Yes, You Can!


Does your refrigerator look like this?  My garden at the Northside is overflowing with golden beets, carrots, and tomatoes.  Apples and plums are falling from the trees.  You and every gardener you know are swimming in zucchini.  Tomatoes are begging to be turned into sauce.  Cucumbers are wishing they were pickles.  Yes, it’s that time of year, friends.  It’s time to can.  Have you forayed into canning world yet?  Before you plunge into canning, there are a few things you should know:

1)   Canning is best done in groups.  Not that things will turn out better than going solo, but it’s more fun when you are surrounded by your favorite people who are not only great friends but also are quite adept at peeling peaches, chopping garlic, and slicing cucumbers.

2)  Not any old salt will do.  Use salt without iodide.  A brine with iodized salt will result in cloudy brine and brown spots on whatever you’re pickling.

3)   Not any old can with a lid will do.  Use jars made specifically for canning and new lids.  Regular old jars cannot take the heat of the canning process.  New lids will help to ensure a good seal.

4)   Please, please, PLEASE invest in canning equipment, especially canning tongs.  They pretty much changed my life.  My hands and arms are a lot happier now that they’re not being scalded on a regular basis for the entire month of September.   Stop trying to convince yourself that salad tongs work just as well as canning tongs.  They don’t.  A canning pot with a rack, which keeps the jars off the bottom of the pot, is a great investment, too.  A large stockpot and some lid rims for the bottom of pot also work in a pinch.

5)   Follow canning recipes to a T when it comes to the amount of acid added to whatever is being canned.  Acidity ensures that botulism is kept at bay.

6)  Be clean.  Wash your hands.  Have a clean canning station set up on a clean surface with clean towels nearby.  Sanitize your equipment, jars, and lids.

7)   Botulism, although rare, can occur in home canned foods.  The risk is low if proper canning procedures are followed.  Never eat food from bulging or leaking cans of any kind.  Also if food looks or smells bad, do not eat it.  It is good to remove the skins of some fruits like peaches as this is where bacteria and other elements that can cause spoilage can lie.  For more information on how to avoid botulism, click here http://www.cdc.gov/features/homecanning/ .

I have a few recipes I would like to recommend from my most recent canning adventure mostly all from Put ‘Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton, by and from a fantastic website, Punk Domestics, that collects content from all things food preservation, and from the advice of others:

1)   Charred Chili Barbecue Sauce

2)   Pickled Apricots

3)   Dilly Beans

4)   Heirloom Tomato Salsa 

I hope you come to enjoy the world of food preservation as much as I do.  You will be so happy you took the time to can now when sunny yellow peaches are the only light in your life as an inversion hovers over Missoula this winter.  Also, it may be a reminder that you have grown your own food, supported local farmers, and/or on the way to the mastery of an awesome skill in self-reliance.  Happy canning!