Tip of the Month – July 2015
By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area
I have to admit I was jealous— toiling in my office when I received Carol’s text. The photo showed she was already testing her brand new Ball Fresh TECH Electric Water Bath Canner with Multi-Cooker. With urgency, I replied ‘whatcha cookin?’ I imagined early season peaches, green beans or even the first tomatoes. The possibility was endless and I counted the days until my new canner would arrive—or Carol shared some of her ‘to-die-for’ dill pickles.
Home canning is one of those passions that folks rarely talk about, but ardent ‘canners’ spend hours lovingly processing and ‘putting up food’. There are so many reasons to consider canning food at home, starting with its:
Love in a jar: For some, canning is a connection to their past—a reminder of time spent with family or a link to their heritage. Maybe it’s a jar of preserves based on a family recipe that brings you back to after-school snacks or a crisp dill pickle in the middle of winter that smacks of a summer’s picnic, but its right there in the jar no matter when you need a flood of memories.
A joyous gift: It’s hard to go wrong sharing the gift of food. There’s something special that comes from presenting or receiving home canned foods. I don’t feel the pressure to consume it immediately, but I also appreciate the love and caring that has gone into the preparation of the gift. I pack my pantry with jams, pickles, pasta sauces and apple pie-in-a-can and when the holidays roll around…well, I have a back-up plan to cover everyone on the list.
It’s a matter of taste: Let’s face it, locally grown, harvested in season produce or fruits, canned when just ripe, beats a commercial product any day. I know the quality of the organic, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables I preserve and it beats a supermarket’s effort any day. Best said by Eugenia Bone, avid food writer and author of Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods, “Preserving is an extension of the values that made you shop in the farmers’ market in the first place.” If asked, I’d agree and add…the values that bring me back to the garden again and again. The terroir sweetens more than the wine –
Health is wealth: My first choice is organic fruits and vegetables whether I’m growing or buying them. This way I can help my family avoid harmful additives and pesticides. Home canning also helps avoid BPA, a harmful chemical often in the plastic lining of metal cans, such as those used for tomatoes.
Eating for the planet: Canning your own food lowers your environmental impact. Mason jars are reusable and thus reduce the packaging associated with buying conventionally packed foods. Additionally, consuming foods that are trucked thousands of miles burns fossil fuels contributing to pollution and often delivers foods that are rendered tasteless from being picked and packed before peak ripeness. Simple home canning allows you to enjoy delicious ‘pantry to table’ food year-round from your own backyard.
Save a penny: Eating seasonally is not only good for the planet; it’s also good for your pocketbook. When you grow or buy produce in season, it’s bountiful and therefore cheaper—making canning an economical way to stock the pantry.
There are countless resources online, including Getting Started videos from Ball, the Preserving Authority. http://www.freshpreserving.com/tools/waterbath-canning You’ll also find recipes for everything from jams to pickles, along with one of my favorites I use as gifts:
Apple Pie-in-a-jar (7 16oz pints)
- Submerge 12 cups organic sliced, peeled medium apples in 4 cups of water and ¼ cup lemon juice to prevent browning
- 2 ¾ organic sugar
- ¾ cup cooking starch
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 ½ cups unsweetened apple juice
- 1 ¼ cups cold water
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 7 16oz pint size glass preserving jars, lids and bands
- Prepare water canner. Heat jars in water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set aside.
- Blanch apple slices (2 batches of 6 cups) in large pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove with slotted spoon & keep warm in covered bowl.
- Combine sugar, cooking starch, cinnamon and nutmeg in large stainless steel saucepan. Stir in apple juice and cold water. Bring to boil, stir constantly and cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice and return to boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
- Fold apples into hot mixture. Before processing, re-heat, stirring until apples are heated through.
- Ladle hot apple pie filling into hot jars leaving 1 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rims of jars. Center lid on each jar and apply bands until fit is fingertip tight.
- Process jars in water canner for 25 minutes. Remove jars and set on kitchen towel on counter to cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex when center is pressed.
- Tag with date. Add your favorite pie crust recipe if preparing as gift.
Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News