PRESERVING: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CANNING, DRYING, OR FREEZING
Oh yes, you can do this. All you have to do is be prepared and have the right tools available and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Almost anything can be preserved in some kind of way, either, by canning, freezing or drying.
People think that canning or drying foods is scary and difficult, but just the opposite; it is healthy and easy. When you can, dry, and freeze the produce you have grown, you know absolutely everything that has gone into those vegetables and fruits.
You are taking charge of your own health and food. Not only are you taking charge of your family’s health and the food that they eat, you are working together as a family for a common good and enjoying relationships that will last for a lifetime, not to mention extra money for any surplus that you may sell.
Every year my family sells canned figs, mint jellies, and other preserves at an upscale arts and crafts show in our community. We sell a lot of different items, but the canned preserves are always the first to go and at a high price too!
There are two main approaches to canning; the boiling water canning method and the pressure canning method. Fruits and tomatoes may be processed using the boiling water method found below, but the United States Department of Agriculture recommends that the pressure canner method is the only safe method for canning low acid foods such as vegetables, poultry and meats. If using the pressure canner method, always be sure to follow instructions in your manual. The steps will be the same as the boiling method of canning up until you place the jars into the canner.
First, you need to gather the tools that you will need for preserving.
-tongs (with coated handles) for lifting jars
-glass canning jars
-magnetic lid lifter
-saucepan for sterilizing lids
-clean dish towels
These can be bought at you local supermarket as a 9- or 12-piece canning kit. If you have the large stockpot and just need the other equipment, you can get them here (that is not including the jars or lids).
Be organized and prepared before beginning. Always, always read your recipe carefully and thoroughly, and gather all of your equipment and ingredients. Make sure all equipment is in good condition, no broken or cracked jars or rusted bands. Always use new lids. Place glass jars in a large stockpot covered with water. Bring the water to a boil and continue to boil for 10 minutes. As you are ready to fill the jars, lift them out carefully with the jar lifter, emptying the water. Place these sterilized jars on a clean surface that will not scorch or burn. A clean dish towel, butcher paper or paper towels will do just fine. Quick tip—the sterilization option on your dishwasher will more than adequately handle the sterilization process.
Bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer and remove from heat. Drop the jar lids into the saucepan, cover the pan and let lids warm for at least 10 minutes. The lids should not be removed until the jars are ready to be sealed. A magnetic lid lifter makes it easier to remove the lids from the pan.
The jars and lids are now sterilized.
Prepare recipe, seal, and process
Prepare the recipe as directed. Ladle the mixture into the sterilized jars leaving ½ inch air space at the top. Remove all bubbles, wipe excess mixture from the threads of the jars, place sterilized lid on each jar using a magnetic lid lifter. Screw the bands onto the jars securely. Immediately, place the jars into the canning rack. Boil the jars in water 2-3 inches over the top of the jars. Keep the water at that level and boiling until you have reached the specified processing time. Times will vary depending on sizes of jars and ingredients. Let the jars cool in the canner for a few minutes and then remove. Place processed jars on a kitchen towel and allow cooling for 12-24 hours. These may be stored for up to one year or longer.
If you are preparing a recipe low in acid, you will need to use the Pressure Canning Method. Watch the video of me making and canning Granny’s Homemade soup HERE.
All of the steps of canning are the same until the water is placed inside the canner. If Pressure Canning, place 2 to 3 inches of water in the canner, then place the rack and jars inside being careful not to allow the jars to touch each other or the sides of the canner. Snap the lid closed. Allow steam to come out of the canner for 10 minutes. Place the correct weight on the vent to pressurize the canner (the correct weight will be given in your canner instruction manual). Begin timing when the weight starts to wiggle or the gauge reads the correct pressure. Keep the heat as even as possible and when the time is up remove canner from heat. Allow the pressure to return to zero and release the steam. Open lid and direct steam away from you. Remove jars and place on a rack or kitchen towel and allow to slowly cool.
If lids do not “pop” down or you notice that the middle of the lid gives under pressure, place in the refrigerator and enjoy for a few months. These jars did not process properly.
Do not forget to label and date. Personalize your creations with labels, pieces of cloth and ribbons. You will love these as you begin to use them – they might even be given for gifts, or taken to parties. ENJOY!!!!
Freezing is a great way to preserve your harvest. This is my favorite way to preserve meat as well as many vegetables and fruits.
Freezing meat is a “must” for those of you buying whole cows or those that hunt large game. Meat can be canned and dried, but freezing saves room and allows for more options in cooking. After allowing freshly harvested meat such as poultry, wild game, or recently butchered beef to age, wrap in airtight, moisture proof containers. Of course, there are vacuum sealers that are an excellent way to freeze meats. If you are freezing a lot, I recommend this vacuum sealer. There are freezer jars and plastic containers, but my favorite is freezer paper. It saves room and is easy to label. There are great instructions that come with the freezer paper. I like to double wrap the meat to insure freshness. Always thaw your meat in the refrigerator when ready to use the meat.
When freezing fruit, I have found it best not to wash the fruit, but to brush any visible debris from the fruit instead. Washing the fruit tends to make it mushy upon thawing. Take your harvest and freeze individually on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, grab a freezer bag and fill it with your frozen fruit and place back into freezer. It is as easy as that!
When freezing fresh vegetables, always clean them, check them carefully for dirt, or other debris. Once they are clean, the next step is blanching. Blanching consists of boiling the raw vegetables for 2-3 minutes and then stopping the blanching process by cooling. Cooling is accomplished either by placing the vegetables immediately into cool to cold water. This completely stops the cooking process and the vegetables are then ready to be placed in freezer bags or containers and frozen until you are ready to enjoy them.
Drying is perhaps the oldest method of preserving. It dates back to the days of our ancient ancestors and Native Americans. They preserved their harvests long before canners, pressure cookers, and freezers were invented. They sun-dried their fruits and vegetables, but I prefer using the oven, or a dehydrator if you prefer. I do not have to deal with insects that way! It is easy to dry fruits, vegetables, herbs, and even chili peppers. You more than likely already have all that is needed to pursue preservation by this method.
Drying Beans and Peppers
1. Wash your harvest and string your beans, peppers, and herbs together with a needle and heavy-duty thread or fishing line, making a knot around each bean.
2. Repeat until the thread is full and then simply hang these beans for several months in a dry place.
Drying Fruits and Vegetables
One of my favorite methods of drying is that of using the oven or a dehydrator. My children especially love preserving their harvest by this method. They love making dried fruits such as peaches, apples, figs, and berries. I love them preserving using the drying method as they eat these delicious fruits and berries as snacks rather than all of the snacks chocked full of sugars and artificial ingredients that seem to have made their way into our diets at the grocery stores. Preserving really offers us a much healthier way of living our lives. If using a dehydrator, follow the instructions in your manual.
Drying using Oven
1. Set the oven to the lowest possible setting.
2. Slice your fruits and vegetables into thin pieces and place on a cookie sheet.
3. Cook overnight or until all moisture is removed.
4. Store your dried goods, pack them in freezer bags or in food-saver packets. Freeze them for up to a year.
And, let’s not forget jerky. My men love their jerky. After they have prepared the finer venison for the freezer, they use the less desired meat for jerky. The result is another wonderfully healthy snack loaded with protein.
1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees.
2. Thinly slice meat and season as you desire.
3. Place meat about 1/2 inch apart on a cookie sheet.
3. Bake for six hours.