The ULTIMATE Guide to Canning, Jamming and Preserving at Home

The ULTIMATE Guide to Canning, Jamming, and Preserving Undiscovered Kitchen A Digital Farmers Market For Small Batch Artisan Food and Gifts

Canning 2

Ah canning, when I think about it nostalgic images often come to mind of my grandmother spending hours in the kitchen with my mother making homemade (and DELICIOUS) jams that would last us months. But when I think of canning in its present state, it seems to be a lost art that holds truly valuable benefits, having homemade scrumptious jams and preservatives in your fridge year round.

In this post I will go over the various methods of canning, jamming, and preserving food and also introduce the new techniques and expert tips that will make you a PRO!

So why can? Canning is probably the most common form of food preservation. However, from supermarket canned goods to homemade jams (yum), most of us are familiar with this method. Here are some reasons why canning is an amazing way to keep your foods fresh:

  • Incredibly long shelf life: Most canned goods have a shelf life of two to five years which means you can make a batch and store it for seasons to come.
  • BPA & chemical Free: Since you’re canning your own food, you know exactly what goes in it. You can rest assured that it will be free of BPA, preservative free and made without any harmful additives – for a healthier and tastier product!
  • Save some cash: Canning your fruit and vegetables is MUCH cheaper and much more environmentally conscious than purchasing commercially made products. Less waste with more savings!
  • Bacteria free zone: Fresh foods are much more perishable due to the high percentage of water present inside. A higher water content promotes the growth of unwanted microorganisms such as bacteria (yuck) when mixed with exposure to oxygen. Canning helps remove the moisture and once sealed, makes your foods free from bacterial growth.

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WHAT CAN BE CANNED?

Or should I say, what CAN’T be canned? When it comes to canning the possibilities are seemingly endless from fruits to vegetables and even meats. However take note that every type of food has a different acidity level which dictates what canning method should be used and safe for the food.

  • Low Acidity Foods:  Items such as red meats, seafoods and most fresh vegetables all possess low pH – Higher than 4.6. Because of this, they are not acidic enough to prevent the growth of deadly micro organisms within the food itself. Therefore, low acidity foods MUST be canned using the pressure cooker method.
  • High Acidity Foods: Items such as fruits and select vegetables. with a pH of 44.6 or lower are acidic enough to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and can be canned using the boiling water method.  

Refer to the pH chart below!

Food PH Chart

THE CANNING PROCESS

There are two primary methods for canning food— The Boiling Water Method & The Pressure Canning Method. As we have already mentioned, your method is closely related to the level of acidity in the foods you’re preparing.  

BOILING WATER BATH METHOD

Used when canning foods that have a high level of acidity such as fruits, fruit juices, jams, jellies, etc. This method includes preparing a large pot of boiling water (at least 212 degrees Fahrenheit and  placing the jars inside.

Equipment Needs:

Instructions:

  1. EQUIPMENT CHECK: Gather your equipment and inspect everything from your jars, lids and bands to make sure they work properly and are free of cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges in order to prevent accidents or breakage. Make sure your bands fit snug around your jars and of course, wash everything in hot, soapy water, rinse well and dry.
  2. HEAT YOUR JARS: The first step is to heat your jars up so that when you add hot food to them, they don’t break. Fill a large pot with water (about half way) and place your jars inside while filling them with water so that they are completely submerged. Bring the water to a simmer (do not boil) over medium heat to keep jars hot until you’re ready to use them. Alternatively, you can pop them into the dishwasher. You’ll want to leave the lids and bands at room temperature for easy handling later on.
  3. PREPARE FOR CANNING: Fill your pot half way with water and bring the water to a simmer while covered with the lid on until your jars are filled and placed inside. If you don’t have an “official” water bath canner, don’t worry! All you’ll need is a large, deep pot, lid and cooling rack. The pot must be large enough to fully submerge your jars in water with extra room for 1 or 2 extra inches of water to boil rapidly while the lid is on. If you don’t have a rack designed for home preserving, you can place a round cake cooling rack at the bottom of the pot or take some extra bands, tie them together and cover the bottom of the pot.
  4. PREPARE THE FOOD:  Using a canning recipe of your choice, prepare your food using fresh and quality ingredients.
  5. FILL YOUR JARS: CAREFULLY remove your now hot jars from the hot water (you may want to use a jar lifter for this task) and pour out the water inside. Fill your jars, one at a time, with the food you just prepared leaving some free space a.k.a. headspace at the top of the jar (approximately 1/4 inch for jams, jellies and fruit juices and 1/2 inch for fruits, pickles, salsa, sauces, and tomatoes). Remove air bubbles, if stated in the recipe, by sliding a rubber spatula between the jar and food to release trapped air and ensure proper headspace during processing. Repeat 2 to 3 times around each jar.
  6. WIPE CLEAN: Using a clean, damp cloth around the rim of your jar, remove any food residue. Center the lid on your jar so that the sealing compound comes in contact with the jar rim.  Apply the band and adjust until it until it’s fingertip tight. CAREFULLY place your filled jars into the pot so that they are fully submerged  and sitting on the rack at the bottom of the pot. Again, make sure you have at least 1 to 2 inches of water above the top of your jars.
  7. BRING TO A BOIL:  Cover the pot with a lid and bring the water to a rapid boil.
  8. PROCESS: Each recipe has a different processing time (which starts once the water is boiling). Follow your recipe’s instructions as to how long the jars should stay in the boiling water and. Once complete, turn off the heat, remove the lid and let stand for 5 minutes.
  9. REMOVE JARS: Remove your jars and place them upright on a towel to prevent breakage. Leave jars undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. IMPORTANT: Bands should not be adjusted at this point or else you’re at risk of interfering with the sealing process.
  10. CHECK THE LIDS:  Inspect the jar lids for the quality of their seals. They should not flex up and down when the center is pressed. Remove the bands and try to lift the lids off with your fingertips. If the lid cannot be lifted off, the lid has a good seal. If the lid does NOT seal within 24 hours, you can reprocessed or refrigerate. The last step is to label your jars and store in a cool, dry, dark place up to 1 year.

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Hints & Tricks:

  1. Always have a wire or wooden rack at the bottom of the pot to help keep the jars from hitting the bottom of the pot & maintain the equal spreading of heat throughout the jar. This ensures even cooking within the can.
  2. Get the most out of your excess canning water!  You can blanch green beans or other fruits or vegetables for freezing in boiling water bath canner water after you remove the jars from the cannier.

PRESSURE CANNING METHOD

Pressure Canner – Pressure Canning Method

Used when canning foods that have a low level of acidity such as vegetables, soups, stews, stocks, meats, poultry and seafood. The basics of this canning method include placing your jars of food into 2-3 inches of water in a pressure cooker heated to a temperature of at least 240 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is actually above boiling and essential to preventing the formation Clostridium botulinum spores. Although the bacteria itself can be killed at boiling temperatures, they leave behind deadly spores that can continue to grow in these low acidic foods.

Equipment Needs:

Instructions:

  1. EQUIPMENT CHECK: Gather your equipment and inspect everything from your jars, lids and bands to make sure they work properly and are free of cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges in order to prevent accidents or breakage. Make sure your bands fit snug around your jars and of course, wash everything in hot, soapy water, rinse well and dry.
  2. HEAT YOUR JARS: The first step is to heat your jars up so that when you add hot food to them, they don’t break. Fill a large pot with water (about half way) and place your jars inside while filling them with water so that they are completely submerged. Bring the water to a simmer (do not boil) over medium heat to keep jars hot until you’re ready to use them. Alternatively, you can pop them into the dishwasher. You’ll want to leave the lids and bands at room temperature for easy handling later on.
  3. PREPARE CANNER: Fill your pressure cooker with 2 to 3 inches of water and place over medium-high heat in order to bring the water to a simmer. Keep the water at steady simmer until your jars are filled with food and placed inside the canner. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for usage.
  4. PREPARE THE FOOD:  Using a canning recipe of your choice, prepare your food using fresh and quality ingredients.
  5. FILL YOUR JARS: CAREFULLY remove your now hot jars from the hot water (you may want to use a jar lifter for this task) and pour out the water inside. Fill your jars, one at a time, with the food you just prepared leaving some free space a.k.a. headspace at the top of the jar according to the recipe. Remove air bubbles, if stated in the recipe, by sliding a rubber spatula between the jar and food to release trapped air and ensure proper headspace during processing. Repeat 2 to 3 times around each jar.
  6. WIPE CLEAN: Using a clean, damp cloth around the rim of your jar, remove any food residue. Center the lid on your jar so that the sealing compound comes in contact with the jar rim.  Apply the band and adjust until it until it’s fingertip tight. CAREFULLY place your filled jars into the canner making sure that the water level is about 2 to 3 inches high or that which is recommended in manufacturer’s manual.
  7. LOCK:  Following the manufacturer’s instructions, lock the pressure cooker lid in place while leaving the vent pipe open and set the heat level to medium-high. You should be able to see steam escaping through vent pipe when done correctly. Once there is a steady stream of steam escaping the canner, vent the canner for 10 minutes to ensure there is no air (only steam) left inside of the canner. Close the vent using weight or another method described in your canner manual and gradually adjust the heat to achieve and maintain the recommended pounds of pressure required to finish the canning process.
  8. PROCESS: Allow the jars to process at the recommended pounds pressure as indicated in your recipe. Once completed, let the canner cool by by removing it from from the heat but, do NOT remove the weighted gauge. Let the canner stand undisturbed until the pressure returns to ZERO naturally. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and wait 10 minutes before removing the weight and unlocking lid (Be sure to tilt the lid away from your face so that you don’t burn yourself). Lastly, wait 10 more minutes so that the jars can cool down.
  9. REMOVE jars from pressure canner and set upright on a towel to prevent jar breakage that can occur from temperature differences. Leave jars undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Bands should not be retightened as this may interfere with the sealing process.
  10. CHECK lids for seals. Lids should not flex up and down when center is pressed. Remove bands. Try to lift lids off with your fingertips. If the lid cannot be lifted off, the lid has a good seal. If a lid does not seal within 24 hours, the product can be immediately refrigerated. Clean canning jars and lids. Label and share then store in a cool, dry, dark place up to 1 year.
  11. REMOVE JARS: Remove your jars and place them upright on a towel to prevent breakage. Leave jars undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. IMPORTANT: Bands should not be adjusted at this point or else you’re at risk of interfering with the sealing process.
  12. CHECK THE LIDS:  Inspect the jar lids for the quality of their seals. They should not flex up and down when the center is pressed. Remove the bands and try to lift the lids off with your fingertips. If the lid cannot be lifted off, the lid has a good seal. If the lid does NOT seal within 24 hours, you can reprocessed or refrigerate. The last step is to label your jars and store in a cool, dry, dark place up to 1 year.

JAMMING

Jam is a form of fruit preservation in which the juice and flesh of the fruit are crushed or chopped and cooked with sugar and sometimes pectin until the pieces of fruit are soft and lose their shape. As the mixture continues to cook it begins to thicken and take on a spreadable consistency that we associate with jam.

HOW TO PICK YOUR FRUIT

Oh the Jam-abilities!! There are SO many types of fruits to choose from when making jam. However there are certain factors you should consider when looking for “jam worthy” fruits. One of the most important factors to consider is how ripe your fruit is.

  • Ripeness: Generally slightly underripe fruit contains more natural pectin within it while ripe fruits are naturally higher in sugar and have a stronger flavor. So if you’re looking to make that awesome jam, do it with a mix of underripe and ripe fruit.
  • Pectin: Going back to the pectin levels of the fruits, pectin levels of the fruits are important because pectin is what bonds the jam together during the process so it’s important to note how much natural pectin the fruit possesses and determine how much artificial pectin to add into the mixture. For example fruits like cranberries and gooseberries have a lot of natural pectin in them and therefore don’t require any additional pectin to be added into the mix. On the other end of the scale fruits like strawberries and pears do not possess a large amount of pectin and therefore require a pectin boost. So please make sure to keep these things in mind.

