Canning can be a great tool for preserving food. It allows for storage of foods over long periods of time. This means that even after the season is over these foods can be enjoyed. There are lots of ways to can foods and many kinds of foods can be canned. Some methods include pickling, pressure cooking, and boiling. To learn more about ways to can visit the USDA website. Canning can also be beneficial because, if done properly, refrigeration is not needed to preserve the foods. This saves energy and space, and the food will stay preserved longer in a can than in the refrigerator.
For these reasons, it was a valuable lesson for Farm to YoUNH students to learn. Not only did we get to experience canning as the incredible process it is, but we also got to learn how to utilize the vegetables we were growing. It was a lesson in cooking and processing as much as it was a lesson in preserving. We spent a whole class period learning how to can by cooking both salsa and tomato sauce. In the process, we covered canning safety, cooking techniques, and canning recipes.
Canning is popular due to the fact that it saves money and canned products have such a long shelf life. Many people do it at home, but if not done right it can lead to sickness or death. A major disease that happens from improper canning is Botulism (Andress, 2012). Botulism is caused by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria which can cause a rare but deadly food poisoning (Andress, 2012). The symptoms are weakness, trouble speaking, seeing, and sleeping. The final stages can cause paralysis and even death (Andress, 2012). It is extremely heat resistant and shows little to no signs when examining the food that it resides within. To prevent Botulism the only reliable treatment is to apply heat while canning low acid foods (Andress, 2012). A pressure cooker is recommended over boiling or other methods for the best success in removing the bacteria (Andress, 2012). In high acid foods there isn’t as much of an issue with Botulism so conventional boiling and traditional methods can be used (Andress, 2012). If done right canning can be done safely and provide tasty treats all year.
Our Canning Project-The Food
All the produce we used was grown by the Farm to YoUNH program. We found ourselves with an abundance of wonderful tomatoes and decided the best way to utilize them would be to can them. We also used our own peppers and garlic. Crops were all grown at the high tunnels and in the field located at the Fairchild Dairy center. The tomatoes and peppers were grown in the high tunnels to maximize production and utilized trellises to allow for easy access for picking. These crops were grown and cared for by the Farm to YoUNH students and farm manager Ross MacKeil. We used just over 100lbs of tomatoes to make salsa and pasta sauce. During the process of canning we also made tomato juice with some extra tomatoes. This was a wonderful treat for everyone to enjoy while we canned.
Our Canning Project-The Process
We practiced two different techniques of milling tomatoes for sauce production; by hand and by machine. Sauce tomatoes were first cut into halves and cooked on the stove for a bit to make milling easier for both techniques. The first technique, hand milling, utilized a muddle and strainer. The strainer should be set over a pot to catch the tomato juice. Tomato halves are placed inside the strainer then pressed by hand with a muddle to separate juice from skin. Although this practice may become tiring, it is the traditional technique and works well if you are not making homemade sauce often or at a high volume. On the other hand the second technique, a crank machine, was much easier and faster to use. This machine had a funnel-like bowl on top, a hand crank on the side, and fastened to the side of a table. Tomato halves were placed into the bowl, when the crank is rotated the halves drop down into the machine where they become milled. A pot is placed on the side to catch the contents. This method seemed to be preferred by the class, and is ideal for producing larger quantities of sauce or making sauce often.
During the class canning endeavor, mason jars were boiled on two separate occasions for different purposes. First, both the jars and lids were submerged in boiling water for sanitation. Jars were then pulled from the boiling water using tongs and filled with sauce or salsa, leaving a half-inch of space before the rim. Once filled it is important to wipe the top of the rim free of any water or food, so that the lid will seal properly. Once the lid is secured on the jar it is again set into a pot of boiling water. This second boiling technique ensures that any bacteria introduced while filling the jars is killed, and creates an airtight seal. If done correctly, the lid will make no movement or noise when pressed on.
While we used a recipe specific to our instructors and the produce we had on hand, there are many ways of canning out there. Recipe books are a good place to start, as well as the USDA website. Your family may even have recipes for you to learn. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, open the fridge or walk out into the garden and create something new! Just remember to always follow canning safety rules to prevent illness. Find your recipe and get canning today!
Andress, Elizabeth. “Home Canning: Keep Your Family Safe!” Foodsafety.gov. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 12 September 2012. Web. 27 October 2015.