Food Talk

Preserving High Acid Foods

When people hear about canning they sometimes shriek with fear. I guess it is the botulism thing or maybe it’s the BIG amount of work that they think is involved in the canning process. With our economy the way it is it is even more important to re-look at the canning process and get motivated to give it a go. Not to mention canning is a way to preserve local produce and will keep you from buying “out of season” goods at the supermarket.

Canning is very easy when you are using highly acidic foods. These foods will rarely “go bad”. Foods that are high in acid include tomatoes and apples or have things in them like vinegar, salt or sugar. These are natural preservatives. When canning foods that are low in acid such as beans, a whole different process is utilized. This usually involves a pressure cooker. For this article I will focus on the high acid foods and natural preservatives.

Let’s start with tomatoes. Tomatoes are very high in acid. So tomato based canning works well. For instance you can make a tomato based vegetable soup. You can add vegetables like corn, carrots and beans to a tomato based soup. Process it and when you are ready to use just add broth and you have a quick pot of soup.

Apples too. You don’t even need sugar. You can make pure unsweetened applesauce with nothing in it. Add cinnamon or fruit purees such as raspberries for a different flavored applesauce. Let’s just walk through the applesauce canning process step by step.

  1. Wash jars, run your finger around the top to make sure there are no cracks that would prevent a good seal.
  2. Have lids from store ready and rings to screw down the lids.
  3. Peel, core and cut apples in quarters. You should use about a peck of apples.
  4. Have a large pot with water in it standing by. As you peel the apples drop them into the water. Adding ascorbic acid or Vitamin C tablet to the water will cut down on the browning of the apples (aka, oxidation- which makes very unappealing applesauce).
  5. Once you have chopped all the apples, empty all the water out of the pot or transfer the apples into another pot. Try not to add water. I add about a ½ cup to the apples. Start the heat on very low so they don’t burn. As the apples begin to expel their juices you can turn up the heat. Just remember to stir frequently during this process.
  6. Once the apples have become very tender, blend with an immersion blender or run through a blender or processor.
  7. Pour sauce into prepared jars. Wipe down the rim of the jar. If there is applesauce on the rim they will not seal properly. Once about seven pint jars are filled, place in large canner or large pot of water with warm water. Bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for about 20 minutes. This process is called cold packing. The actual boiling part is called processing.

Processing means getting the canned goods ready for storage. There are real specific guidelines that can be found online here. There many helpful books on the market for canning. I use the Ball Canning Book, it is an excellent reference book. Basically, you want to boil the jars to sterilize. Some people just run them through their dishwasher, this works real well. Place the food that you want to can in the jars and then immerse them in water and boil for a set amount of time.

For jams and jellies, just the insert in the package of pectin has quite a bit of information. So if you want to can blueberry jam, you just need to buy the pectin and the recipe for blueberry jam is right in there. Jams do not require the processing that other canned goods do. Most people prepare the jelly as directed and pour it into the jars. You screw on the lids and invert the jars for ten minutes. This heat from being inverted gives you the seal you need to preserve the jelly/jam.

The United States has very strict guidelines for canning and offers the safest route for home canning. Other countries do not have such strict guidelines. Your level of comfort and knowledge should determine how you prepare, process and can. There are a number of resources out there, here are just a few:

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, Edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine
Better Homes and Garden Home Canning Cook Book
Mes Confitures, by Christine Ferber

The hardest part is just taking that first step, just like a Daring Bakers Challenge. Once you have made the step and successfully canned for the first time you will gain the confidence you need to continue and a whole world of canning and preserving will be open to you. Just imagine all the possibilities.

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