Saturday, September 22, 2012

Do the Can Can

So, you want to learn how to Can do you? When people ask me how to do it my reply is usually something like "I dunno......I just do".

Growing up we had a fair sized garden and my mom did lots of canning. It was really more out of necessity than anything. We lived in a very small isolated community and in the winter we often couldn't go to town for weeks at a time. We had a small community grocery store that had the basics, you know, bread, eggs and milk, but it was very expensive and didn't have everything you needed.

My mom canned the basics....peaches, pears, cherries, salmon. Yes salmon, but don't worry, today we will start with something far easier than Salmon.

I always suggest apples as a good place to start. They are abundant in the fall and very forgiving no matter what you do to them but since I am already up to my eyeballs in peaches, we will start there, and I'll do this in laymans terms so feel free to follow along with a glass of wine.

What you NEED (there are lots of other things that are nice to have but you can start out with a very basic set up)......

~a large stock pot,
~canning jars (500ml/pint jars are great for beginners),
~fruit of choice (we are using peaches today),
~a pair of tongs
~a whole lot of ambition.

The very first thing you do is wash your jars and rings. I run mine through the sani cycle. Set the seals aside for now we will get to those shortly.

Now you want your peaches to be nice and ripe because you need to peel them. You can dip them in boiling water for ten seconds and then ice water to shock them and the skin should just slide off but I prefer to use peaches that are ripe enough that the skin just peels off without having to blanch them. Beware though, they are so yummy at this stage you may eat more than you can. So cut the peach around the pit the same way you do an avocado, then twist the halts and they should come apart, this is where you will be thankful that you got freestone peaches. The stone will come right away, then pick the stone out of the other half, it should pop right out. Then grab a piece of skin and just start to pull the skin off. If the peach is the perfect ripeness it should slide right off. You can leave them in halves for quarter them or slice them. Whatever you like then toss them in to the jars. Pack them pretty good, and get about 3/4" from the top.

Once your jars are all full you want to make a syrup to pack the jars with. I use a very light syrup. 1cup of sugar to 4 cups of water. Put sugar and water in a pot and bring to a boil. While waiting for the syrup to boil Put the seals in another pot of water and bring them to a boil. Once boiled, remove from heat and set aside. Pour the syrup in to the jars leaving about 1/2"-3/4" of headspace. Use a knife slid into the side of the jar to remove any air bubbles and top up with syrup of needed. Wipe jar rim, using tongs remove seal from hot water pan and put on the jar, screw ring on but only finger tight. What this means is just screw it on and give it one good crank. Don't go overboard tightening it. This inhibits the ability for air to escape and a vacuum to be created.

Once you have all of your jars filled and lids on place in your large pot....ideally you will have an actual canning pot with a rack but no worries if you don't. You can buy the racks separately to fit in your really big soup pot or I just cover the bottom with extra rings until a little rack is created. Place jars in the pot and fill with water until there is 1" of water above the jars and put the lid on (I had not yet put the lid on in the photo to the left). Turn stove on high (if you have a flat top range you need to do this on a camp stove outside or at a friends house. Flat top stoves don't like canners) once the water comes to a boil you start your processing time.  For pints you process for 30 minutes and for quarts 35 minutes.  Once the timer goes off, turn the heat off and remove the jars from the pot.  Use tongs to do this and place the jars on a heavy towel to cool.  You want to leave them alone until they are fully cooled, as they cool you will hear the lids snap, this means they have sealed.  Once the jars are completely cool, check the seal by tapping on the lid.  An unsealed lid makes a hollow sound and you can push it down in the center, a sealed lid is already sucked down on it's own.  Now you have canned peaches to enjoy over the winter.  Peaches will remain shelf stable for at least a year.  They are still good after that but a year is generally when the quality will begin to decline.

When you put up your jars remember to remove the rings and store them separately.  This is important, if a seal breaks in storage and bacteria grows you want to know that when you take the jar down.  If the rings are off, the seal will be broken when you take the jar down alerting you to the spoiled jar, if you leave the ring on the contents can ferment and bacteria can grow and the jar can reseal itself trapping the bacteria in and you would never know, and you put yourself at risk.  Now this sounds scary, but in my entire life I've never had a jar unseal while in storage.  I did have one jar of jam that looked iffy when I took it down but it was still sealed....I tossed it.  Better safe than sorry.

So there you have it, happy canning!!

No comments:

Post a Comment