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Bonus Step - Basic Home Canning

Grocery CartOne of the ways American�s can save on their grocery bill is either canning fruits and vegetables in season. I know when I was growing up, my grandparents basement pantry was filled with canned fruits and vegetables. For example, it takes 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 pounds of tomatoes to make a quart of whole, halved, or quartered canned tomatoes. Tomatoes, along with a small amount of lemon juice, are the only ingredients. 1 quart equals about 2.2 (14.5 oz. $.80/can) cans of tomatoes. That is $1.76 of canned tomatoes.

The basic cost of fresh in season can be about $.25 per pound or between $0.625 to $0.875 for a quart of home canned tomatoes. That is a savings of between $1.135 to $.885. You are making your tomatoes at about $0.284 to $0.398 for 14.5 oz. If you get a 2 for $1 deal, you still save $0.216 to $0.102 per 14.5 oz.

Food safety has grown along with new technologies in home food preservation and the development of new agricultural crop varieties. For these reasons, it is important to follow current guidelines for home canning rather than old recipes. While they might be family favorites, older recipes may not have been properly tested for appropriate heat processing times and temperatures, which can affect the quality and safety of your final product.

Today, we classify foods for canning into two types for proper preservation: high-acid and low-acid foods. Each type requires a different method of heat processing to reach the temperatures necessary to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and other microorganisms.

Low-acid foods, with pH values higher than 4.6, you must process at temperatures of 240�F for a specified length of time to destroy harmful bacteria. Because boiling-water canners cannot reach this temperature, you must process low-acid foods using a steam pressure canner. Low-acid foods include vegetables, soups, stews, ragouts, meats, poultry and seafood.

High-acid foods, on the other hand, require heat processing to 212�F reached by using a boiling-water canner for a specified period. Since the pH of these foods is 4.6 or lower, meaning the acidity is high, bacteria and other spoilers do not readily grow. High-acid foods include fruits, fruit juices, jams, jellies and other fruit spreads, tomatoes with added acid, pickles, relishes and chutneys, sauces, vinegars and condiments.

Canning of High-Acid Foods

Because they are relatively easy to preserve, foods containing high amounts of acid are a popular choice for home canners. These foods provide you with the opportunity to prepare and enjoy a wide array of creative recipes, from excellent side dishes to delectable desserts.

High-acid foods include fruits, fruit juices, jams, jellies and other fruit spreads, tomatoes with added acid, pickles, relishes, and chutneys, sauces, vinegars and condiments.

1. Before you begin, review the recipe and assemble equipment and ingredients. Follow guidelines for recipe preparation, jar size, canning method and processing time.

2. Visually inspect home canning jars for nicks, cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges that may prevent sealing or cause breakage. Check bands for proper fit. Examine lids to ensure they are not scratched and the sealing compound is even and complete. Wash jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water; rinse.

3. Place Ball brand or Kerr brand home canning jars in a large stockpot. Cover jars with water and place over high heat. Bring water to a simmer (180� F); reduce heat and keep jars hot until ready to use. After sterilizing, keep jars in hot water until ready to use. A dishwasher may be used to preheat jars.

4. Prepare food as recipe directs.

5. Place Ball brand or Kerr brand lids in a small saucepan. Cover lids with water. Bring to a simmer (180� F); keep lids hot until ready to use. DO NOT boil lids.

6. Fill hot jars one at a time with prepared food. Do not use an assembly line method for filling jars. Allow proper headspace. Over-filling and under-filling can result in seal failure. Headspace is determined by the food type:

  • Jams, jellies and other fruit spreads � inch
  • Fruits and tomatoes � inch
  • Fruit juices � inch
  • Pickles, relishes and chutneys � inch
  • Sauces, vinegars and condiments � inch

7. Remove air bubbles by sliding a nonmetallic spatula such as a Ball� Bubble FREER� or rubber spatula between jar and food; press gently on the food to release trapped air. Repeat around circumference of jar. After removing air bubbles, readjust headspace if required.

8. Wipe rim and threads of jar with a clean, damp cloth to remove any food residue. Center lid on jar with sealing compound next to rim.

