Yippee! Canning season is almost over and soon it will be time to rest. Pears, tomatoes and salsa are now joining the sparkling jars of apricots, peaches, green beans, jams and jellies adorning the pantry shelves. They are the jewels of all homemaker's larders.
I have a love/hate relationship with the canning process. The love part began about 40 years ago when my neighbor taught me to can tomatoes. It was love at first bite and I quickly became hooked.
That is not to say that I actually enjoy the process. I don’t exactly hate it but it certainly can be tedious and exhausting. It’s a lot of work to grow, weed, water, harvest, clean and prepare produce for canning. And it’s not cheap when you factor in soil amendments, seeds, seedlings, jars, seals, lids, sugar and more.
But let’s face it, the toil and yes, frustration is all worth it on a dreary winter day when you open your own golden jar of peaches. Absolutely nothing you buy in the market can equal the taste and texture of your own preserved fruits or vegetables.
This year’s hot, dry weather produced an abundance of produce and our garden was quickly in full swing. Once crops are ripe for picking and processing, there’s no time for procrastination. The fruit of your labors will rot what you don’t eat, process or give it away.
Home canning is an ever-changing science. It involves much more than just putting food in jars and processing them. The importance of keeping up with the times is clear in this bulletin from the OSU Extension Service. It says: “Throw Grandma’s old canning recipes away if you want to avoid food-borne illnesses …”
The OSU Extension Service is really your go-to expert for all things canning. So if you’re not up to speed on the latest recommendations, check out their website and get caught up. Their tested canning recipes can be purchased at the office, ordered or downloaded at: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/food-preservation.
They also offer a wonderful Food Safety/Preservation Hotline. It is staffed by certified volunteers and Extension staff, Mon.—Thurs., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each of the individuals staffing the hotline has passed a certification exam and completed a 40-hour course in food preservation and safety. Call with your questions at 682-4246.
Food columnist Jan Roberts-Dominguez recently had a great article on canning tomatoes in the Oregonian newspaper. She said that today’s tomatoes are bred to be meatier than older varieties and therefore have become less acidic.
Today it is recommended that we add bottled lemon juice or citric acid to check the growth of botulism in our tomato products. Most of us old-time canners only added salt when canning our tomato products. Read all about it in Dominguez’ step-by-step article on the web at: http://www.oregonlive.com/foodday/index.ssf/2009/08/canning_tomatoes_raw_hot_or_cr.html
Now, if you’re a canning newbie, do not let all of this information scare you off. Get a canning buddy, take a class, ask a neighbor, buy a book and jump right in like you know what you’re doing. Once you’re hooked, you’ll never want to stop.
The first rule for all canners is to read updated instructions and processing times at the beginning of the canning season. The second rule is to never take shortcuts. Other basic rules are: Use standard Ball or Kerr canning jars, lids and seals; do not use overripe produce; never use chipped jars; never re-use seals and process jars for the full time called for. If jars don’t seal, discard the seal and either re-process, refrigerate or freeze the product.
Try enlisting a helper to make the job go faster. My husband is my canning prep cook and helper. Years ago after working 12-hour days in the restaurant, we would come home, eat dinner and start canning. We have continued that tradition to this day (although we now start and end long before midnight!).
As far as recipes go, I’m pretty basic. I don’t have the patience to clean, cook and process tuna or other meats. And I’ve never been really happy with the results of my attempts at making apple pie filling or spaghetti sauce with meat. I just stick to plain Jane fruits and vegetables that I can dress up later.
This summer our Bartlett pear tree decided to bless us with a nice crop. Following is a recipe that I’m going to try in addition to my usual pear butter. Let me know how you like it. Enjoy!
4 pounds pears (9 cups, diced)
2 cups canned crushed pineapple
Sugar (See below)
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 8-oz. bottle maraschino cherries
Wash and remove peel from oranges. Add 1 quart of water to peel and boil 5 minutes. Drain and discard water. Add another quart water, boil 5 minutes. Drain and discard water. Grind the peel and the peeled oranges together. (You should be able to do this in a blender if you don’t have a grinder.)
Wash, pare and remove core of pears, cut into small pieces. Combine oranges, pears and pineapple. Measure. Add half as much sugar as fruit mixture. Add lemon juice and mix thoroughly.
Cook rapidly until almost thick (about 40 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add cherries and cook about 5 minutes longer. Pour into sterilized Kerr jars to within 1/2 inch of top. Put on cap, screw band firmly tight. Process in Boiling Water Bath 10 minutes. Yield: 6 eight oz. jars.