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Canning & Preserving For Dummies®, 2nd Edition

Table of Contents

Introduction

About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: Getting Started

Part II: Water-bath Canning

Part III: Pressure Canning

Part IV: Freezing

Part V: Drying and Storing

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Appendix

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Getting Started

Chapter 1: A Quick Overview of Canning and Preserving

Knowing the Benefits of Canning and Preserving Your Own Food

Meeting Your Techniques: Canning, Freezing, and Drying

About canning food

About freezing food

About drying food

Key Tricks to Successful Canning and Preserving

Chapter 2: Gathering Your Canning and Preserving Gear

Assorted Basic Tools

Key basic tools and utensils

Pots, pans, mixing bowls, and more

Specialty equipment to make work easier

Canning Equipment

Canning vessels

Canning tools

Tools and Equipment for Freezing Food

Tools and Equipment for Drying Food

Chapter 3: On Your Mark, Get Set, Whoa! The Road to Safe Canning and Preserving

Dispelling Your Fears of Home-Canned and -Preserved Food

Preparing your food properly

Packing your jars with care

Choosing the right canning method and following proper procedures

Checking your equipment

Knowing the Acidity Level of Your Food

Avoiding Spoilage

Meeting the spoilers

Adjusting your altitude

Detecting Spoiled Foods

Part II: Water-bath Canning

Chapter 4: Come On In, the Water’s Fine! Water-bath Canning

Water-bath Canning in a Nutshell

Foods you can safely water-bath can

Key equipment for water-bath canning

The Road to Your Finished Product

Step 1: Getting your equipment ready

Step 2: Readying your food

Step 3: Filling your jars

Step 4: Processing your filled jars

Step 5: Removing your filled jars and testing the seals

Step 6: Storing your canned food

Adjusting Your Processing Times at High Altitudes

Chapter 5: Simply Fruit

Picking and Preparing Your Fresh Fruit

Identifying the proper degree of ripeness

Cutting and peeling: Necessary or not?

Deterring discoloration

Raw pack and hot pack

Lining your jars with liquid

Fresh Fruit Canning Guidelines

Apples

Apricots, nectarines, and peaches

Berries (except strawberries)

Pears

Rhubarb

Tackling Tomatoes

Chapter 6: Sweet Spreads: Jams, Jellies, Marmalades, and More

Understanding Your Sweet Spreads

Choosing Fruit for Sweet Spreads

Getting Up to Speed with Fruit Pectin

Commercial pectin basics

Types of commercial fruit pectin

Setting Up without Adding Pectin

The Road to Sweet Canning Success

Jamming and canning

Jiggling with jelly

Mastering marmalade, butters, and more

Chapter 7: Condiments and Accompaniments: Chutneys, Relishes, and Sauces

Complementing Your Chutney

Reveling in Your Relish

Satisfying Your Sassy Salsas and Sauces

Chapter 8: Pickle Me Timbers!

The Art of Pickling

The ingredients

Brining education

Adding crunch to your food

Pickling Equipment and Utensils

Pickled Toppers

Pickled Cucumbers Are Just Pickles

Pickled Vegetables

Part III: Pressure Canning

Chapter 9: Don’t Blow Your Top: Pressure Canning

Understanding the Fuss about Low-Acid Foods

Choosing Your Pressure Canner

Cover: With a gasket or without

Gauges

Vent tube, pipe vent, or petcock

Overpressure plug

Rack

A-Canning You Will Go: Instructions for Successful Pressure Canning

Step 1: Gearing up

Step 2: Preparing your food

Step 3: Filling your jars

Step 4: Placing the jars in the canner

Step 5: Closing and locking the canner

Step 6: Processing your filled jars

Step 7: Releasing the pressure after processing

Step 8: Removing and cooling the jars

Step 9: Testing the seal and storing your bounty

Disposing of Spoiled Products

If your jar is still sealed

If your jar has a broken seal

Pressure Canning at Higher Altitudes

Chapter 10: Preserving the Harvest: Just Vegetables

Selecting Your Vegetables

Picking the perfect produce

Vegetables not recommended for pressure canning

Prepping Your Veggies

Cleaning your vegetables

Raw packing versus hot packing

Processing Tips for Successful Results

Pressure Canning Vegetables

Asparagus

Beans

Beets

Bell peppers (green, red, orange, yellow)

Carrots

Corn

Greens

Onions

Peas

Potatoes

Sauerkraut

Summer squash

Winter squash and pumpkins

Using Canned Vegetables

Chapter 11: Don’t Forget the Meats!