9. Apply band, screwing down evenly and firmly � just until fingertip tight. �Fingertip tight� is as snug as the band can be applied with your fingertips. This allows the lid to vent air during processing. The lid must exhaust the air in order to form a vacuum seal.

10. Place jar on rack in canner. Repeat steps 6-9 for each jar. When all jars are filled or canner is full, lower rack into the water. Be sure water covers jars by at least 1 inch; add boiling water if required. Place lid on canner and turn heat to medium high.

11. When water returns to a full rolling boil, begin counting processing time. At altitudes up to 1,000 feet above sea level, follow recipe processing time. At altitudes higher than 1,000 feet above sea level, increase processing time as recommended for your elevation. See altitude chart in Canning Basics.

12. When time has elapsed, turn off heat and remove canner lid. Allow boil to subside, then lift jars without tilting and place them upright on a towel to cool in a draft-free place. DO NOT retighten bands or test for a seal while jars are hot.

Cool jars undisturbed for 24 hours.

13. After jars have cooled, check lids for seal by pressing on the center of the lid. If the lid is pulled down and does not flex up or down when pressed, remove the band and slightly lift the jar by the lid. Lids that do not flex and cannot easily be removed with your fingertips have a good seal. Refrigerate or reprocess any unsealed jars.

14. Remove bands; wash, dry and store separately. Wipe jars and lids with a clean, damp cloth; dry. Label and store jars in a cool, dry, dark place. For best quality, use home canned foods within one year.

Low Acid Foods Step-by-Step
Vegetables, meats, poultry and seafoods are such a natural part of family meal planning that canning these low-acid foods ensures an economical and well-balanced diet throughout the year. Low-acid foods are easy to preserve, yet require special handling to eliminate the risk of spoilage due to botulism. In order to prevent this type of spoilage, low-acid foods MUST be heat processed using a steam-pressure canner.

The spoilage organism, Clostridium botulinum can be present in any food. It is itself destroyed at boiling temperatures, but it has the ability to form toxin-producing spores that can survive the boiling treatment. These spores thrive in a moist, low-acid environment without the presence of air � the exact conditions found in a sealed jar of low-acid food.

The growth of Clostridium botulinum spores is prevented when filled jars of low-acid foods are �processed� at a temperature of 240�F for the established time. The only way for a home canner to achieve a 240�F temperature is in a steam-pressure canner. (Boiling water canners heat only to 212�F, the temperature of boiling water.) Because Clostridium botulinum spores do not grow in the presence of acid, high-acid foods can be safely processed in a boiling-water canner.

Low-acid foods include vegetables, soups, stews and ragouts, meats, poultry and seafoods. Recipes that combine high-acid foods, such as tomatoes, with low-acid foods, such as vegetables or meats, are considered low-acid foods.

For additional information regarding processing, selection of produce and preparation of jars and two-piece vacuum caps, refer to Canning Basics.

1. Before you begin, review the recipe and assemble the equipment and ingredients. Follow guidelines for recipe preparation, jar size, canning method and processing time.

2. Visually inspect home canning jars for nicks, cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges that may prevent sealing or cause breakage. Check bands for proper fit. Examine lids to ensure they are not scratched and the sealing compound is even and complete. Wash jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water; rinse.

3. Inspect the steam-pressure canner. Check lid and gasket to be sure an airtight seal can be achieved. Clean vent pipe. If you are using a dial gauge canner, the gauge must be tested for accuracy each year prior to its use.

Fill canner with 2 to 3 inches of water. Place over high heat; bring to a simmer (180� F). Keep water at a simmer until jars are filled and placed in the canner.

4. Place Ball brand or Kerr brand home canning jars in a large stockpot or boiling-water canner. Cover jars with water and place over high heat. Bring water to a simmer (180� F); reduce heat and keep jars hot until ready to use. A dishwasher may be used to preheat jars.

5. Prepare food as recipe directs.

6. Place Ball brand or Kerr brand lids in a small saucepan. Cover lids with water. Bring water to a simmer; keep lids hot until ready to use. DO NOT boil lids.

7. Fill hot jars one at a time with prepared food. Do not use an assembly line method for filling jars. Allow proper headspace. Overfilling or underfilling can result in seal failure.

