I use to help my grandmother and mother can and I have been doing it myself since about 1974. Get a canning book then give it a go. Make up your own short cuts the book will tell you to do things that you do not need to do.
Jars need to be clean with no chips, nothing special like the books say.
In the last 39 to 40 years (I.e., since 1974), not only has science increased its understanding of how food grows, various soil microbes, and so on, but previously non-threatening bacteria have become antibiotic-resistant and even the foods themselves have changed. Threats to food safety have increased; how many cases of salmonella
, E. coli
, and hepatitis
were reported in the '70s in vegetables, fruit, and meat? These days, many more of them are, and in produce, which used to be considered "safe."
Last week's newspapers and news sites reported on berries
sold at two very large chains of stores being the source of a hepatitis A outbreak. Yesterday's news site and today's newspaper reported that a local pharmacy technician at an unrelated store
who went to work, perhaps not knowing he/she was contagious, provided those "bugs" an additional way to spread. Many people had to get new prescriptions because of the possibility of contamination.
Therefore, "short cuts" are not a good idea. Jars need to be intact, no cracks or chips, and as close to sterile as you can get them. The glass jar part can be run through the dishwasher and allowed to air dry. Do not touch the jars until the food is ready to be poured into them. The screw-on bands can be placed into a pan of boiling water. Turn the water off as soon as the bands are submerged and, again, do not touch them until you're ready to screw them onto the filled jars. The flat part of the lid can be hand-washed with good old hot, soapy water, rinsed with hot water, and then placed in another pan/container of boiling water which, again, is turned off as soon as the "flats" are submerged, there to wait until the jar is filled with food.
Tomatoes are full of air so cook them first or your finished jars will be half full. Strain out the skins no need to dip tomatoes 1 at a time for 15 seconds to peal off the skins like the book says that is too slow it will take you all day to can a few jars.
Tomatoes can be canned in a water bath all other vegetables need to be canned in a pressure cooker. No need to add extra vinegar like the book says. No need to add salt either.
Salt will help vegetables hold their color. So what. Leave it out. If someone in the family can not eat salt your can not remove salt later.
I won't go into recipes in this post because the original question was, How difficult is canning? but I will say that 1) there are ways to get the skin off of many tomatoes (a panful of them!) at once, 2) they must be canned according to directions, and 3) if the recipe says "add acid," then add it. The acidity of tomatoes in 1974 was probably higher than it is today, whether we're talking about hybrids or heirlooms (non-hybridized varieties). Acid (also referred to as "the pH level") helps kill both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria.
Pressure canning raises the effective temperature inside the jars, killing different types of bacteria above and beyond those susceptible at 212 deg F (100 deg C). The most important one is Clostridium botulinum
, commonly referred to as botulism
. Some forms of botulism are odorless, so prevention through absolute cleanliness in the kitchen is the best defense.
Gary350 wrote:Get a book that is direct and to the point. Some authors add lots of extra stuff it makes the book bigger, thicker, lots of extra reading and the buyer thinks it is better. You don't need a bunch of unnecessary reading. Pictures are good if you need them.
Short cuts save time. There is bacteria in the food, on your hands, on your counter top, in your jars, in the air, no need to double or triple your work. Once the cooked food is in the sealed jar in the pressure cooker for the required time bacteria is dead. Bacteria won't be any deader if you do all that extra stuff like boiling jars.
Pictures help many people understand, at a glance, what the text is telling them to do. For a newcomer to canning, it may be difficult to envision precisely what an author is trying to convey with a written explanation. A photo or illustration/diagram (whether on the web or in a book) definitely helps!
Short cuts do not
save time if that "saved" time later ends up being spent in the emergency room with a case of raging...uh...food poisoning or, heaven forbid, hepatitis, either of which can cause death in young children or immune-compromised individuals. Cooking may kill most of the bacteria in the food
, but washing one's own hands, wiping the counter off (with hydrogen peroxide, if you're really paranoid about what's been on the counter), keeping the utensils the food is being stirred with clean, and keeping the jars, screw bands, and "flats" scrupulously clean as well are all additional--and crucial
--steps in safe home canning of foods.
Anyone who has bottle-fed a baby can safely can foods; anyone who has successfully brought off Thanksgiving dinner can safely can foods. If one's home-cooking skills are limited to raw salads, sandwiches, and cakes from a box, home canning (I believe) should probably be started with the real-life assistance of an experienced, safe home canner.
I myself learned canning from books and am also by nature cautious when it comes to food cleanliness! (Food going bad when I can't smell it?! Yikes!
) I have canned the following produce and products made from them:
--apples (2nd place at county fair for my Gravenstein apple butter!)
Maybe a couple more, but those are the ones I can dredge up out of my brain ATM.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9