The Lowdown on Canning Meats

Tips for safety and efficiency

Selecting and preparing the meat

Meat canning, step by step

Canning Beef and Pork: Cubed Meat

Preparing the meat

Filling the jars

Canning Ground Meat

Poultry

Canning fresh chicken: Cold packing

Canning prefrozen chicken: Hot packing

Fish and Seafood

Picking your fish

Preparing fish and seafood

Filling the jar

Including Meats in Other Canned Mixes

Chapter 12: Combining the Harvest: Soups, Sauces, and Beans

The Lowdown on Canning Combined Foods

Choosing a processing method

Tips for a successful meal

Getting your meal on the table

Stocking Up on Soup

Teaming Up with Tomatoes

Rounding Out Your Meals with Beans

Part IV: Freezing

Chapter 13: Baby, It’s Cold Inside! Freezing Food

Defining Freezing

Meeting the Spoilers of Frozen Foods

Bacteria, molds, and yeast

Enzymes

Freezer burn and oxidation

Ice crystals

Gearing Up to Fill Your Freezer

Knowing what should (and shouldn’t be) frozen

Evaluating your freezer

Packaging Your Food and Filling Your Freezer

It’s a wrap! Choosing a container

Tracking your frozen food trail

Packing your freezer

Thawing Out Your Frozen Food

Choices for thawing

Unplanned thawing

To refreeze or not to refreeze thawed food

Chapter 14: Meals and Snacks in a Snap: Freezing Prepared Foods

The Whys and Wherefores of Freezing Food

A guide to planning your meals

The key to delicious frozen prepackaged food

Freezing Convenience Meals

Main dishes

Soups, stews, and sauces

Freezing Bread, Snacks, and Other Treats

Bread, buns, muffins, and rolls

Cakes

Cookies

Pies

Freezing Dairy Products and Nuts

Freezing Meat, Poultry, and Fish

Packing hints

Thawing tips

Chapter 15: Freezing Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

Mastering Freezing Fruit

Selecting your fruit

Preparing your fruit

Selecting a storage container

Syrup concentrations at a glance

Headspace guidelines

Thawing and using frozen fruits

Freezing Vegetables Like a Pro

Blanching perfect vegetables

Packing your vegetables

Step-by-step instructions for freezing vegetables

Thawing and using your vegetables

Freezing Fresh Herbs

Part V: Drying and Storing

Chapter 16: Dry, Light, and Nutritious: Drying Food

Opening the Door to Successful Food Drying

Key factors in drying food

Necessary equipment

Other tips for successful drying

Choosing a Drying Method

An electric dehydrator

A conventional oven

The sun

Protecting the Life of Your Dried Food

Chapter 17: Snacking on the Run: Drying Fruit

Putting Your Fruit in Order

Sizing up your preparation options

Pretreating your fruit

Detailing Your Fruit-Drying Expertise

Evaluating dryness

Drying fruit step by step

Drying a Variety of Fresh Fruits

Enjoying the Labors of Your Drying

Chapter 18: Drying Vegetables for Snacks and Storage

Your Vegetable-Drying At-a-Glance Guide

Drying know-how

Storing and using your dried produce

Signs of trouble: Good vegetables gone bad

Drying Common Vegetables

Beans, shelled

Beets

Cabbage

Carrots

Corn

Green Beans

Greens

Onions

Peas

Peppers, sweet

Potatoes, white or sweet

Pumpkin

Tomatoes

Zucchini

Chapter 19: Drying Herbs

Drying Common and Not-So-Common Herbs

Chamomile

Dill

Marjoram

Mint

Oregano

Rosemary

Sage

Stevia

Tarragon

Thyme

Getting Creative with Herb Cooking Blends

Herbs for Teas

Chapter 20: Root Cellars and Alternative Storage Spaces

Finding the Perfect Place for Cold Storage

Tried and true: The traditional root cellar

DIY storage spaces

Following Simple Storage Rules

Preparing Foods for Cold Storage

Apples

Beets

Cabbage

Carrots

Garlic

Onions

Pears

Potatoes

Turnips

Tomatoes

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Chapter 21: Ten (Or So) Troubleshooting Tips for Your Home-Canned Creations

Jars That Don’t Seal Properly

Jars That Lose Liquid During Processing

Jars with Cloudy Liquid

Dark Spots on Your Jar’s Lid

Jelly with the Wrong Consistency

Cloudy Jelly or Jelly with Bubbles

Moldy Jelly

Jelly with Very Little Fruit Flavor

Glasslike Particles in Your Jelly

Hollow, Shriveled, Discolored, or Slippery Pickles

White Sediment at the Bottom of the Pickle Jar

Food That Floats in the Jar

Food with an Off Color

Chapter 22: Ten (Plus) Sources for Canning and Preserving Supplies and Equipment

Alltrista Consumer Products Co.