Headspace is determined by food type. For all low-acid foods, allow 1-inch headspace.
8. Remove air bubbles by sliding a nonmetallic spatula such as a Ball� Bubble FREER� or rubber spatula between jar and food; press gently on the food to release trapped air. Repeat around circumference of jar. After removing air bubbles, readjust headspace if required.

9. Wipe rim and threads of jar with a clean, damp cloth to remove any food residue. Center lid on jar with sealing compound next to rim.

10. Apply band, screwing down evenly and firmly � just until fingertip tight. �Fingertip tight� is as snug as the band can be applied with your fingertips. This allows the lid to vent air during processing. The lid must exhaust air in order to form a vacuum seal.

11. Place jar on rack in canner. Repeat steps 7 � 10 for each jar. When all jars are filled or canner is full, check that water level in canner is about 2 to 3 inches or that recommended in manufacturer�s manual.

12. Lock canner lid in place, leaving vent open. Adjust heat to medium-high. Allow steam to escape through vent pipe steadily for about 10 minutes in order to vent canner. Close the vent, using the weight or method described for your canner. Gradually adjust heat to achieve and maintain recommended pounds of pressure. Regulate heat only with gradual changes.

At altitudes up to 1,000 feet above sea level, process at 10 pounds of pressure in a weighted gauge canner or 11 pounds of pressure in a dial gauge canner for the specified time for the food type and jar size used. At altitudes higher than 1,000 feet above sea level, increase the pounds of pressure to that recommended for your elevation. See altitude chart in Canning Basics.

13. When processing time is complete, remove canner from heat. Let canner stand undisturbed until pressure drops naturally to zero.

When dial gauge registers zero or when no steam escapes from weighted gauge when it is nudged, wait 2 minutes before removing cover, being sure to tilt it away from yourself.

14. Lift jars from canner without tilting and place them upright on a towel to cool in a draft-free place. DO NOT retighten bands or test for a seal while the jars are hot.

Cool undisturbed for 24 hours.

15. After jars have cooled, check lids for a seal by pressing on the center of the lid. If the lid is pulled down and does not flex up or down when pressed, remove the band and slightly lift the jar by the lid. Lids that do not flex and cannot easily be removed with your fingertips have a good seal. Refrigerate or reprocess any unsealed jars.

16. Remove bands; wash, dry and store separately. Wipe jars and lids with a clean, damp cloth; dry. Label and store jars in a cool, dry, dark place. For best quality, use home canned foods within one year.

Equipment
Many of the tools for home canning are found in any well-stocked kitchen. Certain utensils are designed specifically for home canning. Here is a list of the helpful aids you will need to easily prepare and put up recipes.

Equipment You'll Need to Get Started

Cooking Timer
Food Scale
Home Canning Jars
Two-Piece Caps
Steam-Pressure Canner
Terms

Round Up Onto a Spoon

This is a term used to describe when a fruit butter has achieved the desired thickness. The mixture will separate as a spoon is stirred through it, leaving a path where the spoon just passed. Fruit butter will form a mound on the spoon.

Glossary

Acid Foods

Foods that contain enough acid to result in a pH of 4.6 or lower. Some foods may contain very little natural acid but have a sufficient amount of vinegar, citric acid or lemon juice added to them to be classified as acids in canning.

Antioxidant

Is an affect agent that inhibits the oxidation of cut fruits and vegetables as well as controls discoloration. Lemon juice, ascorbic acid or a blend of ascorbic and citric acid are all antioxidants.

Bacteria

Microorganisms which are found in the soil, water and air around us. In certain low-acid conditions, some bacteria can produce harmful toxins. Proper heat processing of low-acid foods in the steam-pressure canner destroys harmful toxins.

Band

A threaded metal band used in combination with a flat metal vacuum sealing lid to form a two-piece cap.

Blanch

To dip fruits and vegetables in boiling water to loosen their skins. Blanching vegetables in boiling water or steam also slows the action of enzymes.

Boil

To heat to 212�F at sea level.

Boiling-Water Canner

A deep kettle equipped with a jar rack and lid. It must be large enough to completely immerse capped canning jars, allowing 1 to 2 inches of water to cover jars. A boiling-water canner is required for heat processing high-acid foods.

