While some fruits can be canned in a boiling water canner that is not an option for vegetables. Because they are generally more dense and do not contain as much self-preserving sugars as fruits, they must be canned at higher pressure and temperature in order to keep the integrity of the food.
It is extremely important, when canning vegetables, that you remove all of the air bubbles that tend to get caught in the nooks and crannies between pieces and around the sides of the jar. Unlike fruit, many vegetables don’t conform to the shape of the jar or can. This can be done easily by running a spatula around the inside of the jar between the glass and the produce.
Canning fruits and vegetables are extremely rewarding and a great way to preserve the fresh taste for the out of season times you have a craving. The most important thing, and this cannot be stressed enough, is to make sure that there is an airtight seal on whatever container you are using. This will keep the flavors of you goods locked in place and while keeping the food safe for you to enjoy later.
The benefits of having a garden are second to none. Coming in from a hard day of work and pulling out a jar of homemade jam, just makes everything better. There is absolutely nothing better than homemade canned goods. Something about knowing you put your time and effort into making something your friends and family can enjoy, just brings a sense of accomplishment, and the compliments don’t hurt either.
Once you have toiled to create the best sauce or jam and enjoyed the first batch over a warm plate of pasta or spread out on a steaming hot biscuit, you are left with one dilemma. How should you preserve your precious prize? One way would be to toss it in a zip-lock bag and hope that it tastes as good as when it was made. Why play Russian roulette with your raspberry marmalade and the snap-seal of some plastic bag when canning is obviously the way to go.
Canning is a great way to store your savory sauces and other tasty treats for later use. Canning works because it heats food to kill bacteria while sealing them in a glass or metal container. This process prevents them from spoiling. When having canning supplies handy when you make your sauces or jams, just means that you can keep more of your food fresh for use during the off-season.
Generally, fruits are canned using a boiling water canner. However, fruits like tomatoes (yes, they are actually considered fruits) and applesauce can be canned in a pressure canner due to the pH levels in the fruit.
Fruit does tend to discolor if it is canned naturally, which can be prevented by adding some lemon juice or vitamin C to some water and then placing the fruit in it. Sometimes, fruits need to be packed in simple syrup. There are a few different variations on syrups ranging from light to heavy, but they all use the same ingredients in different amounts.
Foods that Can
On the flip side, if you have pumpkin and squash that you would like to can, putting them in a jar in raw chunk form will allow them the proper canning temperature in a pressure canner. It also begins to moisten them up for later use. Other than that, just about everything falls into the category of able to be canned. Foods such as lemons, plums, figs, apples and some tomatoes can be home canned with ease.
Here is a brief list of foods and their respective pH levels, which are good for canning:
- pH 2.0-3.0 – Lemons, limes, gooseberries and under-ripe plums
- pH 3.0-3.5 – Ripe plums, under-ripe apples, ripe oranges and
grapefruit, strawberries, rhubarb, blackberries, cherries,
raspberries, blueberries, very under-ripe peaches and apricots
- q pH 3.5-4.0 – Ripe apples, oranges, grapefruit, overripe
blackberries, cherries, raspberries, and peaches, ripe apricots,
under-ripe pears, pineapple, sauerkraut and other pickled items
- pH 4.0-4.6 (BORDERLINE) –Tomatoes and figs Above 4.6 or so, must
be pressure canned.
- 4.6-5.0 – Some tomatoes, depending on the variety (Green
tomatoes are below 4.6). Pimentos, pumpkin. The USDA suggests that
pumpkin butter cannot be canned safely.
- 5.0-6.0 – Carrots, beets, squash, beans, spinach, cabbage,
turnips, peppers, sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, white potatoes
- 6.0-7.0 – Peas, tuna, lima beans, corn, meats, cow’s milk, salmon, oysters, shrimp.
Please make note of the borderline items, which must be pressure canned. Remember the pumpkin butter, along with many other purees and thick substances, which the USDA does not consider safe for canning. The USDA site is always a fail-safe place to check when determining which foods can be properly canned and which ones are not recommended. Go gather up everything you can think of and start preserving for your own household stash.
While it seems like everything can be canned and put away, there are some food items that are less safe to can. Many foods are great for canning, either partially cooked or raw, in order to properly store the food. Food between 2.0 and 6.9 pH levels are usually ok to can at home. Anything over 6.9, like black olives, becomes difficult to can because they have to be specially cured before the storage process begins.
Foods that Can’t
Besides the pH issues there are some other foods that make canning difficult. For instance, how gooey foods are, play into the canning process. Foods such as pumpkin and squash purees are not the best things to can. These thick liquids make it difficult to heat through, creating cold spots in the middle, which allow bacteria to grow and become prevalent in your canning process.
Other items, which shouldn’t be canned, for much the same reason, are refried beans, butter and leafy greens, like spinach and chard also make it difficult to can due to the cold spots in the middle of the food. Creams and soups also have a difficulty with canning because, you guessed it, and they become scorched and curdled on the outside while trying to raise the temperature in the middle.
While it takes a little more than a week to get fresh produce to your doorstep, canning is a much quicker process. Many times, foods are cooked and canned within a day or two of being picked, retaining many of the original nutrients.
To ensure that foods are packed at their peak of freshness, most canning facilities are located within a few miles of the point of harvest. Fruit and vegetable canneries often can be seen from the fields where produce is harvested. Seafood canneries are within minutes of the docks, while meats, soups and stews are canned within the facilities in which they are prepared.
Minimizing transportation keeps costs down as well as ensuring that food, especially fruits and vegetables, are packed when the flavor is greatest. By locking in the freshness, canned goods usually have more flavor than many of the fresh foods on the market.
Canned foods are the next best thing to living on a farm. Even those who participate in crop shares with their local farmers do not get the same freshness found in a can. Literally, the only way you would get fresher food was if you were there to pick it or catch it yourself, and seriously, who has the time for that? The next time you pick up a can of corn or some tuna fish, think about how quickly it was locked into the container and rest assure you are getting the freshest item possible.
Many people hunt out fresh produce wherever they can. They go to their farmers markets, grocery stores and even take out shares in local farms in order to get their fresh produce. What many people are missing is the understanding that canned items are usually more nutrient dense than the fresh produce they buy.
Before we take a look at canned foods, let’s review the process of fresh food from the farm to the family table. Just to start off, it is important to remember that as soon as food is plucked off of the stem or stalk the nutrients begin to fade in their effectiveness. That being said, once the produce is picked at the farm, it may sit around for a few days before even leaving the farm for the market or to get packaged for delivery to a store.
After hanging out and ripening, the produce is usually loaded onto a truck to be delivered to a store. If you have ever shopped at a large chain super market that has distribution centers, the first stop in the cross-country travel is usually to be cross-docked in a DC. This can last anywhere from a day to three days, waiting on the next truck to pick it up.
From pickup at the DC, there is still another couple of days travel to your local supermarket. In all actuality there is probably seven to ten days between picking and delivery to your store, not to mention the couple days it sits waiting for you to pick it up and put it in your cart.