Canning worth effort to save fresh flavors

November 10, 2010 

Canning is becoming a lost art. Many folks say there's just no time for it. Some seem to think there isn't even time to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables.

But there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a row of colorful, home-canned jars on your shelf or serving your friends homemade soup or pear honey during the fall and winter months.

Preserving your own food brings peace of mind. It was en vogue during the Great Depression, the war years of the 1930s and 1940s and the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s. But as women joined the work force, there was less time to grow vegetables and prepare food. Canning was placed on the back burner.

Now there is a movement to eat healthier and enjoy fresh produce. People want to know where their food comes from. Canning is becoming trendy once again.

"Saving the Seasons" by Mary Clemens Mayer and Susanna Meyer is a great resource for how-to canning, freezing and drying. Here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider before you begin.

CANNING

Canning preserves food by sealing it airtight in glass jars. The heating process that causes the jar to seal kills bacteria, molds and enzymes that spoil food; the airtight seal keeps them out.

  • Advantages: Canned food does not need to be refrigerated. Store cans on a shelf in a dark, cool place for a year or more.

  • Disadvantages: Foods lose some nutritional value because of the high temperatures used in canning. Some fruits and vegetables should not be canned because of significant changes in taste or texture.

    FREEZING

    Freezing preserves foods by slowing down the enzyme activity, growth of microorganisms and the oxidation that cause them to spoil.

  • Advantages: Freezing is the simplest and quickest way to preserve foods. It keeps the fresh flavor, color and nutrients of most foods better than any other method. Frozen foods taste more like fresh than those that are canned and dried.

  • Disadvantages: Freezing a significant amount of food requires a lot of freezer space. Food must be thawed before using.

    DRYING

    Drying or dehydrating preserves food by removing 85 to 95 percent of their moisture. This stops the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms that cause foods to spoil.

  • Advantages: Dried produce is lightweight and takes up less storage space than fresh, canned or frozen produce.

  • Disadvantages: Fruits and vegetables lose some nutrients when dried, especially vitamin C. Dried produce has four time the calories, volume to volume, as fresh produce because of decreased water levels.

    Pear-Apple Chutney

    Makes: About 2 pint jars

    2 firm, ripe pears 2 apples 1 small to medium onion 1 cup golden raisins 1/2 cup apple cider or white vinegar 1/2 cup sugar 1 tablespoon finely chopped or grated fresh ginger root 1 teaspoon mustard seeds 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

    Peel, core and cube pears and apples. Peel and chop onion. In sauce pan, combine fruit and onion with remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer, stirring gently. Cover and simmer at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until raisins are plump and mixture has begun to thicken.

    When chutney is desired color and thickness, ladle hot mixture into jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Tighten lids and process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

    Barbecue Sauce

    Makes: 4 pints

    4 quarts chopped, peeled cored tomatoes 2 cups chopped celery 2 cups chopped onions 1 1/2 cups chopped sweet peppers 2 hot red peppers, finely chopped 1 teaspoon peppercorns 1 cup brown sugar 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 tablespoon dry mustard 1 tablespoon paprika 1 tablespoon salt 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 cup vinegar

    Wear rubber gloves to core and chop hot peppers. Combine chopped tomatoes, celery, onions and peppers in large cooking pot. Cook until vegetables are soft. Puree in food processor or food mill. Simmer puree until reduced by half. Tie peppercorns in gauze bag and add with rest of ingredients to tomato sauce. Simmer until sauce is thick, stirring frequently. Remove bag of peppercorns. Ladle hot sauce into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Tighten lids and process 20 minutes in boiling water bath.

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