It’s a practice tried and true: preserving fruits and vegetables for the cold, barren months by canning them. Those of us who grew up around produce gardens and green-thumb families are likely well acquainted with the taste of canned beans or peaches. For some of us, home canned fruits and veggies are a kind of modest delicacy—cheap, easy, and made possible by a labor of love. If you’ve never tried canning before, now is the perfect time to try it. In weather this chilly, a bit of preserved summer freshness is a welcome relief.
The Basics of Canning
Before the advent of refrigeration, canning was an essential practice used by many families to preserve their summer haul of fruits and veggies. Back then, canned fruits and veggies were about the only kind of fruits and veggies available during the winter months, and so families had to use preservation tactics to ensure that they would have access to produce year-round. Now, canning is less essential for middle class families. Most households have refrigerators and freezers, and anyone can buy canned or frozen fruits and veggies at a grocery store. But, for some, canning is still an important post-harvest ritual.
Not all produce is ideal for canning. Generally, any canned vegetable you can buy at the store can be replicated at home. Some common canning vegetables include: beans, carrots, peas, peppers, tomatoes, corn, and pickled cucumbers and onions. Canned jams and sauces are also popular canning recipes.
The canning process involves packing fruits or vegetables into a sterile (boiled in water) glass jar that is then sealed with a lid to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Different vegetables require different forms of preparation before canning. Most vegetables need to be pressure cooked prior to packing to ensure lasting freshness. In the case of pickles or jams, ingredients like sugar, salt, and vinegar are added during the canning process to create specific flavors. A simple canning recipe for just about any suitable fruit or veggie can be found online.
Canning is relatively easy, but finding the space and storage for canned goods can be difficult. Canning requires mason jars, pots for boiling water, and a place to cook fresh vegetables. If you can regularly, investing in a pressure cooker could make the process a lot easier and less time consuming.
For more on the specifics of canning vegetables, pressure cooking, and the process and theory behind canning, check out: http://www.healthycanning.com/canning-vegetables/