I don’t know about you, but when I used to think about canning, I pictured a grey-haired grandmother in her apron, with jars of food everywhere. But times change. Today, people young and old are canning. What made canning cool? We read so much about fresh, whole food without a lot of processing, additives or preservatives — and we want to eat that way, too.
I tried my hand at canning about 15 years ago. I didn’t know what I was doing and thought I could just wing it. As luck would have it, I didn’t poison myself. Over the years, I learned there are important rules to follow, from sterilizing the jars, assuring the acid level is appropriate and allowing the proper length of time to process the jars. It’s not difficult, but it is important.
There are two main types of canning; waterbath and pressure canning. Waterbath canning is used for high-acid foods, such as tomatoes. Pressure canning is used for low-acid foods, such as meats and some vegetables. While it’s possible to pressure-can high-acid foods, you cannot waterbath can low-acid foods. I did a segment last year for “Valley Dish,” a cooking program on local television, that gives step-by-step video instructions for the waterbath method. If you email me, I’ll send you the link.
I teach waterbath canning classes, but lately, visions of green beans and peas are dancing in my head, and I’m learning everything I can about pressure canning before I purchase the equipment. I am very close.
For waterbath canning, you do not have to buy a lot of equipment up front, and you probably already have most of the equipment, such as a large stockpot. There are just a few helpful items that will set you back about $10: the jar lifter, funnel and headspace measuring tool. Even if you never can again, these tools have other uses in the kitchen. Once you love canning, you will want to purchase a “real” canner since it will make your life easier.
Now that you have the canning bug, read all about it or take a class. Learn the basics to get started. Spend a few hours, or a day, preserving nature’s bounty, then enjoy it for the rest of the year. Taste what real food tastes like without all the added stuff. Get your family or friends involved, and have fun.
We’d love to hear about your canning experiences. Email me, or leave your thoughts in the comments section below this column at EastValleyTribune.com.
• Judy A. Toth is the owner of Simply Impressive Cooking School in Mesa. Her column appears the second Wednesday of the month. Reach her at (480) 654-1981 or www.SimplyImpressive.com