Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fear of Canning

I finally got over my fear of canning.

I was talking to one woman at the farmer's market whom I buy meat from.  I was telling her I was going to can cherries because I had traded eggs for cherries.  She looked at me dubiously, just like she did when I told her goat meat was tasty, it was easy to skin chickens, or it was easy to milk a goat.

"You make it sound easy," she said.

"Well, I haven't done it yet."

An Idiot Learns to Can

It seems I learn a lot from reading.  I have no practical experience in matters that I jump into, but I have a lot of book knowledge.  It seems it has served me well again.  I canned cherries, apricots, peaches, tomatoes, apples, and even made jam and pickles.

One thing I learned was that waterbath canning is easy.  My mom never did that--she always used the paraffin method of sealing it.  But I read somewhere on the USDA site that they claim it isn't safe.  I've eaten tons of jam like that and never got sick.

But what the hey, I learned to do waterbath canning.

What You CAN Can

Waterbath canning only works on some foods, namely those that are highly acidic (fruits, jams, preserves, jellies, chutneys, and pickled foods).  Those that aren't acidic need to be pressure canned, which entails a lot more equipment.

How It Works

Basically, you have to have a waterbath canner to do this.  If you look around, you can probably buy one new for $20-$30.  It needs to have a rack so that you can lower the jars into the water.  You need to fill the clean jars with food, put new seals on them, and lower them into boiling water for a certain amount of time.  That's the time necessary to process the food and cause the tops to seal.  If you live at high altitude, like I do, you have to add more time according to various charts.

First Canning Attempt

Since I had traded eggs for cherries, I was bound and determined to not let the cherries spoil.  Hence canning.  It went very smoothly, even though the temperatures outside hit well over 90F, and the inside temperatures reached triple digits, or so it felt.  I made a light syrup and canned the cherries.  It was very successful.

Why Bother Canning At All?

I always thought of canning as antiquated.  After all, you can pick up foods at the store pre-canned.  Yep, you're right there.  The upfront cost is a bit pricey too: price of jars and food, not to mention the canner.  But, the cost goes down considerably because you can reuse your jars and just get new tops.  Instead of throwing away more junk in the landfill, you simply reuse your jars and rings. 

Canning allows you control over your food.  You can choose to not use corn syrup and use cane sugar (like I do).  You don't have to add various preservatives.  You know where your food comes from.

And the taste?  My husband was amazed at the canned peaches.  Yes, they were really good. 

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