Botulism

An illness caused by ingesting a toxin produced from the spores of Clostridium botulinum bacteria under conditions favorable for its growth. Proper selection, preparation, packing and heat processing destroys this bacterium in canned foods.

Cap

Two-piece metal closure used to form a vacuum seal on home canning jars. See Two-Piece Vacuum Cap.

Citric Acid

An acid derived from certain citrus fruits used to increase the acidity of tomatoes. It also controls discoloration of cut fruits.

Cool Place

A location with a temperature ideal for storing jars of home canned foods � usually between 50�F and 70�F.

Enzyme

A protein in foods that affects changes in flavor, color, texture, and nutritional value. The preservation methods for canning and freezing destroy the action of enzymes.

Headspace

The unfilled space in a home canning jar between the top of the food or liquid and the underside of the lid. Headspace is necessary for food expansion as jars are heated, and for forming a vacuum as jars cool.

Hot Pack

Filling hot jars with precooked, hot food prior to processing.

Jar

A glass container specially designed and heat-treated for use in home canning.

Lid

The flat metal disc with flanged edges, having a rubber-like sealing compound on its underside. Used as part of the two-piece vacuum cap for sealing home canning jars.

Low-Acid Food

Foods having a pH of 4.6 or higher. To destroy harmful bacteria, their spores and the toxins they produce, low-acid foods must be processed in a steam-pressure canner at 240�F. Adjustments are necessary at elevations higher than 1,000 ft. above sea level.

Microorganism

A microscopic living plant or animal which, if not destroyed by heat, can cause spoilage in canned and frozen food.

Mold

Microscopic fungi that appear as fuzz on food. Molds may grow on acid foods like jams, jellies and canned fruits. Proper heat processing inhibits mold growth.

Pectin

A natural substance, found in varying amounts in fruits, that acts to form a complex gelatinous structure. It is used to make jams, jellies and other soft spreads gel. Commercial powdered and liquid pectins are not interchangeable.

pH

A measure of acidity or alkalinity. On a scale 0 to 14, a value of 7 is neutral, values lower than 7 are increasingly acidic, and values higher than 7 are increasingly alkaline. In canning, a food�s pH determines the appropriate processing method.

Pickle Crisp

Pickle Crisp is Calcium Chloride. It is easy to make crispy, crunchy pickles with Pickle Crisp. Simply add Pickle Crisp to each jar of pickles before processing. Pickle Crisp does not burn like lime and there is NO messy clean-up.

Pickling

Preserving using a brine or vinegar solution to decrease pH levels to 4.6 or lower. All pickled foods must be processed in a boiling-water canner.

Pickling Lime

Pickling lime is also known as Calcium Hydroxide. It is a white powder that dissolves in cold water and is used only as a pre-soak to crisp pickles. Pickling lime is very caustic and may burn eyes, nose and skin.

Processing

Sterilizing jars and the food they contain in a steam-pressure or boiling-water canner to destroy harmful microorganisms.

Raw Pack

Filling jars with raw, unheated food prior to processing. This term is preferred over �Cold Pack.�

Simmer

To cook just below the boiling point in the range between 180�F and 200�F.

Spice Bag

A muslin bag or cheesecloth square used to hold whole spices and/or herbs that is added to a mixture to extract flavorings during cooking. For Reusable Spice bags, see Order Online.

Steam-Pressure Canner

A heavy kettle fitted with a jar rack and a lid that can be locked in place and that has a safety valve, a vent and a pressure gauge. A steam-pressure canner is required for heat processing low-acid foods.

Syrup

A water/sugar or juice/sugar mixture used to add liquid to canned or frozen products.

Two-Piece Vacuum Cap

A metal closure for sealing home canning jars. It consists of a screw band and a flanged lid, the underside of which is coated with a rubber-like sealing compound.

Vacuum Seal

The absence of normal air pressure in jars that are airtight. After heat processing and upon cooling, air is forced from the jar causing a vacuum seal. The sealing compound on the lid prevents air from reentering.

Venting

Forcing air to escape from a jar by applying heat. Or, permitting air to escape from a steam-pressure canner.

Yeast

Microscopic fungi that cause fermentation in foods. They are easily destroyed at a temperature of 212�F.

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