HomeandBeyond.com

Cooking.com

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Your local extension office

KitchenKrafts.com

CanningUSA.com

Excalibur Products

Mountain Rose Herbs

Pressure Cooker Outlet

Tupperware Corporation

Appendix: Metric Conversion Guide

Canning & Preserving For Dummies®, 2nd Edition

by Amelia Jeanroy and Karen Ward

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About the Authors

Amy Jeanroy: Amy has been canning and preserving foods for 20 years. She is passionate about filling the pantry with useful, delicious foods, and creating healthy meals from her own small farm. Amy is the Herb Garden Guide for About.com and also writes a weekly farm newsletter that provides homemade recipes to help her readers store and use their summer bounty.

Karen Ward: The author of Pickles, Peaches, and Chocolate, Karen is a life-long home canner, home economist, and recipe developer. In addition to judging preserved food at the San Diego County Fair each year, Karen teaches canning and preserving to men and women of all ages. Karen has been a featured guest on many television shows, including QVC and HGTV’s Smart Solutions. She is a founding member of the San Diego Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, a nonprofit organization mentoring women and providing scholarships in the culinary arts. Karen is a native-born Southern Californian. She makes her home in San Diego with her husband, Chris.

Dedication

From Amy: To my uncles, John and Paul, whose constant support and wisdom gave me the confidence to continue with my dreams.

Acknowledgments

From Amy: I would like to thank my entire editorial team at Wiley: Tracy Barr, who kept me motivated; Emily Nolan, who tested the recipes; and Elizabeth Kurtzman, who provided the illustrations. Thank you, everyone! Creating a book is truly a team effort.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at http://dummies.custhelp.com. For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Tracy Barr

Acquisitions Editor: Stacy Kennedy

Assistant Editor: Erin Calligan Mooney

Editorial Program Coordinator: Joe Niesen

Technical Editor and Recipe Tester: Emily Nolan

Nutritionist: Patricia Santelli

Illustrator: Elizabeth Kurtzman

Senior Editorial Manager: Jennifer Ehrlich

Editorial Supervisor and Reprint Editor: Carmen Krikorian

Editorial Assistant: Jennette ElNaggar

Art Coordinator: Alicia B. South

Cover Photos: © Elizabeth Watt Photography

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (www.the5thwave.com)

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Katherine Crocker

Layout and Graphics: Christin Swinford, Christine Williams

Proofreaders: Melissa D. Buddendeck, Melanie Hoffman

Indexer: Potomac Indexing, LLC

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services

Introduction

You’re not alone if you’ve thought about canning and preserving your own food but haven’t tried it because you’re afraid it’s too involved. Well, it’s time to set aside your hesitation. Today’s methods and procedures for home-canning, freezing, and drying food are simple and easy. Many of the techniques may be similar to those your grandmother used, but you’ll find they’ve been perfected. In this book, you get all the information you need to can and preserve food safely.

About This Book

Welcome to the wonderful world of canning and preserving. This book presents four preserving methods — water-bath canning, pressure canning, freezing, and drying — in an easy-to-understand format and walks you step by step through each technique. You don’t need any previous canning or preserving experience in order to start, or continue, your endeavor to become a first-class food preserver. Within these pages, you’ll find information like the following:

What to look for to make sure you’re preserving the best, most fresh fruits and veggies.

A list of canning supplies and equipment (complete with illustrations), as well as instructions on how to ensure your canning equipment is in good working order.

What techniques help you preserve the best flavor in your foods and how to avoid spoilage and recognize it if it does occur.

Illustrations of different techniques and equipment along with tips for making your canning and preserving journey fun and rewarding.

A whole host of favorite recipes for your enjoyment.

Consider this book your guide to discovering simple ways to preserve all the foods your family loves, without any mystery or confusion along the way.

