Preserving the Harvest

Preserving the Harvest
Posted June 12, 2017

Peach jam, strawberry preserves, pickles, they're all the wonderful things you can make when  you take up home canning. Now is the time get out the canning jars, gather up some of the terrific fresh fruits and vegetables available in the summer and can! Preserve summer's produce by pickling beans, onions, peppers, and pickles. Make jams, jellies, canned peach halves and apricots. Fill your pantry with fresh tomato pasta sauce, salsa, relish and chutney, and whole canned tomatoes to enjoy later in the coming seasons.

Home canning is not complicated. It is a simple procedure of applying heat to food in a closed jar in order to interrupt the natural decaying that would otherwise take place. It requires “processing” or “heat processing” foods according to up-to-date, tested home canning guidelines. Proper home canning includes:

  • Placing prepared food in home canning jars which are then sealed with two-piece vacuum caps;
  • Heating the filled jars to the designated temperature using the correct type of canner for the food being processed;
  • Processing the filled jars for the required time as stated by an up-to-date, tested recipe in order to destroy the spoilage microorganisms and inactive enzymes;
  • Cooling jars properly, allowing the lids to vent excess air from the jars to form a vacuum seal.

When followed exactly, the processing methods and times of up-to-date, tested home canning recipes adequately destroy normal levels of heat-resistant microorganisms. After processing and upon cooling, a vacuum is formed and the lid seals onto the jar. This ensures that home canned foods will be free of spoilage when the jars are stored properly and remain vacuum-sealed. This seal prevents other microorganisms from entering and re-contaminating the food.

Home Canning Basics

  • Use only the best, top quality ingredients. Preserve fruits and vegetables at their peak of ripeness.
  • Process ALL home canned foods: High-Acid Foods in a Boiling-Water Canner, Low-Acid Foods in a Steam-Pressure Canner
  • Follow only current, tested home canning recipes that include the appropriate processing method for the food type being canned; give a specific processing time for the food type and size home canning jar used; designate headspace; come from a reputable source offering up-to-date recipes, following acceptable canning guidelines.
  • Follow manufacturer’s directions for preparing home canning jars and two-piece vacuum caps. Complete instructions can be found on each package.
  • Fill hot jar with prepared recipe. Leave recommended headspace. Remove air bubbles by sliding a nonmetallic spatula between the jar and food; press gently on the food to release trapped air. Repeat around the circumference of the jar.
  • Wipe rim and threads with a clean, damp cloth. Center heated lid on jar. Screw band down evenly and firmly until a point of resistance is met – fingertip tight.
  • After processing, remove jars from canner; set jars upright on a towel to cool. Do NOT re-tighten bands or check for a seal while jars are hot.
  • After 24 hours, check lids for a seal. Sealed lids curve downward. Press the center of the lid to ensure it does not flex up or down. (Reprocess or refrigerate any unsealed jars.) Remove bands. Wipe jars and lids with a clean, damp cloth and dry. Wash bands in soapy water, dry and store.
  • Label and store jars in a cool, dry, dark place. For best quality, use home canned foods within one year.

PLEASE NOTE: This guide is only meant to give you a basic overview of what home canning is all about. Please visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation or for tested and reliable canning recipes, or pick up a book on home canning that can give you more detailed information. Canning methods and cooking times should be followed exactly as stated in each recipe.


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