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THE PROCESS

  1. First, chop up your fruit into large chunks discarding any pits,cores, or parts of the fruit that’s heavily bruised. There should be about 2 and a half cups chopped up.
  2. Put a spoon in the freezer (Weird, yes, but I promise there’s a reason!)
  3. Next, combine the fruit with ¼ cup of sugar and squeeze an inch worth of lemon wedge into the mixture. The reason why you want to add the lemon juice is that it adds acidity and more pectin to the mixture in order to help the jam bond better.
  4. After adding the lemon, mash the fruit slightly.
  5. Start cooking the fruit stirring regularly.
  6. After about 5-8 minutes of boiling the mixture, the bubbles should become smaller and thicker. Check to see if the jam has set or not. Grab that spoon from the freezer and dribble several drops of the mixture onto it.
  7. Next, run your finger through the jam and if your finger leaves a track in the jam, it’s done! If not, continue cooking the jam and test it again a few minutes later.
  8. After the jam has set, taste the jam for it’s level of sweetness and and sugar to your preference.
  9. Time to can your homemade jam!

Not too bad eh?! As you can see the process is relatively easy!

GET INSPIRED!

With so many flavor options – you have remember to have FUN and get creative! The best way to get inspired is by trying unique flavors and browsing the shelves to see which flavor combinations go well together! But forget about big brands who pack their jars with harmful additives and preservatives galore – Check out the small batch artisan makers at Undiscovered Kitchen and what makes them jam!

WHITE PEACH AND GINGER JAM Undiscovereed Kitchen a digital farmers market for small batch artisan food and gifts

PRESERVING 

Canning and jamming are two of the most popular forms of preserving food, however, the fun doesn’t stop there! There are many other techniques out there to try.

There are several benefits to preserving your food:

  • Storing food for a long period of time without requiring refrigeration or freezing
  • Because the jars being used to preserve food can be reused it’s environmentally friendly
  • The personal satisfaction of creating something at home to share with your friends and family.
  • Tastier food! Home canned food won’t contain BPA or other artificial ingredients

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PRESERVATION METHODS

Below you’ll find 8 preservation methods that can be used to preserve your food – Each with it’s own benefits and process!

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1. FREEZING

Freezing, when properly done, can preserve food so that it retains the greatest amount of nutrients. This process can be used with a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, grains, nuts, dairy, eggs, and prepared foods. It is also perhaps the easiest of all preservation methods. 

Freezing Vegetables: Before freezing any vegetable, you must first blanch them. Why? Because the process of blanching slows down the vegetable enzymes which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture. Blanching time varies by the type of vegetable you’re blanching and its size. Warning: Underblanching or not blanching the vegetables enough actually stimulates the activity of enzymes and is worse than not blanching at all!

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Blanching Directions:

  1. PREP: Wash, drain, sort, trim and cut your vegetables.
  2. WATER: Use one (1) gallon water per pound of prepared vegetables or two (2) gallons water per pound of leafy greens.
  3. BOIL: Boil the water
  4. BLANCH: Lower the vegetables into the boiling water using a wire basket, coarse mesh bag or perforated metal strainer (if possible – this will make it easier to get the vegetables out quickly) 
  5. *OPTION: You may also choose to steam blanch you veggies by boiling 1-2 inches of water in a pot while placing a basket vegetables above the steam.
  6. START TIMER: Cover the pot and start your blanching time as soon as water returns to a boil or immediately if steam blanching. Keep the heat at high for the duration of cooking time.
  7. ICE BATH: Prepare a large bowl of ice water for the veggies to go into after cooking.
  8. COOL: Place your veggies into the ice bath immediately after cooking and for the same amount of time that they were in the boiling water (or steam). Stir several times during cooling.
  9. DRAIN
  10. STORE VEGGIES:
    • Dry: Pack vegetable tightly into containers or freezer bags making sure to press out all of the air and seal tightly.
    • Tray: Put a single layer of vegetables on a shallow pan and put the pan into the freezer. When the vegetables are frozen, put them into a freezer bag or container making sure to press out all of the air and seal tightly.
  11. FREEZE: Frozen vegetables will maintain high quality for 8 to 12 months at 0°F or lower.

