In the Can
Recall the flavors of every season all year long with these delicious canning recipes.

 
I remember rummaging around in my grandmother’s pantry discovering jars upon jars of corn relish, apple butter, pickled okra, and the like. All things great and small were freshly plucked from her garden and promptly canned and placed in the time capsule she called her pantry. On any given day you could summon the flavors of each season with the turn of your wrist.

The joys of canning, however, aren’t limited to the grandmothers of sun-soaked Kentucky. The process is surprisingly simple. Canning usually takes less than an hour from start to finish and requires the ability to boil water and tell time. Myriad concoctions including fresh vegetables, fruits, jams, spreads, soups, stews, meats, relishes, chutneys, flavored oils, and homemade vinegars can be made in minutes and sealed inside little screw-capped jars to be revisited when a craving strikes.

The key to successful canning is to eliminate bacteria. Processing the filled jars in either a pressure steamer or boiling water kills bacteria, and a strong seal prevents recontamination. Foods like tomatoes and fruits are high in acid and require only a pot of boiling water to be sanitized and sealed. Low-acid foods such as meats and vegetables must be processed in a pressure steamer, which can be purchased online or at specialty stores for a minimal investment.

To take out the guesswork, the recipes included here indicate the amount of processing time and the method that should be used. Home-canned food is preservative-free, minimally processed, and retains the majority of its vitamins and nutrients. When this season comes to a close, seal in the flavors of a fresh crop or trip to the Farmer’s Market.

Canning Recipes

Dilled Green Beans
(makes 4 pints)

 2        pounds green beans, washed and trimmed
 4        cloves garlic, peeled
 1        cup fresh dill with stems, chopped
 2 1/2  cups white vinegar
 2 1/2  cups water
 1/4     cup salt
 1/4     cup dill seed

Pack green beans lengthwise into pint-size mason jars. Add one clove of garlic and 1/4 cup of fresh dill to each jar. Combine vinegar, water, salt, and dill seed in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a rolling boil and immediately pour into hot pint jars leaving a 1/4 inch of head space. Process in a boiling water bath for seven minutes. Wait for one month before eating to let the flavors develop.

Preserved Figs
(makes 4 pints)

 2  pounds figs, not overripe
 4  cups water
 4  cups sugar
 1  lemon, cut into 4 slices

Wash figs thoroughly. In a saucepan, bring water to a boil over high heat and boil the figs for two minutes. Add the sugar to the water and adjust heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer figs for five minutes. Add lemon slices and continue simmering for five minutes. Pack figs and lemons into hot jars and fill with syrup, leave a 1/2 inch of head space. Process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

Fresh figs are available from June through October, so savor their sweetness by preserving them for use later in the season.

Sweet Peppered Corn
(makes 4 pints)

 8     pounds fresh whole corn
 4     cups water
 1/2  cup green bell pepper, diced
 1/2  cup red bell pepper, diced

Remove the husk and silk from the corn, wash thoroughly, and cut corn from the cob. In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add corn and peppers, return to a boil, and reduce heat. Simmer for five minutes. Pack corn into hot jars and fill with the cooking water leaving 1 inch of headspace. Process in a steam-pressure canner for 55 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

Because its sugars begin converting to starch as soon as it is picked, corn should be purchased as fresh as possible. Try to buy corn before its peak season ends in September to maximize its sweetness.

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Low-Acid versus High-Acid Canning

 
Low-Acid Canning: Foods like vegetables, soups, stews, meats, poultry, and seafood have high pH levels and must be processed at 240 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy spores and bacteria. This must be done in a steam pressure canner (which can be purchased online or at specialty stores such as Target.com, Williams-Sonoma, and Ace Hardware).

