Economical and rewarding, canning fruits and vegetables at home ensures that you have access to seasonal produce all year round. It is also a great way to share your bountiful garden produce with family members and friends. As long as you adhere to pressure-canning safety precautions such as these from Colorado State University Extension and the National Center for Home Food Preservation, you eliminate potentially deadly bacteria in low-acid foods and continue to enjoy certain fruits and vegetables anytime–even if they aren’t in season. Here’s how to properly can fresh fruits and veggies at home for stocking your pantry shelves.
Use the Right Equipment
A pressure cooker is your key arsenal to safe canning at home. Consider investing on an all-in-one kit for maximum convenience. Before using your pressure canning equipment, clean and inspect it thoroughly. The delicate dial gauge pointer should point to zero. Check for accuracy, too. Accuracy check and calibration is in the manufacturer’s manual. Don’t forget to examine the integrity of the sealing ring, the air vent’s rubber gasket, and the plug for overpressure.
Use only jars and lids that are designed for canning. Inspect them for any nicks, loose screw bands, and dents. This step is important because you want to create an airtight seal for sanitation purposes. Otherwise, you could end up eating contaminated food. To prepare the canning jars, wash them. Do the same to the lids and screw bands. Once cleaned, pour hot water into the canning jars and set them aside. Jars must be kept warm prior to canning so they don’t break from thermal shock.
The Fresher the Better
Can only fresh, firm fruits and vegetables. Clean the foodstuff and then prepare according to your chosen recipe. Follow the recommended level for filling the warm canning jars with liquid and food. Generally, there should be a headspace measuring half an inch for fruits. Vegetables, on the other hand, require an inch of headspace to account for their expansion during canning. Remove air bubbles using a clean wooden or plastic spatula. Cover the filled jars with their lids.
Applying the Pressure
Put the sealed jars in the canning rack at the bottom of the pressure cooker. Place the pressure cooker on the stove. For hot-packed jars, pour around two inches of boiling water into the pressure cooker. For cold-packed foods, hot water at a level of around two inches should be poured. The hot packing method, where foods are heated before they are loosely placed in the jar, is recommended for low-acid edibles such as vegetables.
Processing depends on the pressure canner you’re using. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the dial gauge points to the pressure indicated in the canning recipe you are adopting, start the timer. Adjust the heat to maintain the gauge pressure that the recipe calls for. Once the correct processing time is reached, turn off the heat. Wait until the dial gauge points to zero before opening the pressure cooker.
Almost Ready to Enjoy
Use tongs to handle the jars. Let them cool slowly to room temperature. Before arranging the cooled jars in your storage area, check the lids. Gently press the center of the lid with your finger. The center should not click. If it does, put the canned food in the fridge and consume as soon as possible.
About the Author
Claudia Martin combines work with running a busy family home like many mom’s and enjoys writing about the challenges and suggesting ways to make the task a bit more manageable. She is a regular writer for a range of parenting and lifestyle websites.