Saturday, July 21, 2012

Preserving Food via Canning

-- Preserving Food --

Today's article was submitted to us via Stacy of Extra Space Storage on behalf of the author: Tim Eyre works with customers on behalf of, helping them with their self storage needs. Tim also write on self storage, recycling, energy conservation and other topics at

Can Do Attitude

What You Can and Can't Do When Canning

Canning may be a fairly simple process, but it does have its pitfalls. Especially when we're first learning to can, it can be heartbreaking to find a lid unsealed after processing, or a green bean going black or moldy after a few weeks in the jar. Fortunately, we can not only learn from our mistakes, but we can also lean on the advice of other canning masters in order to avoid future "jams" in the process. Over the years I have had the opportunity to learn from several great canners and while I still worry a little over each batch, with every try I become more confident, especially when I hear that positive little "pop!" of a well-sealed lid.

The Process of Canning

With canning, cleanliness is the most important rule. Clean your prep area, clean your tools and most importantly, sterilize your jars, lids and screw bands (jar rings) before filling. To sterilize, wash your jars, lids and screw bands with warm, soapy water and rinse. Then place your lids in your pressure canner and put your jars on top of the lids to keep them from floating away. Using a pressure canner is important if you want to be absolutely sure about your final product. With a pressure canner, you can be certain that the right amount of pressure is being applied during the final boil and that the jars receive the correct processing. The screw bands can either be placed in a basket inside the pressure canner or boiled separately. Boil all items for 10 minutes to sterilize.

A quick note about your jars: you can reuse jars and screw bands as long as both are in excellent condition. And by "excellent," that means no dings, dents, nicks, scrapes, bends, rust, bits missing or anything that might weaken the overall integrity of your product. Lids should always be brand new for each jar.

If you're preparing a cold recipe, or one in which no heat is used, make sure your jars are warm but not hot when you add your product. Jars that are too hot might crack when the cold product hits it. Jars can be removed from the sterilization bath and placed upright on a towel to cool, or removed just as you are ready to add your product. No matter what, place the jars on a towel while filling to keep them from sliding away. A canning funnel works wonders for those with unsteady hands or big pots of preserves.

Check your recipe for the amount of space you should leave at the top of your jar while filling. The distance is an important factor in the sealing process. Leave too much or two little space and your lid might not seal correctly. When measuring how much to add, the very top of the jar, or the lip, is considered the top, not the area below the screw rings. Once filled, run a small, thin spatula or knife around the inside edges of your jar to remove any air bubbles. Air bubbles might cause the level of your product to drop in the jar while boiling and either cause the jar not to seal or discolor any product sticking out above the water line. Lastly, place the sterilized lid on top of the jar and gently screw the screw band into place. Don't apply too much pressure - just enough to hold the lid down while it's boiling.

The last step is the actual processing. Again, follow your recipe precisely on this one. Place your jars in your pressure canner so that they aren't touching each other and make sure the water comes to at least two inches above the tallest jar. Close the canner and boil as instructed. Once done, remove the jars and place on a towel, allowing them to cool for up to 24 hours. If your canning went as planned, you should hear gentle popping noises from your jars throughout the night as each lid seals in place.

After the jars have cooled, test your final product by depressing the center of the lid. If it doesn't "pop" or move up and down, it has sealed correctly. Another way to test this is to remove the screw band and attempt to remove the lid. If you can bend it slightly or if the lid comes off, then the jar did not seal. Fortunately, most recipes can be reprocessed within two days as long as you follow the processing steps precisely.

Screw band suggestion: While some canners prefer to leave the screw band on their final product, it can be beneficial to remove it. The band could harbor moisture and potential bacteria, and a well-sealed jar doesn't need the band to hold the lid in place. It looks good for decoration, but it's not necessary

Once done, your canned products will last at least a year as long as you store them in a dry place with temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to label and date them, and once you're happy with the recipe and confident in your canning powers, share them with friends!

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