Like many people, my personal interest in preserving started with jams. Our pantry is home to more than a dozen types of our own making while it is also home to another few dozen jars that were gifted, traded or purchased. Jam is a lot of fun to make though my relationship with it is strained as I rarely eat breakfast (my bad).
From jam we progressed to tomato sauce. The age-old argument that a tomato is a fruit is what makes this a fairly easy transition (more on tomato sauce this week).
Pickles followed. Pickles trick vegetables into preserving through adding a bunch of acid. I love making and eating pickles but was still feeling shorted.
The remaining task was to preserve vegetables as vegetables. It’s a remarkably simple task – though it does require further investment for most of us. Namely, a pressure canner.
Pressure canners can scare people. Horrible stories of a Grannys (or Grampys) cooker ‘blowing’ under pressure and leaving holes in ceilings come to mind for many. The technology has changed a great deal (even in the last 10 years) and purchasing a new canner is a key to safety (click for more info on how to choose a pressure canner).
The essentials are easy: place jars with vegetables and a simple brine (often only water or water and salt) into a pressurized environment which will raise the temperature beyond that of a hot water bath and you will preserve the taste of summer for the winter ahead.
The downfall of pressure canning food is the change of texture it endures. If you’ve had canned peas or other vegetables before, you are familiar with the softer texture that canning produces.
The most common reply we receive when mentioning pressure canning are questions why we don’t freeze the vegetables. Part of our reason is living in an apartment with a small freezer but I’m also a fan of the flavors and the length of time a batch will last (up to 2 years with little change).
The similarity of homemade pressure canned vegetables with commercial products ends at texture. The vibrant taste of field fresh produce through the winter is, to me, infinitely more vibrant than any can I’ve ever purchased.
Canned peas were our best batch of pressure canning last year. Click the link for more details on canning peas. We made a massive amount of beans and while we are very happy with them, they just aren’t our peas.
You will find much more and many ‘recipes’ (largely this equates to how much time and pressure as the brine stays as simple as described above) info at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. You’ll find mention of hot pack vs raw pack and it’s just as it sounds – raw pack is the addition of uncooked vegetables in jars while hot pre-cooks them. There are advantages to both and we’ll spend some time writing on those soon. In the meantime, rest assured that both will provide quality results.
Remember the basics: vegetables, optional salt, water and pressure canning. Follow times precisely and you’ll have the natural taste of the harvest through the year.
This is part of our Preserving Summer series (click the link for access to all of the articles to date) that supports our recent article in Edible Toronto. We welcome any and all questions, comments and your ideas!