Freezing Herbs: 

  1. With the leaves on the stems, lightly wash in cool running water. Gently shake to remove excess water. Let them drain on paper towels.
  2. Don’t let your herbs go bad! Freezing herbs is super easy!
  3. Leave the herbs as is with stem and all
  4. Wash them lightly
  5. Place them on paper towels to dry

Next, choose one of the methods below to complete the process:

  1. Store in the freezer in an airtight bag or container.
  2. Spread your herbs on cookie sheet or similar tray and place it in the freezer. Once your herbs are frozen, pack them into airtight bags or containers.
  3. Want to chop our herbs up before hand? Here’s a great way to preserve your erbs to use later on in sauces and soups. Chop up your herbs and divide evenly into an ice cube tray. Fill your herb cubes with water and freeze! Once frozen, place your ice cube tray into a freeze bag or pop out your herb cubes and store them in an airtight container till you’re ready to use them.

2. DEHYDRATING

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 5.03.42 PMBelieve it or not, the process of dehydrating food is the oldest form of food preservation. Not only that but it allows the food you’re preserving to retain almost all of its nutritive value. This process of preservation involves removing all of the water and moisture from a food in order to prevent bacteria from growing and consequently allowing the food to spoil. You can dehydrate all sorts of foods including fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, grains, legumes and nuts. There are several dehydrating methods, some more complex then others but it’s important to note, you don’t ALWAYS need a food dehydrator to get the job done.

The three most common methods for dehydrating food include the use of:

  1. SUN METHOD: Did someone say sun-dried tomatoes? As long as you have 3 consecutive sunny days you can use this method to dry foods (like tomatoes) and herbs.
  2. OVEN METHOD: This is a great kitchen hack if you don’t have a dehydrator (separate machine) at home. Be sure to set the oven at 90 degrees or lower and leave the door cracked ever so slightly while you’re dehydrating your food. This method works well for thinly sliced vegetables and activated nuts.
  3. DEHYDRATOR METHOD: You can  purchase a food dehydrator at any home goods store or online. Your machine will also likely come with a recipe guide and ideal cooking temps and times.

Check out one of our favorite resources for dehydrating recipes to try: 101+ Dehydrating Recipes for Food Storage

Here’s a quick list of tips to remember when dehydrating:

  1. Indoor humidity, air conditioning or occasional breezes COULD effect the amount of time you need to dehydrate food properly.
  2. Slow and steady wins the race so don’t be in a hurry! Do not worry about over-drying your foods. You’ll put your food at risk of spoiling if you fuss around with the temperature settings by drying the outside and keeping moisture within.
  3. Spray bananas and apples with lemon juice to avoid browning!
  4. Preheat your dehydrator for even dehydrating
  5. If it is sticky, put it back in the dehydrator!
  6. Foods to blanch before dehydrating: Grapes, Tomatoes, Blueberries, Plums, Cherries, Peaches, Cranberries, Pears, Summer Squash and Zucchini!
  7. You CANNOT over dry your food so, don’t worry about that!
  8. Beware of fatty meats! Too much fat in the meats you dry use will cause your end product to go rancid quickly.
  9. Make sure to cool your foods completely before storing.
  10. Don’t be afraid to try new things, even is they don’t always work!

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3. FERMENTING

The process of encouraging the growth of “good bugs” to inhibit the “bad bugs” that can spoil food. It can also be used with many types of foods, including fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, grains, legumes, dairy, and eggs to produce a wide range of products such as wine (from grapes), sauerkraut (cabbage), cured sausage (meat), and yogurt (milk). Many fermented products can be produced without any special equipment. The method for each type of product is relatively easy, but requires attention to detail.

Check out Fermented Food Recipes from PaleoLeap for fermenting instructions to make the delicious recipes along and find insider tips like this: “You’ll probably come across a lot of recipes calling for fresh whey as a starter for the ferment, but simply using salt gives out the same desired result.”

