Planting is Done – Preserving Begins

Blog April 20, 2016

If you are like me, after I get my garden planted I cannot wait to start eating any fresh foods. I head for the farmer’s market or local growers that I know I can get the freshest fruits and vegetables that are in season. I don’t want to miss any part of a growing season. My garden is not large like it was when we had our organic farm but I can grow my favorites.

What happens when your garden starts producing great amounts of the foods you love to eat or a farmer that has some of your favorites you do not want to miss? Preserving is the way to go. Yes, it does take some planning but there are several ways to have the foods you love to eat later in the year when the growing season has gone for that plant. It is also fun to do with friends!

I grew up canning with my Mom & Dad. It takes some time but it is worth it. The jars filled with the beautiful colors of fresh fruits and vegetables, placed on a shelf, makes you feel so good about your accomplishments plus they really taste good.

There are several ways of preserving your fruit and vegetable bounty; canning, freezing and dehydrating. Curing and smoking is another technique of dehydrating and preserving other foods. We will cover that at a later date.

StoveTopCanning_1electric canner

Stove Top Canner                                                                         Electric Canner
Check the style and pricing that fits you.

When you decide to venture into the home canning you have many equipment choices. The water bath canning on top of your stove is the easiest and least expensive way to go to can high acid foods; tomatoes or vegetables with vinegars added. You can get started with a beginner’s Home Canning Kit. It is a small investment but you have almost everything you need to get started plus it has a canning guide in it. You cannot use your glass top stoves, only the electric coil or gas, for this type of canning. There is an electric canner that works the same way and is the same size as your Home Canning Kit but it is more expensive. Pressure cooking canning is for your low acid foods; squash, carrots, corn, beans and meats. No matter how you decide to can, it is very important that you are following the recipes and pay attention to keeping your canning process safe. Botulism is deadly! It is easy to can but you do need to pay attention to the details! Canning is a science and a culinary art.
Equipment you will need:
1. The canning pot of choice with a jar rack. They come in black enamelware, stainless steel or electric.
2. Stainless steel jar funnel with a wide mouth to fit the inside of the canning jar to be filled.
3. Chrome-plated or stainless steel jars lifter.
4. Utensil to release air bubbles – fork, spoon, chop sticks
5. Pint or quart canning jars with lids and bands
6. Recipes and instructions on “Canning: how to” for the type of canning you select.
7. Ladle – large enough to get the fruits or vegetables from the cooking pot into the can.
8. Thermometer
9. Clean damp cloth

Stove Top Water Bath Canning:
1. Heat your canner and the jar rack with clean warm water on your stove top. Make sure the canner is filled with enough water to cover the top of the jars you are canning with 1 to 2 inches of water.
2. Preheat the water to 140 degrees F. for raw-packed foods and to 180 degrees F. for hot-packed foods.
3. Prepare the foods you are planning to can. Raw-packed foods, using salt and vinegars (pickled foods), for the raw-packed and high acid foods, cooked tomatoes or preserves, for hot-packed foods.
4. Clean and sterilize your jars and lids by washing them in the dishwasher or heating them in hot water on the stovetop.
5. Fill the jars with your cold or hot packed foods. Follow the recipe directions for the temperature of the hot packed foods. Clean the top of the jar rim with a clean damp cloth. Fit each jar with the lids and ring band.
6. Place each jar on the canner rack, one jar at a time, using the jar lifter to put the jars in the hot water. Make sure you hold the jar with the jar lifter positioned below the ring band to keep the jar from slipping. Keep the jar upright. Tipping the jar can cause the jar lid not to seal. If your canner rack has handles you can load the jars and lower the rack into the water. Make sure the hot water cover the top of the jar with at least 1 to 2 inches of water. (One inch of water for the processing time under 30 minutes; 2 inches for the processing over 30 minutes.) If you need to add more hot water; do not pour the hot water directly on the top of the lids.
7. Cover the canner with its lid and bring to a vigorous boil. Set a timer for the required time. Maintain a gentle boil for the entire time. If the water stops boiling, bring it back to a boil and start timing of the processing time all over.
8. When the processing time is up, turn off the heat, take the canning lid off and wait at least 5 minutes to let it cool before removing the jars.
9. Remove the jars, using a jar lifter. Do not tilt the jars. Place the jars on a towel or cooling rack, leaving at least one inch space between the jars while cooling. Do not place the jars on cold surfaces or in a cold draft.
10. If there is more to can start the process again.
11. Let the jars cool undisturbed. Do not tighten the bands of push on the lids until they are completely cooled.
12. You may remove the bands (Not the lids that have sealed!) of the sealed jars. If a jar does not seal, refrigerate and use it first.
13. Wash the outside of the jars, label the content with the date canned and store in a location out of direct light.


