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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Warm your winter with Canning

By Joseph Parish

I dare say there is no better way to spend weekends than canning local vegetables, peaches, berries or apples. For being a northern state Delaware winters are not really that bad weather wise. Here is the middle of December and our temperatures today were close to seventy degrees. Not bad at all for winter.

I don’t let season dictate to me what I will can or jar. I have found that the supermarket sometimes has very good sales going on even in the middle of winter so I do not hesitate to purchase my produce from the market in the winter.

Although I grew up in a family that canned and “put food away” I really did not appreciate the value of home canning until I got married. My wife and I decided to attempt the process together and it proved to be a lot of fun. That first canning experience was nearly forty years ago. With our family raised and now on their own, we do not really see any necessity for canning however occasionally we will do it just for the fun of it.

Unfortunately I feel canning is on a decline and that is so sad. I know of just about no one who still cans to this day. None of my neighbors can, none of the family can, and it is becoming a dead craft.

I hope to convince you that saving the harvest from the fields be it summer or winter is not only a frugal way to eat but also a lot of fun. We now live in a fast paced over extended society and any time you can find a few moments to relax and enjoy life to its max you should take it.

We had initially stuck to the basic types of canning such as pickles or strawberry jams. You would be surprised at the number of different cucumber type pickles or relishes there are. Take a quick glance at a Bell Canning Book and you will become a believer. As we progressed in our canning, we got braver and attempted many different types of canning such as bread or chicken.

There are two basic types of canning – those with a pressure cooker and those with a water bath. I prefer the water bath as it is a simpler method and you can readily see you results.

Always follow the recipes although it is possible to modify them to a certain degree. Why not, this will add that personal touch to each recipe and can of finished produce. Essentially, you begin by cooking your selected jelly, salsas or pickles on top of your kitchen stove according to the recipe you are following. Ladle your cooked product into clean, sterilized jars and place the jars into the boiling water bath for a predetermined period. This time depends upon the recipe you have selected.

You can begin by sterilizing your jars and lids in the dishwasher and then again place them in a hot water bath prior to being filled. You may safely reuse the rings but I do not recommend reusing the lids.

Do not fill the jars too close to the top. Leave about one half-inch headroom between the food and the top of the jar for expansion, etc. Make certain to clean off any of the spilled food on the sides of the jar before screwing the lid on it.

If all this sounds like it would be of interest to you visit your local library and pick up addition titles relating to food canning and preservation. You will find the process a fun and interesting challenge. I have enclosed a simple Peach jam recipe to get you going.

Peach Jam

8 med peaches or 6 cups, cut into wedges (Canned Peaches can be used)
1 small unpeeled navel orange cut into wedges
2 8 oz cans of crushed pineapple, undrained
12 maraschino cherries
3 T. maraschino cherry juice
2 packages powdered fruit pectin
10 cups of sugar

In your blender, process the fruits and juice in several batches until they are smooth. Transfer them to a large kettle, stir in the pectin and bring the mixture to a rapid boil stirring frequently. Add the 10 cups of sugar and return the mixture to a rolling boil. Continue the boil for 2 minutes making sure to stir constantly. Remove the contents from the heat and skim off the foam. Lastly pour into sterilized jars. This batch makes 12 half-pints.

Copyright @2008 Joseph parish


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