Sunday, September 5, 2010

Food Preservation Part 1

It is Harvest time and around here and food is being put up almost daily. (For the uninitiated, “putting up” food is preserving and storing it for later use). Since it is fresh in my mind, I figured I would share some methods and tips on food preservation.

There are 4 main ways to preserve food; canning, freezing, dehydrating, and cellaring. Each method has its pros and cons. I will briefly touch on all 4, but I do not practice all 4 yet, so my knowledge is limited in a couple of these areas.  Today, I'm just going to touch on canning.  I will cover other forms of preservation in future posts.


Canning is the process of heating food to kill microorganisms and then hermetically sealing the container to prevent re-contamination. There are 2 types of canning: water bath canning and pressure canning. Which method you use is determined by one thing, the pH, or acidity, of food. In canning, all foods are divided into 2 categories: high-acid foods and low-acid foods.

Water bath canning is used for high-acid foods; that is all recipes that have a pH of 4.6 or lower. Generally, these foods include fruits, soft spreads, and fermented foods such as pickles. Jars of food are processed in boiling water, a temperature sufficient for killing yeast, mold, and some bacteria. If dealing with food pH scares you, stick with a tested recipe and follow it exactly. This is the safest way to can in a water bath.
Pressure canning is not something I have done yet, but a pressure canner is on my wish list. A pressure canner is essentially a large pressure cooker designed to hold canning jars for processing. Pressure canning is typically reserved for low-acid foods, or recipes with a pH of 4.6 or higher. Generally, this includes vegetables, meats, soups, and stews. Foods are processed under pressure, allowing it to reach a temperature of 240 degrees, thereby killing bacteria and their spores, particularly botulism.

There are a ton of resources out there with detailed instructions how to can.  I am not going to go into detail on the process of canning in this post because I really can't give thorough and correct directions without plagarizing someone else's instructions.  Honestly, I don't want to be liable if my own version of canning directions aren't complete enough and someone gets sick.  

The #1 resource I suggest to people for canning is the Ball Blue Book of preserving. This is the canning “bible” and has detailed instructions to get you started and a selection of tried and true recipes as well as basic information on dehydrating and freezing. I used this book to teach myself to can about 7 years ago. If you purchase the Ball Canning Kit the book is included.

I also use the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving which includes many of the recipes from the “blue book” and hundreds more. It also contains detailed instructions on canning and includes some pressure canning recipes.

The third book in my library that has great recipes is the Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book. This is a basic cook book many people have in their home. It was my very first cookbook when I moved out on my own, but I forgot all about the canning recipes in it until I was looking for a ketchup recipe and someone suggested the one in this book.

A complete list of my favorite books for cooking and canning can be found in my book list.

1 comment:

  1. A friend also reminded me of this great website:

    They have directions, recipes, and lots of good information.