Canning Basics 101
Allison Mignery, Guest Writer
Physical Activity & Nutrition Supervisor
Mecklenburg County Health Department
Preserving fruits and vegetables can be an economical and nutritious way to help maintain a healthy diet throughout the year. As your summer produce comes to an end, try canning to preserve your bountiful harvest for months to come. Canning is a method of processing food by heating it in a glass jar with a vacuum-sealed lid. This technique of food preservation helps preserve food for extended periods of time while reducing the food contamination risks from bacteria, yeast, and mold that can cause the food to spoil.
There are two types of canning processors: water bath canner and pressure canner. The difference between the two canning methods is the temperature at which different micro-organisms are killed in high-acid and low-acid foods. To safely can your food, you must first determine the acidity of your food, since processing differs for both high and low acid foods. Low-acid foods must be processed at higher temperatures or certain bacteria will survive post-processing. High-acid foods, which are mostly all fruits, should be canned with a water bath canner whereas low-acid foods (vegetables, non-acidified figs and tomatoes) should be canned in a pressure canner.
Here are five easy steps to follow as you begin to start canning your food:
1. Assemble your equipment. When selecting your canning jars, use manufactured glass jars that are free of any cracks or chips on the jar or along the edge to prevent errors in processing. Canning lids must consist of two pieces, the screw band and the flat metal lid. The flat lid should have an enameled underside which prevents your food from reacting with the metal of the lid. Always make certain that the lid properly screws on the jar. Screw bands may be reused; however, new lids are necessary with each new canning process.
2. Wash and prep your jars and food. Before your canning session, wash and rinse your canning jars and lids with hot soapy water. Keep jars hot in a dishwasher or hot water before you are ready to use them. When selecting foods for canning, use fresh produce that is free of blemishes, thoroughly washed and peeled if necessary.
3. Pack your food in the jar. After produce is prepped, decide which method you will use to pack your jars.
4. Decide which method of canning you will use and follow the canning procedure. Following the packing of your food, process according to what type of canner you are using, either water bath canner or pressure canner.
5. Store your canned food in a dark, dry and cool place. With both canning methods, do not re-tighten seals or add liquid once the canning process is over. The lids will become vacuum sealed as the jars begin to cool. Once jars are cooled and sealed, label them with the processing date and safely store them in a dim and cool place, such as a kitchen cabinet or pantry. Canned foods will last for up to a year if stored properly.
www.food.com/recipe/zesty-salsa-for-canning-97428#ixzz1Qt9jOyCA © Allison Mignery 2010 all rights reserved
Allison Mignery is a Registered Dietitian nationally and a Licensed Dietitian in North Carolina. Allison is employed with the Mecklenburg County Health Department’s Health Promotion Team in Charlotte, NC, where she works closely with Mecklenburg County’s Park and Recreation Department and Cooperative Extension to help build and sustain community gardens in the area. Allison’s series To Your Health shares recipes and articles focused on good health.
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