Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Canning Fruit 101

If you've just returned from a trip to fruitville and come home with fruit that needs to be dealt with NOW, this is an awesome way to save your yummy fruit for another day. Can it.

You do need a few things, and some things just make life easier. Here's what I use (not the brand, just some of the stuff).

The little magnet device is for lifting hot, flat, sealing lids from the bowl. It doesn't work, but the idea is a good one. Pity the magnet is pathetic.

You can operate without a funnel, but it makes a mess unless you're a pro with a ladling lumpy hot substances. I'm not.

The jar lifter is totally useful. It's for lifting the jars out of the oven where I keep them hot while getting the fruit ready, and also for lifting the finished jars out of the water bath.

I don't find the rubberized tongs useful and I don't actually have the bottle cleaner. I just wash my jars in hot soapy water.

And this is necessary. The water bath canner.

It's essentially just a big, deep, enamel pot with a rack for up to seven jars (quarts or pints work best. The tiniest jam jars slip right through, but you can line the rack with a wash cloth). The rack lifts and rests on the sides of the pot when you are filling or emptying the rack. Use your rubber jar lifter for that. You lose less to broken jars or toppled jars than if you use regular tongs.

Okay, here's what I do and a bit of explanation. I'm not a scientist, but I've read some things and some things are easy enough to do, so why risk your health? Also, keep in mind that I'm not a perfectionist and am pretty lenient. You do what feels right for you.

I'll use peaches as an example since it's very fresh in my mind and the house is still humid from all the boiling.

Basically you create a simple syrup, fill jars with peeled peaches, cover them with the syrup and boil the jars for 15 minutes. Only read on if you need step-by-step instructions. It's a lot of steps that you only need if you haven't done this before.
  1. Set a big pot of water to boil for blanching the peaches.
  2. Fill your canner about halfway with water and put it to boil. It takes a while to boil.
  3. Fill another big pot with 4 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar. Boil it and then just let it simmer.
  4. Wash your jars. I used 14 pint jars for 20 pounds of peaches.
  5. Line a cookie sheet with a tea towel and place the jars on it and into the oven on 200 degrees until you are ready for them. I'm not sure that's hot enough to consider it sterile. If that bothers you, look up what you need to do. Some dish washers have a sterilization setting, and some people boil their jars for 10 minues. I don't bother and I haven't killed anyone yet.
  6. Fill your sink with really cold water. Even add ice if you've got it.
  7. Pour boiling water into a bowl with the flat lids. It softens the rubber and helps them to seal.
  8. Once your blanching pot is boiling, fill it with peaches and boil for about one minute.
  9. Scoop them out and put them in the sink. The cold water makes the peel separate from the flesh and it's easy to peel them.
  10. Fill the pot with your next bunch of peaches and peel them all once blanched.
  11. Slice the peaches into the hot sugar water solution. Technically you don't have to heat the peaches at all because you are still going to process them, but heating the fruit and liquid together helps to keep the fruit evenly suspended in the jar, instead of floating to the top.
  12. Fill the hot jars. 20 pounds of peaches filled 15 pint jars for me. Top up with the hot liquid, covering the peaches.
  13. Wipe the tops of the jars. If you've got anything on the edge, it will stop the jars from sealing. You don't want that.
  14. Put a hot, flat lid on the jar and screw on the ring. The ring doesn't need to be hot.
  15. By now the water bath has been boiling for a while. Fill the rack with up to 7 jars. Lower it into the boiling water. Make sure that there is at least 1" of water above the jars. Add more water if you need to.
  16. Boil for 15 minutes. Raise the rack or use your rubberized jar lifter to remove the jars. Keep them upright and allow them to seal. Each jar should "pop" within 30 minutes when the jars seal. If they don't seal, you can reprocess them with the next batch, washing the lid, wiping the top and making sure the jar and seal are undamaged.
That's it. That maybe sounds complicated, but it really isn't. If I can do it, so can you.
Things I don't do that your mom may have done:
  • Hot pack fruit without further processing.
  • Seal jars with wax.
  • Use a hot water bath for anything other than fruit or acidic tomatoes.
Remember that the fruit and veg that we preserve now are not the same as when our moms did. With the lovely use of chemicals on our products over the years and all the other hybridizing and messing about with nature, the PH levels of things have changed and so have the safety rules regarding preserving.
Things I don't do that the USFDA says you should:
  • Sterilize all of my equipment, or my kitchen. I'm clean, but not sterile.
  • Boil everything to death. They sometimes want you to boil them to a mushy state.
  • Buy new lids every time. I reuse them if they aren't dented or rusty or otherwise looking damaged.
Apparently botulism can't survive in fruit, so you don't have to worry about that. If it's gone off, it will be obvious when you open the jar a few months from now. Don't eat it then. You won't even be tempted.
You decide what's safe for you or what risks you feel comfortable taking.
That's it. Any questions?


Rosa said...

You re-use your lids?
Oh and don't forget that hybridization of tomatoes means that often the acid level can be too low unless you are pickeling so they sugest you add bottled lemon juice just to be sure. ( the bottled stuff has a specific acid level and you would have to look up how much needs to be added)
I'm rather jealous as to how much you've managed to put away this year. . .
Guess I'll have to try harder next year! :D

Unknown said...

Now see, I love my magnet lid lifty thing! Mine's blue - Ball, maybe? Works awesome. You must've got a bum one. Mine lifts two at a time the magnet's so strong. :)

I do use my dishwasher for the jars. I wash and scrub them to make sure there's no guckies in them, then run the dishwasher just before I'm ready. It keeps them hot, upside down, and nicely rinsed and ready. Don't use a 'sterilize' setting or even the 'heated dry' - I figure if I say 'ouch' when I try to pick them up they're hot enough!

I had some peaches that got very soft - a quick whirl in the blender with some water, cooked down with some sugar, and voila - pancake syrup. Yuuuuuuuuummmy. Even better than jam - the jam I made with the very very ripe peaches didn't want to set up very well. I think I read somewhere that's a 'known issue' with overripe fruit?

I have green tomatoes here to make into relish but I'm flattened with an ear infection. Hoping they last long enough for me to recover and do something with them.