Canning is the easiest way to preserve home grown vegetables and fruits for a longer period, when they are harvested in large amounts. Also, most of the fresh food items are seasonal, meaning they are available only during their peak seasons. Thus, correct preservation of vegetables is a simple way to ensure their continuous supply, even in off seasons. For those who don't own vegetable gardens, purchase fresh veggies from the local market and preserve them for winter months.
Vegetable Canning Basics
While canned beans, fruits and vegetables are readily available in the market, they contain food preserving additives. Also, they come with a high price tag. Thus, canning on your own with a home canning equipment is a better approach to enjoy healthy foods without preservatives. The procedure for home canning is not as difficult as it sounds. But, how does canning work? The procedure involves killing microbes that spoil food by heating and expelling air from the canning jar. These two factors help in preserving the food nutrients until you open the jar for consumption.
How to Can Vegetables at Home?
Before we actually start discussing the canning tips, let me tell you about the equipment used in this preservation method. You have two options, boiling-water canner and pressure canner. The former is a simple, large sized pot that has enough room to hold jars and cover them with water. The latter is a specialized pot designed to create very high temperature inside it. While both can be used for canning vegetables, a pressure canner is more feasible than the boiling-water canner. Here's a step-by-step guide to can vegetables with a pressure canner.
Gather Required Materials
Using canning jars is necessary to make your food preservation project a rewarding one. These thick glass jars should be fitted with lids and bands perfectly. Otherwise, complete sealing will be a concern. So, before you get yourself engaged in canning vegetables, be ready with the required supplies. They include pressure canner, fresh vegetables, jars with lids and bands (1 pint or 1 quart sizes), canning salt (optional) and water.
Familiarize Yourself with Equipment
For newbies, this is perhaps an important step for canning vegetables at home. The pot comes with a tight fitting lid that aids in retaining steam inside, thereby maintaining very high temperature. Although the latest canner models come with a safety valve for releasing excess pressure and there are less chances of accidents, safety is the first priority. So, go through the operating directions before handling it.
Choose and Prepare Vegetables
Decide which vegetables you want to can, and accordingly select fresh ones with no blemishes. If you are harvesting from your garden, pick them early in the morning and can them as soon as possible. Vegetable preparation depends upon which veggies you have opted for. Say for example, if you are canning large carrots and beets, they should be washed, peeled and cut into pieces. For canning green beans, wash and break them into pieces.
Fill Vegetables in Jars
Vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, zucchini, etc., call for blanching before filling them directly in the jars. Contrary to this, some veggies can be packed directly without undergoing the hot pack method. So, check whether the vegetables you have selected should be boiled first or not. If yes, you can boil them for the stipulated time (usually for 5 minutes) and fill them in the canning jars.
Seal Canning Jars
Fill boiling water in the jars containing vegetables till the neck. Leaving headspace (about ½ inch) in the jars is done to provide room for vegetables, as jars usually enlarge a bit during boiling. Inspect for bubble formation between the vegetables and bottle sides. If they are present, insert a clean wooden spatula to get rid of bubbles. Add 1 teaspoon of canning salt for 1 quart bottle, and wipe off the rim. Lastly, put the lids and tighten the metal screw bands to seal them.
Prepare Pressure Canner
In the pressure canner, position the rack and pour water till the level rises to about 4 inch from the bottom. Start heating the canner with water, and introduce tightly sealed jars using a jar lifter into the pressure canner. Prior to closing the lid, see to it that the hot water reaches half the height of the canning jars. If not, pour some more hot water to reach the desired level. Secure the lid according to the instruction manual provided with the canner.
Pressurize Pressure Canner
By this time, you can hear a hissing sound. This indicates pressure buildup inside the canner. Refer to the venting directions for your pressure canner. Most likely, you will need to warm the equipment without putting weight on the vent, till water starts boiling. Allow steam to flow out for some time (say 10 minutes) and then, seal the steam vent properly. Adjust heat to high and put weight over the vent.
Remove Canning Jars
As soon as pressure reaches the desired range, you can start timing. Some vegetables require processing for 180 minutes, while others need canning for 210 minutes or for longer hours. Accordingly, process for the correct time and turn off the gas burner. Wait till the pressure canner cools down and the pressure normalizes to zero. Remove lid gently and take out the jars with the jar lifter. Place them on a cooling rack.
Canning successfully and preserving maximum nutrients of the vegetables depends largely upon the quality of the raw foods used in the process. Hence, make sure you choose garden fresh veggies for preservation. Also, select canning jars with no cracks or nicks at the rim to ensure tight sealing. Adopt these simple home canning instructions and definitely it will turn out to be an interesting and fruitful project for you.