Preserving Your Garden
There is nothing quite as rewarding as making and serving your own homemade pickles, preserves, and relishes. With our busy work schedules, and the convenience and variety of supermarket products, home canning isn't as necessary as it was 100 years ago. It does take some time and effort to do your own canning, but with a little organization and the right equipment, it's really easy! What better way to preserve your garden through the winter months? Following are some of my tips for hassle-free canning, and a list of Web resources offering safety and equipment information.
Make sure you have the right utensils before you start. They should be made of enamelware (unchipped), stainless steel, aluminum, or glass for heating pickle liquids. Copper, brass, galvanized, or iron utensils should not be used; these metals might react with acids or salts and cause color changes in pickles or form undesirable compounds.
Read recipes through carefully to make sure you have all ingredients. Have foods chopped, sliced, or ground and ready, jars sterilized, workspace cleaned, and have plenty of clean cloths and potholders available before you begin.
Fill jars firmly and uniformly, but avoid packing so tightly that the brine or syrup is prevented from filling around and over the product. Be sure to leave the recommended head space.
Wipe the rim and threads of the jars with a clean, hot cloth to remove any particles of food, seeds, or spices. Even a small particle may prevent an airtight seal.
To use two-piece metal lids, place the lid on the jar with the sealing compound next to the glass. When the band is screwed tight, this lid has enough "give" to let air escape during processing. Do not open and add more liquid after processing.
Cool the jars out of drafts on a wire rack several inches apart. Cool for 12 to 24 hours then remove the metal screw bands carefully; check jars for an airtight seal. If the center of the metal lid has a slight dip or stays down when pressed, the jar is sealed. If the jar shows signs of leakage or improper seal, use it right away or recan it. To recan, empty the jar, repack in a clean jar, and reprocess.