I tend to approached canning with suspicion. I enjoy fermentation and dehydration infinitely more, in part because they are steeped in thousand-year plus ethnic traditions, and more so, because they retain (or create) more nutrients and offer health benefits. And yet, I can’t quite match the glowing satisfaction I feel when I line up my jars of canned goods in my pantry – they are simply gorgeous – and shelf stable! On an island where winter power outages are the norm, my home canned salmon sits smugly, while their frozen counterparts melt in the freezer and my fermentations get super bubbly and blow their lids!
Because canning is a modern invention, I feel it’s wise to look to scientifically tested best practices for safe canning. Here are some of the most important points to get you safely started on your journey to canning bliss:
-Botulism food poisoning is the biggest risk associated with home preserving. But avoiding it is simple. Botulism spores are killed by temperatures reached in a pressure canner (higher than boiling water), or botulism spores are completely suppressed in an acidic environment (pH<4.6)
– Low acid foods (pH >4.6) MUST be acidified OR canned in a pressure canner (e.g. green beans – you can make dilly green beans, acidified by the additions of a vinegar brine and can them in a boiling water bath. Or, you can can plain green beans in water, but use a pressure canner
-For a great list of low acid food (including some fruits!) visit http://pickyourown.org/food_acidity.htm
-Use tested recipes, do not assume you can safely can your favorite family recipe.
-No need to add tons of sugar to jam anymore – No-Sugar Needed pectin is available
-Use the finest fruits and vegetables for canning. Dehydrate less than optimal or overripe fruit.
An amazing food preservation resource is the National Center for Home Food Preservation