Tips for home canning

Canning is delightful. It's a chance to slow down and appreciate the bounty of the season, capture it at its peak and celebrate it year-round.

If you're just getting in to preserving your own foods, you'll be amazed at how satisfying and simple it is if you just follow some basic guidelines.

Choosing what to preserve

  • Buy organic, local fruits and vegetables at the peak of their season. They'll be at their most delicious and more economical as well. Choose firm ripe fruits and plump, healthy vegetables.
  • You can preserve so many different items including jams, marmalades, jellies, fruit preserves, whole fruits in honey, tomatoes; pickled vegetables such as beans, cucumbers, beets, radishes, carrots, asparagus; spicy pickled fruits such as plums, apples and cherries; condiments such as relishes, sauces, mustards, salsas and chutneys. You get the picture!
  • Use whole spices, herbs and aromatics to custom design your own signature flavors.

A few points on canning safely

  • Be clean: Wash all of your equipment, utensils, jars and the fruits and vegetables you are using. Sterilize all of your jars and lids according to directions.
  • Use good-quality jars and lids: No cracks or chips in the jars, and always use new lids even with reused jars.
  • Follow trusted recipes: The balance of sugar, acidity, salt or alcohol is key to safely and effectively preserving. Different fruits and vegetables have greatly varying components. The recipe will compensate for this. You may creatively change the seasoning in a pickle, jam or condiment, but the basic formula should remain the same.
  • Check your seals: After water-bath canning, your jar lids should be sucked down indicating a good seal. Check them again before consuming your product.
  • Always label and date your preserved items: You may remember what it is today, but next month may be a different story.
  • Proper storage: Store your jars in a cool, dark and dry place.

by PCC Chef Lynne Vea with contributions from Jackie Freeman

More about: canned foods, cooking tips, fruit, vegetables