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A Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Canning

Every vegetable gardener loves to have a good harvest every season. The challenge, however, is how to preserve that bounty for a long time. No vegetable gardener wants to see the crops they worked so hard to grow go to waste. 

The solution to this challenge is canning. With canning, you can preserve your produce for a long time, and you don’t have to worry about wasting food. The canning process is quite an interesting one, and here’s all you need to know to get started.

Methods of Canning 

There are two major methods of canning: water bath canning and pressure canning. 

Water Bath Canning

This method is best for high acid food. It involves vigorously boiling food for a prescribed amount of time. The process and duration of boiling destroy molds, yeast, and other enzymes that cause food spoilage. This canning method is ideal for fruits, fruit juices, jam, jellies, tomatoes, pickles, etc.

Pressure Canning

This method involves processing food at a higher temperature than water bath canning ( 240°F). The high temperature coupled with the duration of the process destroys the bacteria in food and creates a vacuum seal that preserves food. This method is majorly used to process lentils, beans, vegetables, and other low acid foods.

Tools for Canning 

Before you begin canning, you will need a few tools to make the process easier and hygienic. Some canning tools include;

  • Glass jars with bands and new lids
  • Large saucepot with a lid and a rack 
  • Pressure cooker for pressure canning 
  • Headspace tool
  • Wide mouth canning funnel
  • Jar lifter
  • A variety of measuring cups
  • Other kitchen tools

STEPS INVOLVED IN CANNING

  1. Find a recipe: The first step involves finding a recipe. The recipe of your choice should state which method you’ll be using, either the water bath canning method or the pressure canning method.
  2. Sanitize your jars and lids: Make sure all your jars are in good shape. Throw out any jars with cracks or nicks. Sanitize both your jars and their lids by soaking them in hot soapy water for 15 minutes. Sanitize your lids separately by putting them in a small saucepan filled halfway with water and let them simmer lightly on the stove. Dry your jars and lids properly after washing.
  3. Keep your jars hot: Keeping your jars hot will prevent them from cracking or bursting when you fill them. You could place your jars on a tray in an oven set to about 180°F.
  4. Prepare your canning method: For the water bath method, fill the pot halfway with water, cover and leave to simmer. For the pressure method, fill the pressure canner with 2-3 inches of water and leave to simmer.
  5. Prepare your product: Follow the steps in your chosen recipe to prepare the product.
  6. Fill your jars with your prepared food: Use a funnel to pour food into the jars. When filling the jar, leave about a quarter or half headspace, depending on the recipe. Remove any air bubbles by sliding a wooden or rubber spatula between the food and the jar. Clean the rims of the jars with a damp cloth before firmly closing the lid and then screw the band on.
  7. Lower the jars into the canning pot: With your jar lifter, lower the jars carefully into the canning pot or the rack in your pressure canner, depending on your method. For the water bath, the water should be 1-2 inches above the top of the jar, while the water should be 2-3 inches higher in a pressure canner.

Once the water bath begins to boil or the pressure canner has reached the recommended pressure, start your timer. The processing time will depend on your recipe.

  1. Take jars out after the processing time:
  • For the water bath, turn off the heat. Open the lid and allow the water to cool for 5 minutes before taking the jars out. Place the jars on a countertop to cool for 12-24 hours.
  • For the pressure canner, turn off the heat and let the pressure return to zero. Unlock the vents and open the lid carefully. Let the jars sit for 10 minutes. Then remove the jars, place them on a counter, and leave to cool for 12-24 hours
  1. Test jars for proper sealing: To test, press down the center of the jar lid. The lid should not move up and down if it is properly sealed. Another way to test is to remove the band and try lifting the lid with your fingers. The lid should not also move. Store properly sealed jars in a cool, dry place. The content in jars that are not properly sealed should be eaten within 3days. 

The canning process may seem like hard work initially, but with more practice, the process gets easier. Canning is certainly a great way to save money, cut down on cooking time as well as prevent wastage. 

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