Conventions Used in This Book

The recipes in this book include preparation times, cooking times, processing times, and the yield you should expect from your efforts. Here are some details that apply to all of the recipes but aren’t repeated each time:

Use a vinegar with 5 percent acidity.

Use pure salt with no additives. (Canning or pickling salt is best.)

Cook all food in heavy-bottomed pots and pans.

Use nonreactive equipment and utensils (items made from glass, stainless steel, or enamel-coated steel or iron).

Use glass jars and two-piece caps approved for home-canning.

Always use new lids for canning.

Start counting your water-bath processing time when the water reaches a full, rolling boil.

Begin counting your pressure-canner processing time after releasing air in the canner and achieving the required pressure.

Also, all temperatures are Fahrenheit. All recipes and processing times are developed for altitudes at sea level to 1,000 feet above sea level. (For higher altitudes, refer to the altitude adjustment charts for water-bath canning in Chapter 4 and for pressure canning in Chapter 9.)

Foolish Assumptions

In writing this book, we made some assumptions about you:

You know your way around a kitchen. You’re familiar with basic cooking techniques and food preparation methods.

You’ve never canned or preserved food before or have relatively little experience with food preservation methods and want basic, easy-to-understand-and-follow instructions.

If you have canned and preserved food before, it was long enough ago that you want to find out more about the newer, safer, and easier techniques that are recommended today.

Perhaps most importantly, you want to stock your kitchen with more natural, healthier, homemade alternatives to standard supermarket fare.

How This Book Is Organized

This book is organized into parts. The first part gives you basic information about canning and preserving, filling you in on terminology, equipment, and food safety. The next four parts show you the techniques for different preserving methods. Each of these parts includes tried-and-true, tested recipes and preserving tips that offer you a lot of practice for each technique. Motivation for trying each technique won’t be a problem.

Part I: Getting Started

With so many misconceptions about canning and preserving, this book begins with an explanation of each food preservation method and dispels any fears you may have about each technique. This part is a good starting point if you’re new to canning and preserving, or if you’ve been away from any of these techniques for a while. You’ll find information on specialty equipment and utensils for each method. Don’t overlook the chapter on food safety. It’s important to know what dangers may occur — and how to recognize them — if you skip any processing step, make adjustments to your recipe, or change a processing method and time.

Part II: Water-bath Canning

If you like sweet spreads, relishes, or pickled food, start with this part. Water-bath canning is the most popular food-preserving method and the easier of the two approved canning methods. This part leads you step by step through the process while explaining what foods are suitable for this preserving method. You can try dozens of recipes, from jam and jelly to chutney and relish.

Part III: Pressure Canning

Pressure canning is the approved method for processing food that’s naturally low in acid, like vegetables, meat, poultry, and seafood. These foods contain more heat-resistant and hard-to-destroy bacteria than food that’s safely water-bath processed. This part carefully describes the procedure and steps for canning these foods, whether it’s vegetables or meals of convenience.

Part IV: Freezing

In this part, you discover that your freezer is more than a place for leftovers and ice cream. Utilize this cold area for planning and preparing your meals with a minimum of time and effort. After reading this part, you’ll understand why the proper freezer containers and packaging methods, combined with correct thawing practices, prevent damage to your food while preserving its quality, flavor, and color.

Part V: Drying and Storing

Drying, which preserves food by removing moisture, is the oldest and slowest method for preserving food, and this part explains how to dry a variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs for future enjoyment. And you won’t want to miss the instructions for making fruit leathers. Who doesn’t like to unroll the dried sheets of puréed fruit? This is one time your kids can play with their food and get away with it.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

This part includes short chapters highlighting canning problems that you may encounter and fun places to shop online or by catalog to satisfy your canning and preserving needs.

Appendix

Near the back of the book, you find a metric equivalent chart that’s a handy reference guide for converting any measurements.

Icons Used in This Book

The following four icons appear throughout this book and point out specific points or remind you of items you’ll want to be sure not to miss.

tip.eps This icon directs you to tips or shortcuts we’ve picked up over the years. The information here makes your work easier and more hassle free.

remember.eps This icon means, “Okay, you’ve heard this stuff before, but the information is important and bears repeating.”

warning_bomb.eps When you see this icon, pay special attention. The information tells you about a potential problem and how to overcome or avoid it.

technicalstuff.eps These bits of technical information are interesting, but you can skip them if you want to. Of course, the info contained in these paragraphs makes you seem like you’ve been canning and preserving since you’ve been walking.

