Monday, September 5, 2011

Homemade Canning - Pickling and Canning Is A Great Family Project

As a youngster my grandmother used to treat me and my mom to delicious canned vegetables gently heated up on the stove. Even though I was pretty young then, I still remember the delicious blend of tomatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic, and hot peppers she put into her jars. Later on as an adult, I learned how to can vegetables from friends of mine who were all in their 60's. Now as an adult on my own, I prefer homemade canning to store-bought, and it saves money!

Why You Should Can and Pickle

In a world of prepackaged foods and processed fast foods, we often opt for the quick and easy. Not only are we missing out on important nutrients, we are also spending more than we need to on food with empty calories.

In addition to saving money and improving our health through eating home canned fruits and vegetables, homemade canning can turn into family time. It is a chance to teach youngsters the wonders of home-canned foods, and possibly homegrown foods, as well as a great time to spend with the family as you get together to clean, chop, and cook fruits and vegetables and of course, gossip about your lives.

Imagine how much fun you would have when you and your kids buy produce from a local farm and then spend time together canning it. Think of how much more your family will appreciate the food you spent time to pick and can!

Things You Should Know About Home Canning

These were the lessons I learned from my grandmother and my older friends about canning produce:

Some vegetables turn out sweeter when picked in the morning, others when picked in the evening. Wash and soak all vegetables in cool water to improve texture, flavor, and ensure all dirt and grime is off them. Blanch the vegetables to promote color retention. Add citric acid to the fruits to promote color retention and add Vitamin C. Soak things like cucumbers and squash in pickling lime (a special calcium powder) to promote firmness. Don't just add the blanched vegetables to the jar and stick on a lid; take the time to pasteurize them by boiling the jars first and then place the filled jars in the canning kettle to preserve them. If you run out of jars or time you can always flash freeze the produce separated on cookie sheets, then put it in zipper bags and use as needed. Make sure you have enough jars and supplies to finish the job.

Things to Consider when Canning at Home

Take into consideration the age of the children who will be helping and give them age-appropriate tasks. Also, always follow a recipe for the produce you are about to can the first couple of times you can it.

Use appropriate tools for the job such as jar tongs, the right size of jars for the produce, a real canning kettle with the jar-holding insert, and sturdy baker's racks to cool the jars.

Finally, can what is in season, this can be an enjoyable once per month task that carefully preserves seasonal produce at the peak of the season and something the family looks forward to each month.

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