  • Simple sauerkraut
  • Apple & Juniper Berry sauerkraut
  • Lacto-fermented salsa
  • Sour pickles
  • Kimchi
  • Beet Kvass
  • Sauerrüben (lacto-fermented parsnips)
  • Lacto-fermented peach chutney
  • Lacto-fermented vegetable medle

The basics of the fermenting process:

  1. Choose your equipment: Besides a good chopping knife, you’ll want to figure out what type of container you want to store your food in. Choices range from glass, plastic, ceramic, and porcelain.
  2. Prepare your vegetables: This is largely based on personal preference. Prepare your vegetables by first washing them and then continuing on to grate, shred, chop or slice your vegetables or leave them whole!
  3. Salt, whey, or starter culture? Different fermentation recipes call for different ingredients: salt, salt and whey or a starter culture. Which you choose may depend on your personal preference or taste but you’ll also want to consider which one is best for the type of vegetable you’re working with.  You can find the pros and cons to each fermentation method here and if you choose salt, make sure to consider which kinds of salt appropriate are for culturing (see below).
  4. Prepare your brine: In order to prepare your bring you’ll need water! The most important thing to remember is that you want your water to be CLEAN and as free from contaminants as possible to ensure the best tasting results!
  5. Weighing down your vegetables: Once you add your veggies to the brine you’ll want to make sure they are fully submerged! Here are a few tips
    • Place a large cabbage leaf over the top
    • Fill a small jars or dishes with water and place it into your fermentation vessel to weigh down your veggies. You can also combine this with the tip above and place the jar atop your cabbage leaf
    • If you’re using a large bowl to ferment, you can use a plate to press the veggies down and keep them submerged.
  6. Test your veggies! How do you know when you’re veggies are done? Here are some tell tale signs that your fermented veggies are done fermenting:
    • Bubbling: The lactic acid fermentation process produces lactic acid bacteria that creates gases when they feast on your vegetables. These gases are a good sign and are often visible as bubbles in your fermentation vessel after just a few days at room temperature.
    • Sour Aroma: As the saying goes, “The nose knows!” Open your jar/vessel after a few days and notice the smell. it should be sour and vinegary but overall pleasant. If it smells rotten or spoiled, you should toss that batch immediately, clean your container thoroughly and go for round two.
    • Flavor: If your veggies pass the two tests above, it’s time to taste! Taste the veggies daily until they reach your desired flavor. Remember, larger or whole vegetables will take longer to fully ferment and develop their tangy flavor so put your patient pants on and enjoy the process!
  7. Move to cold storage: Once your veggies are done fermenting it’s time to move them into cold storage.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT SALT

Original article found on found on Cultures For Health

  1. SEA SALT: Sea salts are derived from sea water. They can be refined or unrefined, but are generally safer than iodized salts. When looking for an unrefined sea salt look for specks of color: gray, black, pink, or red. These colors indicate that the minerals have not been removed from the salt. Some natural salts are moist because they have not been fully dried or further refined after being extracted from the sea water. Celtic cea salt is a CFH favorite for fermenting vegetables.
  2. HIMALAYAN SALT: Himalayan salt is a rock salt, more widely available as it gains in popularity. Himalayan salts are mineral-rich and can be pink or red in color, along with some white crystals. Himalayan salt also works well for fermenting vegetables.
  3. PICKLING SALT: Pickling salt is similar to iodized table salt, but without the iodine and anti-caking agents, so it can be used for fermenting vegetables. It is highly refined though, so it may not be the optimal choice if you are looking for an unrefined, natural salt.
  4. KOSHER SALT: Kosher salt is also readily available in most grocery stores. Kosher salt is not “kosher” itself, but is used to make meats kosher and is also called “koshering” salt. It has a larger crystal than the granular table salt and does not contain as many additives as table salt. It does, however, sometimes contain anti-caking agents, so check the label before using kosher salt for fermenting vegetables.
  5. IODIZED SALT: Also known as table salt, iodized salt can be found in any grocery store. Iodine tends to inhibit the beneficial bacteria in a cultured vegetable, so we do not recommend using iodized salt for vegetable fermentation. Any container of salt should be clearly labeled if it is iodized (contains iodine). Check for and avoid anti-caking agents, as well.

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4. PICKLING

Pickling – it’s not just for pickles! You can pickle almost any vegetable – Okra, carrots, okra, green beans, beets, ginger, brussels sprouts, you name it! The pickling process starts with fresh veggies – the fresher the better – you want to pickle your veggies as soon as you pick or purchase them.