Where to Go from Here

Although you can start in any portion of this book, don’t skip Chapter 3. It describes safe processing methods and tells you how to identify spoiled food. If you have any doubts about canning and preserving safety, this chapter puts your fears at ease.

If you want to know about a particular food-preservation method, go to the part devoted to that method. Each one begins with a chapter that explains the technique. Review these initial chapters before selecting a recipe to make sure you have a decent idea what that particular food preservation method requires. If still can’t decide where to start, review the recipes and start with one that sounds good to you! Then just back-track to the general techniques chapter as you need to. If you’d like to make the Dilly Beans recipe in Chapter 8, for example, check out Chapter 4 for the basics on water-bath canning. If you want to dry strawberries (you find the recipe in Chapter 17), check out Chapter 16 for general drying information.

And if you want to jump right in? Go the Recipes at a Glance page to find a recipe that sparks your interest.

Part I

Getting Started

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In this part . . .

In Part I, you find out what benefits canning and preserving your own food can bring to your life. Discover what tools and supplies make the food preservation process run smoothly and which rumors you may have heard about canning are myths and which are true. The chapters here introduce you to the language of canning and preserving and explain how to do so safely so that you can begin to fill your pantry with delicious and healthy fare.

Chapter 1

A Quick Overview of Canning and Preserving

In This Chapter

Discovering the world of canning and preserving

Understanding the whys and hows of canning and preserving

Preparing yourself for safely canning and preserving your foods

Becoming a successful food canner and preserver

Over the years, because of our busy lifestyles and the convenience of refrigeration and supermarkets, the art of canning and preserving has declined. Other than jams and jellies, many people started thinking of canning as sort of a novelty hobby. But today, many people have a renewed interest in learning this art. With the decline in the economy, more people are finding that canning and preserving foods is an inexpensive and easy way to have a full pantry.

This chapter gives you an overview of the four canning and preserving techniques presented in this book — water-bath canning, pressure canning, freezing, and drying — and explains the benefits, both practical and emotional, that canning and preserving your own foods can provide.

If you’re new to canning and preserving, don’t be overwhelmed or scared off by the rules. This book walks you through easy, step-by-step instructions for each technique. After you understand the basic procedures for a method, like water-bath canning, it’s just a matter of concentrating on preparing your recipe.

Knowing the Benefits of Canning and Preserving Your Own Food

Canning and preserving are ways to protect food from spoilage so you can use it at a later time. Some preserving methods, like drying, date back to ancient times; others, like canning, are a little more recent. There’s no doubt that being able to offer fresh-tasting, home-canned or -preserved foods to your family and friends throughout the year is definitely one of life’s luxuries.

Whatever food-preservation method you choose (this book covers canning, freezing, and drying), your efforts will give you

A pantry full of fresh, homegrown foods. Having a stocked pantry offers a cushion against the fluctuating cost of healthy foods. If you enjoy specialty foods from gourmet stores but dislike the high prices, home-canning is a safe and economical way to preserve large or small quantities of high-quality food.

Convenience: You can build a pantry of convenience foods that fit into your busy lifestyle and that your family will enjoy.

Confidence in the ingredients that go into your food. If you love fresh ingredients and like to know what goes into your food, doing your own canning and preserving is the answer.

Protection against rising food costs. The whole idea of canning and preserving is to take advantage of fresh food when it’s abundant. And abundant food generally means lower cost.

A sense of relaxation and accomplishment: For many people working in the kitchen and handling food provides a sense of relaxation, and watching family and friends enjoy the products of your efforts gives you a great sense of accomplishment. Taking the time to select your recipe, choosing and preparing your food, and packaging and processing it for safety is fulfilling and a source of pride for you, the home-canner.

A good time: Producing canned and preserved food in your kitchen is fun and easy — and who doesn’t like fun?

remember.eps The price of food has skyrocketed in the last few years. Food safety has become a concern for everyone. Canning is the answer to both the price dilemma and the desire to offer nutritious foods throughout the year. Home-canning and -preserving instantly rewards your efforts when you follow the proper steps for handling and processing your food.

