As summer winds down in Utah and the air starts to chill, you may be looking at your garden and wondering what in the world you are going to do with all of those tomatoes, cucumbers and beans that are still blooming in your garden. You may also feel blue at the thought of farmers’ markets closing up shop and taking their fresh, local produce with them as fall begins to make its presence known. For all you fresh produce fans out there-don’t despair. There is a way to keep that great produce all winter long with canning.
A way of life for people many years ago, canning isn’t needed as much these days. We have grocery stores and supermarkets to bring us our produce now, but often it’s not fresh or local. Canning offers us picky produce eaters a chance to keep our homegrown fruits and veggies good and tasty even when winter strikes and the variety at the store is…lacking. It is also a great way to preserve just about kind of food-meats, dairy, sea food and anything else you bought in massive bulk at Costco.
There are two ways to go about canning: water bath canning and pressure canning.
Water bath canning is for acidic foods such as most fruits and vegetables as well as jams and jellies. It involves placing the food with liquid in a glass jar and submerging the jar in a large pot filled with water. The water is then boiled vigorously, killing most of the bacteria and other microorganisms.
Pressure canning is for low acidic low such as beans, sea foods and meat. Since a higher temperature is needed to kill the bacteria in these foods, a water bath method simply won’t cut it. Pressure canners create steam under pressure which allows the water to achieve a higher temperature and thus kill all the microorganisms.
Water bath canners and all the added accessories (like a rack for lifting and lowering the jars into boiling water and other utensils) run about $50 on Amazon.com, while pressure canners go for around $80; of course you can always find deals at local department stores as well. Glass mason jars can be purchased at just about any grocery store along the Wasatch Front.
If you have all kinds of foods to can, you may want to go for a pressure canner. They are more expensive, but you can use the water bath method with a pressure canner, and you can’t use the pressure method with a water bath canner (make sense?).
You can use either of these two methods on almost any food in your house. From produce to meats, cream of wheat to milk, any food can be canned. You just need to know the ph level of the food (the lower the ph the more acidic it is) before you begin. For more information and tips on canning, visit www.pickyourown.org/allaboutcanning.htm.