THE METHOD

NOTE: The method below can be used to pickle the quick-and-dirty way (just using refrigeration) OR by following the Boiling Water Bath Method in order to preserve your pickles for up to 1 year.

  1. PREP YOUR VEGGIES – Wash, cut and place in your canning jars
  2. ADD SPICES – This is the fun part! Don’t be afraid to get creative because the options are endless! Dry seasonings can include bay leaves, celery seeds, dried chile peppers, cumin seeds, dill seeds, mustard seeds, peppercorns and turmeric. Fresh ingredients include habanero or jalapeño peppers, fresh dill, garlic, horseradish, and shallots
  3. MAKE BRINE – Depending on your preference, you can make your brine sweet or sour. NOTE: Kosher salt and pickling salt are basically the same thing – make sure you never use common table salt in your brine recipe.
    1. Sour Pickle Brine Recipe (makes 6 cups)
      1. In a large saucepan combine 3 cups of distilled white vinegar (or cider vinegar) with 3 cups of water, 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons of sea salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar.
      2. Bring all of the ingredients to a boil and stir until the salt is completely dissolved.
      3. Continue to boil for another 2 minutes.
      4. Remove from the heat.
    2. Sweet Pickle Brine Recipe (makes 6 cups)
      1. In a large saucepan, combine 3 cups of distilled white vinegar (or cider vinegar) with 3 cups water, 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
      2. Bring all of the ingredients to a boil and stir until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved.
      3. Continue to boil for another 2 minutes.
      4. Remove from the heat.
  4. *OPTION: Boiling Water Bath Method – If you want to can your pickled veggies, follow the Boiling Water Bath Method above.
  5. FILL YOUR JARS – Carefully fill your canning jars with the brine you just made making sure to cover your vegetables completely and leaving a 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Place the lids on your jars.
  6. *OPTION: If you’re planning to pickle using the refrigeration, method, simply refrigerate your jars for 24 hours before serving (Refrigerate okra and turnips for at least 1 week before serving.)

Some of my FAVORITE small batch pickles (pictured above):

5. DRY SALTING

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An old-fashioned method for preserving meat, fish and vegetables.

A low salt concentration (2½% to 5% weight of the salt per weight of the food), promotes fermentation, while a high salt concentration (20% to 25% salt), prevents microbial growth and preserves the food in a more or less fresh, although salty state. Many people familiar with the technique consider salted vegetables such as green beans to be far superior in taste and texture than canned or frozen beans. 

There are two dry salting methods:

  1. Low Salt Concentration Method (2½% to 5% weight of salt per weight of vegetables). This method promotes fermentation and the growth of lactic acid bacteria (LAB). This bacteria increase the acidity of the vegetables and prevents spoilage.
    1. Start with a sterile container
    2. Choose your fresh vegetables
    3. Salt! For 2½% to 5% salt concentration, use 3½ to 5 ounces of salt for every 10 pounds of prepared veggies.
    4. Store to ferment at a temperature between 64°F and 72°F.
    5. This method can take anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks.
  2. High Salt Concentration Method (20% to 25% salt) This method prevents the growth of bacteria in order to preserves vegetables at their freshest (although also at their saltiest!)  For 20% to 25% salt concentration, you want to use 1 to 1¼ pound salt for every 5 pounds of prepared vegetables.
    1. Start with a sterile container
    2. Choose your fresh vegetables
    3. Salt! For 20% to 25% salt concentration, use1 to 1¼ pound salt for every 5 pounds of prepared vegetables.

6. CURING

Curing is similar to pickling, and also uses salt, acid, and/or nitrites. It is used for meat and fish. Simple, modern curing methods often reduce the amount of salt and nitrites, which may require the refrigeration or freezing of the final product. It’s important to remember that the science of curing is very precise so one wrong step and things could take a turn for the worse. Be sure to follow the steps to any recipe carefully. For starters let’s start with one of my personal favorites: Gravlax!

Smoked Salmon Undiscovered Kitchen a digital farmers market for artisan small batch food and gifts

The Minimalist’s Gravlax Recipe (featured on the NYTimes)

For a tasty twist on tradition, follow the NYTimes link to find recipes for Tom Valenti’s Low-Salt Gravlax and Cyril Renaud’s Citrus Gravlax.