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Meeting Your Techniques: Canning, Freezing, and Drying

The techniques discussed in this book are safe for home use and produce superior results when you follow all the steps for each method. You compromise the quality and safety of your food if you make your own rules. An example of this is shortening your processing period or not timing it correctly. Either of these adjustments can cause food spoilage because the food doesn’t heat long enough to destroy all of the microorganisms in it.

remember.eps Review the basic techniques for your type of food preserving before you begin — and if you’re already familiar with the techniques, review them annually just to refresh your memory. You’ll experience fewer interruptions in your food-preserving process. Always do a trial run before canning. This ensures you have all your supplies and steps in order so that you can work quickly and efficiently.

You’ll have no doubts about preparing safe home-canned and -preserved food after you discover what each method does, which method is best for different foods, the rules for the technique you choose, and safe food-handling techniques. The pages that follow introduce you to the ancient and modern-day techniques that will help you can and preserve with ease.

technicalstuff1.eps Put by or putting up are terms that describe canning years ago, before there was refrigeration. They meant, “Save something perishable for use later when you’ll need it.”

About canning food

Canning is the most popular preserving method used today. Don’t let anyone tell you that home-canning is complicated and unsafe. It’s simply not true. Canning is the process of applying heat to food that’s sealed in a jar in order to destroy any microorganisms that can cause food spoilage. All foods contain these microorganisms. Proper canning techniques stop this spoilage by heating the food for a specific period of time and killing these unwanted microorganisms. Also, during the canning process, air is driven from the jar and a vacuum is formed as the jar cools and seals. This prevents microorganisms from entering and recontaminating the food.

Approved methods

Although you may hear of many canning methods, only two are approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). These are water-bath canning and pressure canning:

Water-bath canning: This method, sometimes referred to as hot water canning, uses a large kettle of boiling water. Filled jars are submerged in the water and heated to an internal temperature of 212 degrees for a specific period of time. Use this method for processing high-acid foods, such as fruit, items made from fruit, pickles, pickled food, and tomatoes. Chapter 4 explains this method in detail.

Pressure canning: Pressure canning uses a large kettle that produces steam in a locked compartment. The filled jars in the kettle reach an internal temperature of 240 degrees under a specific pressure (stated in pounds) that’s measured with a dial gauge or weighted gauge on the pressure-canner cover. Use a pressure canner for processing vegetables and other low-acid foods, such as meat, poultry, and fish. For more information about pressure canning, see Chapter 9.

warning_bomb.eps Don’t confuse a pressure canner with a pressure cooker, which is used to cook food quickly. A pressure cooker does not have adequate room for both the canning jars and the water needed to create the right amount of pressure to preserve foods.

remember.eps In both water-bath canning and pressure canning, you heat your filled jars of food to a high temperature in order to destroy microorganisms and produce an airtight, vacuum seal. The only way to reliably produce a safe canned product is to use the correct method for your type of food, follow your recipe instructions to the letter, and complete each processing step. For all the details you need about canning and a plethora of recipes, head to Parts II and Part III.

Canning methods to avoid

Older canning methods are unreliable and, for that reason, aren’t used or recommended today for home-canning. Occasionally, these methods are “revived” as being faster and easier than water-bath or pressure canning, but using any of the following methods is like playing Russian roulette with your food safety. Just because your grandmother used one of the following methods doesn’t make it safe to use today. If you see instructions that require you to use any of the following methods, do yourself a favor and pass by that recipe.

Oven method: In this method, filled jars are placed in a hot oven. The method is unsafe because your food’s internal temperature most likely won’t become hot enough to destroy microorganisms and other bacteria that cause spoilage. There’s just no guarantee that the food in the jars will reach the temperature you set your oven at. There’s also a chance that your jars may explode from the sudden temperature change when your oven door is opened.

Open-kettle method: In this method, food is cooked in an open pot and transferred to sterilized jars. The two-piece caps are quickly added in hopes of sealing the jars as the food cools. This process produces a low vacuum seal that may be broken as gas from spoiling food builds up in the jar. This occurs because your food isn’t heated to destroy microorganisms. There’s also a chance your food may become contaminated when transferring it into the jars.

Steam method: This method uses a shallow, covered pan with a rack in the bottom. After the filled jars are placed in the pan, steam circulates around the jars. This method is unsafe because the jars aren’t evenly heated and the steam isn’t pressurized to superheat the food and destroy microorganisms. Don’t confuse this method with pressure canning.

Microwave oven: All microwave ovens heat differently. Because of this, there’s no way to set standards for processing times that achieve a high temperature to penetrate the jars and destroy microorganisms that cause food spoilage.

