If you want your garden vegetables to last all winter, but don't want to pack them into your freezer, try canning instead. This old tradition is seeing a revival in households as a fun activity for the family. My canning tips will get you on the right track if you're trying it for the first time.
The canning process helps with preservation by preventing the growth of bacteria mould and yeast; removing enzymes that can break down food, and all the while keeping microorganisms out. When canning at home, you have to take extra precautions because improper canning can result in the development of the bacteria that causes botulism. A type of bacteria that attacks the nervous system 12-48 hours after consumption.
The simplest form of at home canning is water-bath canning which involves sealing and sterilizing jars with boiling water and vinegar. Most recipes for canning veggies will include hot vinegar or oil to help stop the growth of bacteria that survive in a no-air environment.
Almost any veggie can be canned but stick to ones with thinner skins or aren't root vegetables. Some of my favourites to can are tomatoes, green beans, asparagus, and bell peppers. When following a canning recipe make sure it's from a reputable source and you don't alter the recipe. Doing so can cause serious results that can affect the health of your family and friends.
What you need
- Standard Canning jars with metal lids and metal screw bands
- Large stainless steel pot
- Stainless steel tongs
- Chopsticks or skewers (to remove air pockets)
- Soft, clean towels
- Plate to hold the tools
- Hot vinegar or oil (depending on recipe)
- Your ripe garden veggies thoroughly washed
You'll need to sterilize your canning jars first. Submerge the jars in a large pot filled with 250ml of vinegar for every 3.8 L of water - an added ingredient to ensure sterilization. Bring the water to a boil for 15 minutes and leave in the water until you need them. Sterilize your lids and screw bands by boiling them in hot water for 5 minutes.
Fill your jars (following the canning recipe) up to a quarter-inch from the top with vegetables and wipe the rim clean carefully. Stir the contents with a chopstick or skewer to remove air pockets or bubbles and screw the lid on tight.
Place the filled jars back in the pot and fill it with water covering the jars fully plus an extra 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil and set your timer for 10 minutes once the water reaches a rolling boil. Remove the jars at the 10-minute mark to avoid overcooking and place them on the towels to cool. This step ensures any remaining air is removed by the heat as the food expands. A sign of a successful seal, you should see an indented lid created by the vacuum effect of the contents cooling and contracting.
With these tips and the right recipe, you'll be able to enjoy your garden veggies throughout the winter.