Food Preservation Blog
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Recipes for canning breads and cakes in canning jars appear in newspapers, books, magazines, on television and on the web. While they look attractive and are unique for gift giving, these products are not shelf-stable and cannot be safely stored at room temperature. Canned breads and cakes are typically made by pouring batter into glass canning jars and baking them in the oven. Once the cake or bread is done, the steaming jars are taken out of the oven and then sealed and cooled to create a vacuum. Many recipes claim that they can be stored without refrigeration for about a year. Some say they will keep indefinitely.
Safe preservation of venison begins in the field. Care must be taken to avoid contamination of the meat while dressing, handling, and transporting it. Field dress the deer as soon as possible and quickly cool the carcass to 35 to 40°F. Transport the carcass to a processing facility as soon as possible and keep it cool during transport. Practice cleanliness; wash your hands, knife, and cutting boards frequently with warm, soapy water.
With major canning ending, many home food preservers are storing canning equipment until spring. Take time to prepare the equipment for storage.
Knowing how to store food properly and how long it will keep, helps to reduce wasted food dollars while keeping the food looking and tasting good. Proper storage also helps retain nutrients and keeps the food safe to eat.
The convenience of canned soup makes cooking and meal preparation easier on busy days. Because of the convenience of canned soup, many food preservers would like to reproduce soups found in the deli or supermarket. However, there are some commercially prepared foods that just cannot be reproduced safely by the home canner. Creamed soups are not suitable for home canning because their ingredients interfere with the proper transfer of heat during the processing step and can result in food borne illness. Freezing some soups is a safer option.
Pumpkins and winter squash keep well for several months in cold storage. However, canning and freezing helps us enjoy them out of season, and it is convenient to have pumpkin cubes or sauce in a ready to use form.
When nice heads of broccoli and cauliflower are abundantly available at produce stands, it makes sense to buy a little extra to freeze for out-of-season use. In fact, some heads are too large for use at one time, and freezing the extra simply prevents the food from going to waste.
Fruit butters are sweet spreads made by cooking fruit pulp with sugar to a thick consistency. Spices are often added. The smooth, spreadable texture of fruit butters makes them an ideal substitute for butter on bread, toast, or muffins. A unique layer cake can be made with a filling of apricot or peach butter or a sandwich cookie with apple or pear butter. Delicious low fat baked goods can be made by substituting fruit butter for some of the fat in the recipe.
Relishes are relatively easy to make because the vinegar used to flavor them increases the acidity of the vegetables allowing most of them to be processed in the boiling water bath. If you are not sure how you will like a particular recipe, try a test batch using half the amounts called for in the recipe.
Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, turnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts—what’s a thrifty way to preserve the fall harvest? Most freeze well; some such as kohlrabi, turnips, and carrots can be canned, and most are excellent in mixed vegetable pickles.
What is chutney? It is a relish-type condiment usually made from a variety of fruits, seasonings, sugar, and vinegar. Newer recipes have been developed using both green and ripe tomatoes and other vegetables in chutney. Traditional chutney recipes included raisins and nuts; many recipes today replace them with apples, ginger root, dates, or other dried fruit. The combination of ingredients results in a sweet-sour blend. Chutneys can vary from chunky to smooth and from mild to hot in seasoning. Chutney usually has a saucier texture than relish or salsa.
Some reasons for reducing sugar in canning are flavor preferences for less sweetness, reduced calories, and special dietary restrictions. While sugar helps fruits keep their bright color and firm texture, it is not necessary to prevent fruit from spoiling. It is possible to can fruits with little or no added sugar. Most pickles and relishes and jams and jellies still need sugar for the proper consistency, but a few new recipes have been developed for low or no sugar products.
Have you ever been in these situations? You are filling jars with hot crushed tomatoes and have just a little left over. You evenly distribute the extra tomatoes between each jar filling nearly to the top thinking it is good economics. Maybe it isn’t. If jars are filled too full, food may boil out during processing and solids or seeds may catch under the sealing compound and prevent the jar from sealing.
October and November are the best months to make sauerkraut. Cabbage grown in cool weather produces more sugar which is necessary for the fermentation process. Sauerkraut is the result of natural fermentation by bacteria in the cabbage in the presence of 2 to 3 percent salt. Lactic acid and other minor products of fermentation give sauerkraut its characteristic flavor and texture.
Most people who can chicken today do so to have a convenient, ready to use product available. Think of a can of tuna. You can do the same things with canned chicken that you would do with a can of tuna.
While applesauce is extremely easy to make, many people encounter problems with canning it. Discoloration, siphoning, mold, and lack of jars sealing are common problems.
Pears can be preserved in a variety of interesting ways. The natural sweetness of dried pears makes them a tasty high energy snack. Although canning is preferred, full-flavored pears that are crisp and firm can be frozen. Pears can be canned in flavored juices, made into specialty jams, and star in relishes and chutneys. There are even recipes for salsa with pears.
Late blight is a common disease in tomatoes and potatoes caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans. The disease thrives in cool, moist conditions and can wipe out an entire crop within just a few weeks of infestation. The following advice should help home canners decide whether or not they should process tomatoes or potatoes that show visible signs of late blight infestation.
The manner in which fresh potatoes are stored will impact their quality. Store potatoes in a cool, dark place that is well ventilated. The ideal storage temperature is 45 to 50°F. Refrigerated potatoes stored below 40°F will develop a sweet taste due to the conversion of starch to sugar. This increase in sugar will cause potatoes to darken when cooked—especially at high temperatures. Storing potatoes in the refrigerator is not recommended but, if you do, letting the potatoes warm gradually to room temperature before cooking can reduce the discoloration.
