Last year my friend Diane worked her fingers to the bone in her garden. That woman hoed, weeded, watered, and lovingly tended everything she planted (which was diametrically opposed to my haphazard method of growing vegetables!). She was up at dawn, toiling away before the heat of the southern sun reached its peak. She continued her ministrations in the waning hours before dark. Naturally her plants produced magnificently.
She picked 5-gallon bucket after 5-gallon bucket of her bumper crop, from tomatoes to squash to green beans and more. Her green beans did especially well.
At her invitation, I stopped by the house later in the week to pick however many green beans I wanted. Her pantry was full with those she had put up the day before, and she said she’d burn the plants before she picked another bean! She was canning jars upon jars of the stuff, and after the batch she planned on putting up that day, she was finished with green beans. She was in the middle of washing and scalding her jars when I got there, her lids were simmering on the stove, and her green beans were cut and rinsed, waiting for jars.
And she had a boiling bath canner going on the stove.
I hesitated. Diane was an ace master gardener, and had forgotten more about the art than I would ever know. She could make a silk plant bear fruit. However, my specialty was canning, something she had just picked up. I knew she was in trouble that day in the kitchen.
“You don’t have a pressure canner?” I asked her. She shook her head. It seemed that this was the method that her grandmother had used to put up garden vegetables, and she was quite content to use it. I offered her the use of my pressure canner, tried to tell her about low-acid foods, but to no avail. She pooh-poohed my concern with, “I haven’t killed anyone yet with these beans. They’ll be fine.” I made a mental note NOT to eat any green beans she cooked for our get-togethers.
I wasn’t surprised by her phone call a few months later. “I’m just sick,” she said. “Every jar of green beans that I put up is ruined. Every seal is broken.”
The Rules Have Changed
There’s a lot of misinformation on canning out there that, if you use it, can make you sick or kill you. Some of it is old prep methods that have been found to be less than adequate for processing food. For example, it used to be thought that if you processed low-acid foods in a boil bath canner for three or more hours, you would kill the bacteria that could grow in these foods.
That’s just not true. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. You can boil it for one minute or three days, and it’s still going to remain 212 degrees. Many bacteria need temperatures higher than that to kill them off, and the only way to achieve those temperatures is with a pressure canner.
Some folks have actually tried using the “Steam Dry” cycle of their dishwasher to can foods. Umm…no. And you can’t use the natural heat from a compost pile to process your food either. (Yes, someone actually suggested that!)
Then there are others who simply put their hot foods in sterilized jars, put on a lid and ring, and let the jars seal themselves (this is referred to as the “open kettle” method). This is not a method you want to employ if you don’t want your family spending the hours after supper jockeying for barfing privileges in the bathroom.
Bacteria are nasty, industrious little creatures who attack when we least expect it.
On the other hand, you can do everything right in regard to your canner choices but remain sloppy in your prep work and still have seal failure because you didn’t adhere to standard guidelines for washing and sterilizing your jars or preparing your food before canning. The whole canning process is a synergistic one, and each step relies on the one before it in order to assure successful outcomes.
Reviving a Lost Art
According to a 2010 National Gardening Survey performed by the National Gardening Association, we’ve seen an increase in interest in canning. In 2007, 25 million households (22%) were utilizing canning as a food preservation method. By 2009 those figures were up to 31 million households (27%) breaking into the canning tradition.
The Internet has done a lot to bring vast amounts of knowledge to many people that could not access that knowledge before. However, like anything else, you must be sure that people who are trying to teach you a process are a reliable source.
YouTube enables anyone to make a video and throw it out there for the world to see. And quite frankly, just as my friend learned, methods that were in use years ago may not be considered safe by today’s standards. And the last thing you want to do is sicken your family because you haven’t preserved your food properly.
So if you’re new to this whole prepper, “back-to-basics” mindset, how do you start learning how to can? What is a reliable source to get the information you need to learn to can successfully? All your canning questions and more are answered in Solutions From Science’s Food Storage Secrets, a 2-disc DVD set that will show you the art of canning.
In this series you’ll learn:
- The two different methods of canning
- A breakdown of equipment needs
- Step-by-step instructions for canning fruits, vegetables and meats
- Timetable charts for processing times and poundage
- Altitude charts for adjusting canning pressure for your area
- Basic canning recipes
- Instructions for special diets
- Troubleshooting tips
- Canning hints
- And more!
Included in the Food Storage Secrets set is a printable companion guide eBook that will allow you to keep all this information at your fingertips. This eBook includes the history of canning, quick reference charts, step-by-step instructions for different categories of food, and common canning problems and their solutions. It’s a comprehensive guide to all things canning!
Food preservation methods have changed drastically over the years as we’ve learned more about how food-borne pathogens and illnesses propagate and the ideal conditions in which they grow. Food Storage Secrets incorporates the latest technology and knowledge to show you how to can safely and successfully.
(And if you’re already an experienced canner, this set can be an excellent tool to teach your children the fine art of canning. Give the gift of Food Storage Secrets and help pass on this valuable knowledge to the next generation!)
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Source: Solutions From Science posted at OffTheGrid