To do it, prepare food recipe as directed. Clean jars, lids, bands, and canner. Fill canner with 2 to 3 inches of water, place over high heat and bring to a simmer (180 degrees Fahrenheit). Place canning jars in a large stockpot or boiling water canner. Cover jars with water and place over high heat. Bring water to a simmer; reduce heat and keep jars hot until ready to use. Place lids and rings in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring water to a simmer; keep lids hot until ready to use. Fill hot jars one at a time with prepared food. Allow 1 inch of headspace for proper sealing. Remove air bubbles by sliding a slim rubber spatula around the inside of the jar, pressing on the food gently to release trapped air. Center lid on jar with sealing compound against rim. Apply band, screwing down  firmlyâ€"just until fingertip tight. Place jar on rack in canner. Repeat steps four and five for each jar. When all jars are filled or canner is full, check that water level in canner is about 2 to 3 inches or as recommended in manufacturer’s manual. Lock canner lid in place, leaving vent open. Adjust heat to medium-high, and allow steam to escape through vent pipe steadily for about 10 minutes in order to vent canner. Close the vent using the weight or method described for your canner. Gradually adjust heat to achieve and maintain recommended pounds of pressure for the amount of time indicated for the food you are canning. When processing time is complete, remove canner from heat and let stand until pressure drops naturally to zero and no steam escapes. Lift jars from canner without tilting and place them upright on a towel to cool in a draft-free place. After jars have cooled (24 hours), check lids for a seal by pressing on the center of the lid. If the lid is pulled down and does not flex when pressed, remove the band and slightly lift the jar by the lid. Lids that do not flex and cannot easily be removed with your fingertips have a good seal.

High-Acid Canning: Foods including fruits, jams, jellies, tomatoes, pickles, relishes, and chutneys have low pH levels and possess enough acidity to prevent most contaminants from growing. They need only be processed at 212 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy bacteria, allowing the use of a boiling water canner or a simple stockpot.

To use high-acid canning, prepare food recipe as directed. Clean jars, lids, and bands. Place jars in a large stockpot or boiling water canner. Cover jars with water and place over high heat. Bring water to a simmer, reduce heat, and keep jars hot until ready to use. Place lids and rings in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring water to a simmer. Fill hot jars one at a time with prepared food. Allow appropriate headspace for proper sealing, and follow high-acid canning lidding instructions. Next, place a wire rack or trivet in the bottom of a large stockpot, fill with several inches of water, and place over medium-high heat to bring water to a simmer. Place jar inside stockpot on the rack and repeat steps four and five for each jar. When the pot is full, water should cover the jars by at least 1 inch; add boiling water if required. Place lid on pot and turn heat to medium high. When water returns to a full rolling boil, begin counting processing time. When processing time is complete, turn off heat and remove lid. Allow boil to subside, then lift jars from pot without tilting and place them upright on a towel to cool in a draft-free place. Follow the same seal test for this process as well.

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What you need

Large stockpot with lid and metal rack or a canner: for boiling and sealing jars
Funnel: helps keep jars clean while filling
Lid wand (or kitchen tongs): for removing cleaned lids from hot water
Narrow rubber spatula: to remove air pockets inside the jar
Clean cloths or paper towels: to wipe the rims and threads of jars before sealing
Jar lifter (or a sturdy pair of tongs): to lift hot jars out of the water
Timer (or clock): for accurate processing time
Large towel: for resting hot jars while they cool
Hot pads

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Canning Tips

Do not reuse canning lids. Their sealing compound is indented after the first use and will not make a reliable seal. Feel free to recycle the threaded rings as long as they remain in good condition.

Always check jars for chips and cracks before you use them to prevent a faulty seal or a shattered jar.

Sudden temperature changes will crack or break your jars "always use hot food, hot jars, and hot water.

A dishwasher can be used to preheat jars before filling them with food just make sure the jars remain hot.

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Head Space

Leaving the correct amount of room between the lid and the food or liquid inside the jar is vital to getting a strong seal. Use this guide to determine proper headspace for different foods:

Meat, poultry, seafood 1 inch
Vegetables, soups, stews 1 inch
Jams, jellies, fruit spreads 1/4 inch
Fruits, tomatoes 1/2 inch
Chutneys, relishes, pickles 1/4 inch
Sauces, vinegars 1/4 inch