Canning Tips

By , July 1, 2014

Soon, our homestead will once again become “canning central” as we preserve our fruit, vegetable, and fish harvests. A few years ago, we attended a presentation on canning from the Alaska Cooperative Extension Service (like your County Cooperative Extension, except we don’t have counties in Alaska). While initially, we feared it would be too basic, we learned some significant facts that should be passed on, along with observations of our own.

Perhaps the most interesting bit of information is the question of sterilizing jars. We learned from our mothers the importance of sterilization, perhaps most tedious step in canning. We learned at the presentation that any canning process longer than 10 minutes does not require pre-sterilized jars. The instructor elaborated further that, since that’s the case, they recommend extending all canning sessions to 10 or more minutes just to relieve the need to pre-sterilize the jars! I specifically asked, and was told this works for fish and meat canning as well as fruits and vegetables.

The Alaska Cooperative Extension Service is well known for its conservatism. They seem to be on a crusade to eliminate all risk from food preparation, so if they say this is all right, they must have examined it from every conceivable angle before recommending it! We appreciate simplifying the process, and the reduced fuel cost.

We also learned that for jams and jellies, 1/3 of the produce should be green, to provide extra pectin. Green fruits lose pectin as they ripen, so using this ratio ensures better set, particularly for jellies.

We’ve discovered Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which is activated by calcium rather than sugar. It also allows us to be more flexible in batch sizing than other pectins. The resulting preserves offer far more natural fruit flavor, without the heavy loads of sugar.

We have begun small project canning, sealing a jar or two at a time in a smaller pressure cooker. We find that doing it a little at a time adds up quickly, without making a huge job out of it. It’s also a safer way to store leftovers longer term!

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