Friday, February 18, 2011

High Acid Food Home Canning

In my last post, I briefly touched on some of the ways we can store our food supplies.
My favorite preservation methods would have to be home canning.
The reason for this is simple, all supplies with the exception of lids, can be reused over and over again. I would recommend searching for jars at thrift shops, garage sales, and whenever they go on sale at your favorite retailer. The USDA guide to home canning is an absolute necessity before attempting any home canning. There is a link at the end of this post to download the guide in PDF format.
For today's post I am going to stick a with a method known as water bath canning. Water bath canning can be used for any high acid food such as fruits, pickles, and tomatoes. The reason for this is that the high acid content helps destroy any bacteria in the food. Do not attempt to can any low acid food such as vegetables, meats, or dairy using this method. The temperatures in the water bath canner simply do not reach a high enough level to destroy bacteria without the high acid content present in the higher acid foods!
The number one consideration for any canning activity is cleanliness. Be sure to disinfect all working surfaces as well as utensils and don't forget to disinfect your self also. Always keep your hands, utensils and working surfaces clean throughout the process. To sterilize your jars and a screw bands, and lids, soak them in boiling, not hot, but boiling water. Keep them there until you are ready to use them.
Prepare your produce using the hotpack method outlined in the guide. I only use this method because it helps ensure that all bacteria will be killed in the process. Fill your jars, leaving the recommended head space. Using a non metallic spatula, remove all air bubbles from the jar. Using a clean cloth, wipe their rims of the jars removing any food particles that may be present. Place a hot lid on the jar and firmly screw a band on finger tight.
Place the jars on the rack in the canner. Be sure that the water level completely covers the jars. Cover the canner with its lid, and bring to a boil. Process the jars according to the recommended times in the guide. Once processing is complete, carefully remove the jars from the canner and place them on towel to cool, undisturbed, away from draft for about 24 hours. During this time, you will hear the lids seal with the distinct ping. This is normal and is a sign of a proper seal being made. Once the jars have completely cooled, label them and store them in a cool, dark place for storage. Your home canned food will remain good for years to come, but please remember to use your food on a regular basis and rotate it has new cans are added to your storage.
This is only a brief overview of home canning for high acid foods. You'll find a more detailed information in the USDA guide to home canning. Please download the guide and read it end to end before attempting any home canning process. Here is the link I promised you.

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