Time: 10 minutes, plus 24 to 36 hours’ refrigeration

Yield: At least 12 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 bunch dill, stems and all, chopped
  • 1 2-to-3-pound fillet of salmon, pin bones removed.

Instructions:

  1. Mix together the salt, sugar and dill. Place the salmon, skin side down, on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Cover the flesh side of the salmon with the salt mixture, making sure to coat it completely. (There will be lots of salt mix; just pile it on.)
  2. Wrap the fish well. If the temperature is below 70 degrees, and it is not too inconvenient, let it rest outside the refrigerator for about 6 hours, then refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours more. Otherwise, refrigerate immediately for about 36 hours.
  3. Unwrap the salmon, and rinse off the cure. Dry, then slice on the bias (see illustration). Serve plain or with lemon wedges, creme fraiche, sour cream or a light vinaigrette.


7. SMOKING

Smoked Mean Fermenting Undiscovered Kitchen a digital farmers market for artisan small batch food and gifts

Smoking is a complementary curing process that improves flavors and appearance, and can also act as a drying agent. Also, smoked meats are less likely to turn rancid or grow mold. The smoking method begins by choosing a smoker. The most common smokers are the vertical water smokers and the offset dry smokers. The easiest of the two (and recommended for beginners) is the water smoker. Whats next? Grab a bag of wood chunks! Most simple cuts of meats take around 3 to 6 hours to smoke, so plan accordingly.

Hint: The best wood to use for smoking is either hickory or mesquite because their flavors are both enhancing and complementary to most meats.

8. CELLARING

Cellaring is the process of storing foods in a temperature, humidity, and light controlled environment. It can be used with many foods, especially vegetables, grains, and nuts, as well as fermented foods and dry-cured meats. Here is a fantastic resource for The Fundamentals of Root Cellaring – Root cellaring can help you enjoy fresh produce all year long!

Preserving Undiscovered Kitchen a digital farmers market for artisan small batch food and gifts

Hint: Humidity is essential for Cellaring (most veggies require 90-95%). Ways to assure this humidity level is reached? Install a dirt floor or pack the veggies in damp sawdust, sand, or moss.

GET STARTED!

So go forth, you canning, jamming PRO! Let us know what you can, jam and preserve and leave your favorite recipes and tips in the comments below!

Sources:

  • http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/vegetables-herbs/blanching-vegetables/
  • http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/vegetables-herbs/freezing-herbs/
  • http://www.culturesforhealth.com/fermentation-equipment-supplies
  • http://ledskincareplano.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/pH-chart-Foods1.jpg
  • http://www.freshpreserving.com/tools/waterbath-canning
  • http://www.freshpreserving.com/tools/pressure-canning
  • http://www.thestar.com/life/2015/02/03/pressure-canning-a-costly-yet-priceless-method-to-up-kitchen-game.html
  • http://theweekendprepper.com/food-storage/10-tips-on-using-your-food-dehydrator/
  • http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-6683/10-Tips-to-Dehydrate-Your-Food.html
  • http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101_basics_techniques/kitchen_tips_techniques/10_steps_to_water_bath_canning
  • http://www.williams-sonoma.com/pages/basics-of-pickling.html
  • http://www.homepreservingbible.com/39-dry-salting-as-a-method-to-preserve-vegetables/
  • http://www.homepreservingbible.com/630-an-overview-of-10-home-food-preservation-methods-from-ancient-to-modern/
  • http://wellandgood.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/fermented.png
  • http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-basic-fruit-jam-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-193560
  • http://www.canning-food-recipes.com/canning.htm
  • http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usda/GUIDE%201%20Home%20Can.pdf
  • http://www.simplebites.net/9-good-reasons-to-can-your-own-food/
  • http://foodpreservation.about.com/od/Preserves/a/High-And-Low-Pectin-Fruit.htm
  • http://www.seriouseats.com/images/2014/06/20140608-blueberry-jam-bubbling-jennifer-latham.jpg
  • http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/07/jam-making-101-how-to-select-fruit.html
  • http://www.canning-food-recipes.com/canning.htm

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