Growing and preserving your own food lets you enjoy delicious, in-season fruits and vegetables throughout the year. For many of us, who may not have our very own home garden, there is still a way we can capture the great quality and flavor of fresh fruits and vegetables and indulge in all year. Fruit and vegetable growers offer a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables; notably squash, okra, greens and, of course, those sweet watermelons during the summer months at local farmers’ markets and roadside stands. If you are thinking about canning as a way to preserve food this summer, there are a couple of things you should have in place before getting started.
Recipes: All home-canned foods should be prepared using research-tested recipes. Research is done continually to provide the latest, most up-to-date recommendations. Many new guidelines have been released over the last couple of years, so make sure your recipes have the latest information to keep your family safe. Your county Extension office will be able to provide you with this information.
Here is a great recipe from the Home Food Preservation Book you can try:
Remove husks, wash and remove silks from corn.
Hot Pack: Place corn in a large pot of boiling water and boil 5 minutes. Then, dip the ears in cold water and cut kernels from cob. Prepare enough to make 10 cups of kernels. Combine red and green peppers, celery, onion, sugar, vinegar, salt and celery seed in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Dip out ½ cup of the simmered mixture and add mustard and turmeric. Mix well. Then, return this mixture to the pot. Add corn. Simmer another 5 minutes. If desired, thicken mixture with flour paste (1/4 cup flour blended in ¼ cup water) and stir frequently. Fill hot jars with relish, leaving a ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims and adjust the lids. Process in a boiling water-bath canner. Half-pints or pints, 15 minutes
Equipment: Review the equipment needed for canning and make sure they are ready in advance. A water-bath canner is needed for processing fruits and a large pressure-canner is essential for vegetables, meats, fish and other low acid foods. You should also have a sharp knife, jars, measuring cups, new lids, funnel, sugar, salt, rings and a jar lifter. Check your jars for chipping, check gaskets for damage and then call your county Extension office to request a day to have your canner lid tested. While there, pick up a Home Food Preservation order request form. This book is the only reference and recipe book of its kind published in Alabama. Home Food Preservation includes information on canning, freezing, drying, jams, jellies, pickles, relishes and other combination foods, and is based on the most recent USDA guidelines.
Canning Process: The canning process should begin as each fruit or vegetable is being harvested. For a nicer product, try to use fruit or vegetables without any sign of insect damage, bruising or wilting. The first step will be to sterilize your jars. As you prepare your recipe, get your canner on the stove. Next, fill your jars according to the directions and then seal. After removing them from the canner, put them onto a dry, clean cloth where they can sit for the next 24 hours. The following morning, you should check to make sure you have a good seal. If you do, put them up to enjoy this winter.
Storage: You want to make sure you have a good storage area; after-all, you’ve put in a lot of work. Most canned food items are good for up to a year. For a complete list, you can download the Extension publication "Better Safe than Sorry - Food Storage Chart," or request one from your county office. There are many other publications available for home food preservers at their website: www.aces.edu. You may also visit the University of Georgia’s website for more information at: www.uga.edu/nchfp/.
Finally, we have completed the rewarding job of canning our fresh fruits and vegetables. There is nothing left to do now, but sit back and enjoy!