Dishwasher: Because there’s no way to know the exact temperature of different dishwashers and because temperature fluctuates throughout the cleaning cycle, dishwasher canning is a no-no. You can’t rely on it to produce a safely canned product. You can, however, use a dishwasher to wash your jars and let them sit in the hot dishwasher until you’re ready to fill them.

Aspirin: Don’t laugh at this, but at one time, aspirin was used as a substitute for heat processing. It does contain a germicidal agent that acts as a preservative, but this agent doesn’t destroy the enzyme that causes deterioration in food and food spoilage.

Wax or paraffin seal: Using wax or paraffin was once thought of as a safe way to seal canned goods. It has been proven to be unreliable. and dangerous botulism spores can still develop.

About freezing food

Freezing foods is the art of preparing and packaging foods at their peak of freshness and plopping them into the freezer to preserve all that seasonal goodness. Freezing is a great way to preserve foods that can’t withstand the high temperatures and long cooking of conventional canning methods.

The keys to freezing food are to make sure it’s absolutely fresh, that you freeze it as quickly as possible, and that you keep it at a proper frozen temperature (0 degrees).

remember.eps The quality won’t get better just because you throw it in the freezer. Properly packaging food in freezer paper or freezer containers prevents any deterioration in its quality. Damage occurs when your food comes in contact with the dry air of a freezer. Although freezer-damaged food won’t hurt you, it does make the food taste bad. Here are three things to help you avoid freezer burn:

Reduce exposure to air: Wrap food tightly.

Avoid fluctuating temperatures. Keep the freezer closed as much as possible. Know what you want to remove before opening the door.

Don’t overfill your freezer. An overly full freezer reduces air circulation and speeds freezer damage.

For information and instructions on freezing a variety of foods, go to Part IV.

About drying food

Drying is the oldest method known for preserving food. When you dry food, you expose the food to a temperature that’s high enough to remove the moisture but low enough that it doesn’t cook. Good air circulation assists in evenly drying the food.

An electric dehydrator is the best and most efficient unit for drying, or dehydrating, food. Today’s units include a thermostat and fan to help regulate temperatures much better. You can also dry food in your oven or by using the heat of the sun, but the process will take longer and produce inferior results to food dried in a dehydrator. Go to Part V for drying instructions for fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Key Tricks to Successful Canning and Preserving

Canning and preserving methods are simple and safe, and they produce food that’s nutritious, delicious, and just plain satisfying to your taste buds. Becoming a successful food preserver takes time, effort, and knowledge of the rules. Follow these tips for achieving success as a home canner and preserver:

Start with the freshest, best products available. Preserving doesn’t improve food quality. If you put garbage in, you get garbage out.

Know the rules and techniques for your canning or preserving method before you start your work. Don’t try to learn a technique after you’ve started your processing.

Work in short sessions to prevent fatigue and potential mistakes. Process no more than two items in one day, and work with only one canning method at a time.

Stay up to date on new or revised guidelines for your preserving method. This book is a great start. You can also go to Web sites like www.freshpreserving.com, created by the makers of Ball canning supplies. Here you can find tips and directions for canning just about anything.

Use the correct processing method and processing time to destroy microorganisms. The recipe will tell you what method to use, but it helps if you understand the difference between high- and low-acid foods and how the canning methods for each differ. Go to Chapter 3 for details.

Know the elevation you’re working at. Adjust your processing time or pressure when you’re at an altitude over 1,000 feet above sea level. For accurate information on how to adjust for your altitude, refer to Chapter 4 for water-bath canning conversions and Chapter 9 for pressure canning conversions.

Put together a plan before you start your preserving session. Read your recipe (more than once). Have the proper equipment and correct ingredients on hand to prevent last-minute shortages and inconvenient breaks (make a list of what you need and check off items as you gather them).

Test your equipment. If you’re using a pressure canner or an electric dehydrator, test out the equipment to ensure everything’s working properly. And always check the seals on your jars.

remember.eps Use recipes from reliable sources or ones that you’ve made successfully before. Follow your recipe to the letter. Don’t substitute ingredients, adjust quantities, or make up your own food combinations. Improvisation and safe food preservation aren’t compatible. This also means you can’t double your recipe. If you require more than what the recipe yields, make another batch. Always use the size jars that are recommended in the recipe as well. Trying to use a larger or smaller jar may throw off the yield and final result.

Now you’re ready to take your food to its final destination in the preservation process. Whether you choose canning, freezing, or drying, proceed down your canning and preserving road with confidence.