Grapes are one of the higher acid fruits and so are easy to preserve. Hot grape juice only needs to be processed for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.
To can or to freeze?That's the eternal question many home cooks face at this time of year when summer's bounty stands ready to go into storage.If you want those pretty fruits and vegetables you lovingly plucked from your home garden — or from the table at the local farm market — to reappear all fresh and tasty at midwinter you'll need to decide whether they're headed into freezer bags or mason jars.
Corn can be preserved with equally good results by freezing or canning. Corn may also be dried. Preserve corn as soon after harvesting as possible. The corn will be best if canned or frozen within six hours of being picked. Select tender ears of corn with milky kernels. After husking and removing the silk, trim off the ends of the ears to remove small fibrous kernels. Wash corn before blanching.
What is a vacuum seal? When you fill a jar with food and apply a lid at room temperature, the atmospheric pressure is the same inside the jar as it is outside the jar. When the jar is heated as in water bath or during pressure canning, the air and food inside the jar expand; this forces air out of the jar. As the jar cools and the contents shrink, a partial vacuum forms. The sealing compound found on the underside of the lid prevents air from re-entering the jar so that no microorganisms can enter the jar to recontaminate the food.
Many gardens contain a wide variety of vegetables. Some are grown because they are favorites. Others are grown for the fun of trying something new. Here are some suggestions for preserving some specialty vegetables.
Tomatoes and tomato products need to be acidified for home canning. A common misconception is that tomatoes are a high acid food. With a pH of 4.6 tomatoes are right on the border between being high or low acid. The tomato variety and growing conditions (blight and diseased plants) can easily tip the acidity level to the low acid side of the scale.
Tomatoes are one of the most commonly canned vegetables. Because many canning procedures for tomatoes have been handed down from generation to generation, there are many canning recipes that are inadequate to kill all spoilage microorganisms.
Salt is generally added to canned foods to enhance their flavor. With the exception of fermented pickles and sauerkraut, salt is an optional ingredient. Salt can be omitted for canning tomatoes, vegetables, meats, poultry, and seafood since the amount added does not contribute to the safety of the food. However, in fermented sauerkraut and brined pickles, salt not only provides characteristic flavor but also is vital to safety since it favors the growth of desirable bacteria while inhibiting the growth of others.
Red, green, yellow—even purple and orange. Peppers make a colorful medley. The most common peppers are the mild, sweet, thick fleshed bell pepper; the even milder pimiento pepper; and the hotter chili and jalapeno peppers. Some gardeners include the much hotter serrano, cayenne and habenero among their favorites. Peppers may be frozen, canned, dried, pickled, marinated or made into relishes, jams or jellies.
The ideal texture of a good pickle is its crispness. According to Brian Nummer, Extension Food Safety Specialist at Utah State University, that crispness comes from the vegetable’s natural pectin. Pectin can be described as the cement that holds the cells together.
To preserve the delicate flavor of a summer favorite, can peaches when they are at the ideal stage of ripeness and select a variety that maintains its flavor and shape through the canning process. Many new varieties are available; ask the grower how a specific variety will perform. If you are canning large peaches, you may choose to use wide mouth jars to avoid bruising when placing them in the jars.
What can you do with extra zucchini? You can dry or freeze zucchini, but you can only can zucchini if it has added acidity as in pickled products.
Sometimes directions for pressure canning say to process a food at 10 pounds pressure for a given time. These directions are either very old or written for a weighted gauge pressure canner.
The principle causes of spoilage in home food preservation are microorganisms and enzymes. Because molds, yeasts, and bacteria are found everywhere—in the air and soil, on people and animals, and on many surfaces—proper food preservation methods must be used to prevent them from causing food to spoil. The effects of these microorganisms can range from soft, slimy textures and unpleasant odors to food poisoning that can be deadly.
Follow these suggestions to prevent spoilage of home preserved foods caused by molds, yeasts, bacteria, and enzymes.
Since the late 1980’s extension educators have been teaching that open kettle canning is no longer safe. Gradually, home food preservers are abandoning this practice and moving to processing all canned goods. Some of our educators have found that our young people may not even know about open kettle canning.
Although a jar of olive oil with sprigs of fresh tarragon floating in the center has eye appeal, it is not a safe food preservation method. Storing vegetables or herbs in oil is not recommended because both the herbs and the oil provide conditions that can support the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The heat stable spores of this bacteria can produce deadly amounts of toxin in environments that are free of oxygen, at room temperature, and low in acid.
Why is it necessary to pressure can certain foods? Some foods naturally have less acid than others. Low acid foods require higher temperatures to kill harmful bacteria. The only way to reach these higher temperatures is to process low acid foods in a pressure canner. High pressures raise the internal temperature of the canner to 240°F at 10 pounds pressure in a weighted gauge canner or 11 pounds pressure in a dial gauge canner. This compares to 212° F in a boiling water bath.
Peaches, strawberry jam, peas, beans, chicken, vegetable soup? Which method of home canning is suitable and safe for each product? The most important choice for a safe product is to choose the processing method that will destroy all harmful bacteria and prevent their growth during storage.
Crisp, tender sugar peas combined with new potatoes make a tasty dish that signals the beginning of a bountiful garden. English or hull peas are equally delicious. With careful processing, peas can be preserved to be enjoyed throughout the year.
One of spring’s favorite vegetables, asparagus, is so delicate that it requires special care.
Rhubarb is the vegetable that is enjoyed as a fruit. By itself it provides a unique tart flavor. Unlimited possibilities exist for combining rhubarb with other foods to create delicious sauces, pies, cakes, cobblers, muffins, and even jams. Most foods prepared with rhubarb can also be frozen.