It’s harvest time, and many of you have an abundance of crops that you aren’t quite sure what to do with. You can always give them away, but don’t you want to enjoy your hard earned vegetables throughout the winter? Canning and preserving your own food is fun, easy, and affordable. With a few tips, some good instructions, and a little time, you will be canning and preserving up a storm.
I bet you remember your Grandmother’s pickles as being the best thing you ever tasted, and you probably know exactly where you put that recipe that she wrote down on a paper napkin in 1987! Your favorite family recipes and vintage cookbooks that were handed down to you from trusted family cooks might seem like the way to go, but before you get started, you want to make sure you are following food preservation guidelines that are both scientifically tested and up-to-date. Take a peek at the following websites below for some current and reputable information.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation
USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning
The second tip is to be sure you use the right equipment for the types of food you are canning. For example; a good pressure cooker is a must to preserve low-acid vegetables like green beans, potatoes, and corn; or for meat, fish and poultry. Make sure your jars are free of chips and that your lids are in pristine condition.
Using improper canning materials and methods will leave you susceptible to the threat of botulism. Botulism is a rare, but serious illness caused by a germ called Clostridium Botulinum. The germ is found in soil, and can survive, grow, and produce toxins in a sealed jar with low oxygen conditions. Consuming a small amount of food containing the germ can affect your nervous system, cause paralysis, and even death. Sure, it is important to follow guidelines, and take the proper precautions, but this blog post is not meant to dissuade you from getting into the kitchen to preserve some vegetables.
Take a look as this basic pickle brine recipe from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving to get you started. Check out the book for more great recipes and instructions for getting your pantry stocked with delicious canned goods.
Basic Pickle Brine
- 1 cup of vinegar that is 5% acidity. (It’s the acidity that helps protect and preserve your canned vegetables. Your standard grocery store vinegar is fine. Just be sure to check the label to make sure you are working with the right stuff).
- ½ cup of water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ tablespoon of canning salt
- Bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for about three minutes making sure that all the ingredients have dissolved.
Canning, pickling and preserving is not only delicious but it is a whole lot of fun too. So read up a little, get in the kitchen, roll up your sleeves, and start canning. Come next January, you’ll be glad you did.