Pressure Cooker Water Bath:                     Check the styles and pricing!
Pressure Cooker:
The pressure cooker shown is for the stove top. Once again it is not to be used on the glass top stoves. I have found a power pressure cooker for canning, (Not Pictured) Power Pressure Cooker XL 8 Qt. digital non-stick stainless steel steam slow cooker & canner. I have not tried it but if it does what it says it will do it might be worth the money. Remember to read and follow the directions on the operation of the pressure cooker.
The canning process of the pressure cooking canning is basically the same but steam pressure is used. Follow the home canning rules #1 through #6… then follow the procedure below…then go back to #9 through #13.
1. The pressure needs to build for about 10 minutes before placing the regulator on the vent pipe.
2. After the processing time has ended, turn the heat off and remove the canning pot from the heat to cool down.
3. The pressure in the canner needs to drop naturally. Once the air vent/cover lock drops you can remove the regulator from the vent lock. The steam needs to be vented; the air is removed, from the canner and jars.
4. Once this has been completed, about 10 minutes, you may remove the cover.

Freezing is probably the easiest way to preserve your foods but that can get expensive because you have to have a freezer large enough to hold your foods and you use electricity to keep that running. You may use plastic containers or plastic freezer bags. I recommend packing your fruits and vegetables in heavy duty plastic bags using a vacuum sealer for your frozen foods. They do help prolong the quality of what you are freezing.
Freezing your garden fruits and vegetables retains the flavor, color and texture but they need to be blanched. Blanching (scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time then immersing them in cold water) stops the enzyme action. It also cleanses the surface dirt and organism, brightens the color and helps retard the loss of vitamins. Be sure you check the blanching time for the vegetable you are blanching so you do not over or under blanch.
Make sure you label the contents and date your freezer package.


Check the pricing and styles – there are many!

I am going to be covering the dehydration of whole fruits and vegetables. Dehydration is a low-cost way to preserve food that is free from concerns about botulism. Plus the dried foods require less storage space than canned goods, and there’s no freezer to keep running. Many techniques can be used to create dehydrate vegetable and fruit leathers, nuts, seeds and anything you can imagine.
You can use a commercial dehydrator, your oven or the sun, depending on what you want to dehydrate. It does require time and some knowledge of food drying principles.

1. As in canning you need to select fruits and vegetable that are ripe, unbruised and ready to eat.
2. Wash your foods (herbs, berries, fruits and vegetables) before dehydrating.
3. Cut the items you are dehydrating into the rings or slices you would like to use for serving. Slice them 1/8” to ¼” in thickness. The thicker the slices the more time it takes to dehydrate. Keep the pieces uniform in size and shape for even drying.
4. To prevent browning, steam or coat light colored fruits and vegetables with lemon juice before drying. Steaming or blanching is recommended for vegetables to inactivate enzymes (as in freezing) and if not done may toughen the vegetable during drying.
5. Sufficient temperature and air circulation is extremely important. 130 degrees to 140 degrees removes the moisture quickly without affecting the texture, color, flavor or nutritional value of the foods you are dehydrating. If the temperature and air circulation is not adequate it may not dry properly. To low of temperature or air circulation it may cause undesirable microbiological changes To high in temperature or low in humidity, nutrients can be lost or the moisture on the surface may be removed too quickly while not drying it throughout sufficiently. Make sure your food has cooled before you test for sufficient dryness. How do you know when it has dried sufficiently? You foods should be pliable and leathery, or hard and brittle when dried. The foods should contain 10%of their moisture. Fruits need to be “conditioned” before storing; vegetables do not because they are so dry.
6. Conditioning Fruits: Home dried fruits contain about 20% moisture so they need additional drying time or “conditioning”. Conditioning equalizes the moisture content, caused by their size or location in the dehydrator, in fruits. This reduces the chances of the growth of mold. How do you do this? Once the fruit has cooled, pack it loosely in plastic or glass jars. Seal the containers and let the stand for 7 to 10 days. Shake the containers daily to keep the pieces separated. The excess moisture in some of the fruits will be absorbed by the drier pieces of fruit. Also check the containers for condensation daily. If condensation appears there is too much moisture present, dehydrate the fruit again.
7. How to pack the dried fruit: Pack your dehydrated fruits in tightly sealed containers; ie: moisture proof freezer containers, heavy duty Ziploc bag with a 3/8-inch seal, metal containers or dark sanitized glass jars with lids. Glass jars are the best because they are insect and rodent proof. Pack the containers as tightly as possible without crushing. Pack the foods in the amounts to be eaten or for a recipe. Each time the bag is opened it exposes the foods to air and moisture and will lower its’ quality.
8. Store in a cool, dark, dry area. Dried fruits can be stored 1 year at 60 degrees F, 6 months at 80 degrees F. Vegetables have about half the shelf-life. Check on your dried food frequently to make sure they are stabilized and have not taken on moisture. If your foods have taken on moisture use immediately or re-dry and repackage. If your foods are moldy, discard.
Eat your dehydrated fruits and vegetables within 6 to 12 months so you can enjoy them at their best quality.
If you want more information
Well, you have done all of the work, now you get to eat, enjoy and share your bounty. What a loving gift to yourself to be able to accomplish this powerful way of keeping foods good beyond the fresh food stage. Congratulations! You have prolonged your fresh flavors for more…

Good Eating,

Sandi Sabel
Terra Verde Foods

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