Reap the benefits of canning your own foods. ATTRIBUTION: (Flickr)

Canning and preserving fruits, vegetables, and other foods is an excellent way to save money, gain access to healthy foods, and prevent spoilage. Food canning can also be an enjoyable pastime. When you can your own foods, you’ll also limit your exposure to various pesticides and chemicals used in many commercial foods. Learn more about the canning process, its benefits, and what foods you can successfully can at home.

Key Benefits of Canning

One of the most common reasons people can their own foods is to provide themselves and their families with better nutrition. Many people have concern over the presence of BPA (bisphenol A), a chemical compound found in some plastics and metals, in many commercial canned foods. Canning allows you to produce BPA-free and preservative-free foods that are undoubtedly healthier than their chemically assisted counterparts.

Canning is also an excellent way to save money. Whether you pick foods from your own garden or you purchase produce in bulk while it’s in season and at its cheapest, you can save a substantial amount compared to buying fresh produce from the supermarket. Fresh, locally grown produce also has a fresher, higher-quality taste, especially if it is canned at peak ripeness.

The Canning Process

Canning is a relatively simple process that involves time and effort. To ensure the safety of your canned foods, you must thoroughly wash, rinse, and sterilize your canning jars. After the jars have been washed in hot, soapy water and rinsed clean, they should be immersed in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Canning jars are available in a wide range of sizes, from half-pint to half-gallon jars.

There are two basic methods used in the canning process: the pressure-canner method and the water-bath method. Pressure-canning is a safe and effective method used to preserve vegetables, poultry, meats, and seafood. This method involves placing jars of food in two to three inches of water inside a pressure canner heated to 240° F or above. The high temperature is needed to kill any bacteria.

The water-bath method is generally safe for canning jams, jellies, fruits, tomatoes, pickles, and various preserves. When this method is used, jars of food are submerged and heated in boiling water for a certain amount of time, depending on the food you’re preserving. To use the water-bath method safely, foods like fruits may need to have acid (citric acid or lemon juice) added to them.

Foods That Can Be Canned

There are numerous types of food that can be safely preserved through the canning process. One of the most commonly canned foods is fruits. Fruits can be peeled, cut, and preserved as is or turned into jams or jellies. Pickled condiments, such as pickles, relish, sauces, and chutneys, can also be canned. Vegetables, meats, and seafood can also be canned but require more caution due to their low acid content.

While there are many foods that can be safely canned, there are many that should not be preserved through the canning method. Dairy, wheat, oats, and flour products cannot be safely canned, as they can easily go rancid. Mashed vegetables, such as mashed potatoes, pumpkin, or butternut squash, can also accumulate bacteria and go bad. Do not try to can foods deemed unsafe to can, as they can cause you to become ill.