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Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Jarring Reality About Canning

The end of summer has left us with the last few state and county fairs there will be until next year and with the cool, football season air settling in on us most mornings, it seems more and more people I know have been scrambling to can. Most of these people are new to canning. As much as I support embarking upon new foodie pursuits I think that canning is one that too many people may have the wrong idea about.

The process of canning involves a lot more than just placing the foods you wish to last you through the winter season in a jar. Proper canning involves important factors like the application of heat, vacuum sealing, sterilization, and pasteurization. Improper canning has historically led to fatal tragedies by those who meant well or assumed they had all of the facts that they did not.

The purpose of canning is to preserve food by packing it in a jar to be immersed into a waterbath or a pressure canner where it will then be heated for a certain amount of time to a certain temperature.

When canning it is important to remember that it is not only important for you to have quality ingredients if you want the end result to be a quality project but to insure the quality of your canning supplies particularly your jars. Inferior quality or second hand jars nearly assure that you will find yourself without a good vacuum seal.

Canning jars differ from random jars because they are not only designed to hold food but they are made of thicker glass to stand up to the heat from waterbath or pressure canning. Once you've procured jars appropriate for canning you would still do best to check them for flaws of any sort or all of your hard work will be for naught.

As I'm sure it has already occurred to you the application of heat to your canned goods cooks the contents. During the heating the air is pushed out of the jar, creating the necessary vacuum seal.

The ins and outs of canning are many but if you're truly interested in it there are many books and even blogs out there dedicated to the subject.

The most common mistake I've been seeing this season is the absence of added acid to canned tomato products. The basis of this mistake is the assumption that because tomatoes are a high acid fruit they're ready to can immediately following your doing whatever it is you wanted to them. A jar of tomatoes or salsa does not contain the needed amount of acidity to prevent the bacteria that causes botulism to grow in your jar.

If you're interested in canning please do a bit of reading first and be sure to use an already tested recipe rather than assuming you know best. You can always play with the recipe once you know what you're doing.

A rose by any other name is no longer a rose. Just because it's in a jar does not mean it has been properly canned.