beef for stews
10 baby carrots, chopped in half
1 onion, chopped
2 or 3 cups chopped potatoes
Water (amount varies)
Other veggies: green beans, corn, beans, etc. can be used.
Spices: 1 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp thyme, salt and pepper to taste

I throw all of the ingredients in my crock pot for a good 10-12 hours and let it sit without bothering it. Make sure the water covers the ingredients.  Prepare your jars – I stick with the pint size. Fill the jar with food and only ¾ of the jar with the broth. It doesn’t matter if the food is not completely covered with broth.  Can at 10lbs for 75 minutes.

3. Beef Boneless Ribs

At least 1 lb of boneless beef ribs
1 cup red wine
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp brown sugar
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 tsp chili powder
Preheat oven to 400 F. Put all of the ingredients into a glass casserole dish – make sure you flip the ribs over a few times to make sure they get coated with the broth.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the ribs from the oven, flip the ribs over, and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes

Prepare your jars – I stick with pint-size. Remove the ribs from the oven, and chop them into bite-size
chunks. Put the ribs into the jars, making sure to pack the meat down each time. I fit about 2.5 or 3 ribs into each jar. Fill the jar ¾ with broth.
Can at 10lbs for 75 minutes.

4. Chicken Salad

1 lb boneless chicken breast
water (varies)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup chopped almonds (or other nuts)
Handful of raisins, a little less than ¼ cup
water (varies)
First set of spices: 1 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp thyme, salt and pepper to taste
Second set of spices: 1 Tbsp dillweed, salt and pepper to taste

I put the chicken breast and first set of spices in the crock pot and let it sit for 8-10 hours. I add water until it fills about 1 inch of the crock pot.

Let the chicken cool until it’s a good temperature to touch. Pull the breast (or chop) into bite-size cubes.

Add the raisins, onion, almonds, and second set of spices. Mix until even.

Prepare your jars – I do 8oz or pint size. Fill the jars with the chicken salad, then add enough water to fill ¾ of the jar

Can at 10lbs for 20 minutes.

5. Italian Pork Roast

Any size or weight of any size pork roast
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
Water (varies)
Italian Seasoning

I put the pork roast with seasoning in the crock pot for 12 hours. Add enough water to cover ½ of the roast.
Prepare your jars – I stick with pint size. Pull the pork roast apart, or chop into bite-size chunks. Put the meat in the jars and continue to pack it down as you add more.  Add enough broth to fill 3/4 of the jar.
Can at 10 lbs for 75 minutes.

6. Cake in a Jar

You can do the cake-in-a-jar with any cake or bread recipe. I stick with the 8oz jars because the sides of the jars go straight up and down, so there would be no weird angle to try and fit a spoon inside the jar when your hubby eats the cake.

Make the cake/bread batter per the recipe instructions.

Prepare your jars and put a small pot of water on the stove to boil. (Your lids will stay in this pot of boiling water until the moment you take them out to cap the jars closed.)

Put your jars on a cookie sheet so it’s easier to transfer in/out of the oven - Fill them half-way with cake or bread batter. Putting any more batter will result in cake rising out of the jar, and will not be fit for capping

Bake the cake in the jars at the temperature on the recipe. The jars will not be in the oven for the same amount of time as the recipe requires – you just have to keep an eye on the cake. When you see the cake rise and turn golden-brown, start the toothpick test. Stick a toothpick in the center of the cake and remove it; you know the cake is done when the batter doesn’t stick to the toothpick.
Remove the jars from the oven, and immediately cap with the lids from the boiling pot of water. Obviously, the jars and lids will both be piping hot, so you’ll need to use lots of towels and pot holders to seal the lids

Let the jars cool on the counter. As they cool off, they will vacuum themselves shut. You’ll hear the cans suction closed, and you’ll know that they’re good to go!

Send a tub of icing in the care package with the jars of cake so that hubby can apply it himself when he opens the jars!

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