Imagine being a superhero with the ability to stop time at just the moment something is perfect. Pretty cool, right? Canning vegetables allows you to have that super power. It allows you to preserve a vegetable at the moment when it is at its yummiest and save it for a rainy (or snowy) day.
Yes, the process can be messy, time consuming, and even dangerous, but follow these five steps and you'll have jars filled with yummy goodness.
Some folks use a pressure canner, but any kitchen appliance with the word "pressure" in it causes me to crawl behind my refrigerator and hide. I prefer a boiling water bath method.
Before we go any further we need to talk about safety. Scald burns are painful, ugly, life-long reminders of a momentary misstep. Therefore, the number one rule of canning vegetables safely is to do it alone.
Usually I'm a huge proponent of cooking with kids but not when it come to canning vegetables. Put those apple-cheeked children to bed, put the dog and cat outside, and claim the kitchen for yourself. Kiddos and pets move quickly and unpredictably so they're not compatible with large pots of boiling water and vegetables.
Gather your supplies:
18-21 quart canning pot with lid (your large pasta pot is not big enough)
wire canning rack
glass canning jars with metal lids and rings
jar lifting tongs
a canning funnel is nice but not absolutely necessary
ripe vegetables (or fruits) that you're going to can as well as syrup
lots of clean-up towels and pot holders
an hour or two of uninterrupted time (I know, I know, when pigs fly...)
I find "A Prairie Home Companion" playing the background to be an absolute necessity, but you can choose your own soundtrack.
Sterilize the glass jars, lids, and rings by boiling the jars for ten minutes and the lids and rings for five minutes. Remove to a drying rack and cool.
Prepare the vegetables and syrup (that's the liquid that is in the jar with the vegetables). Tomatoes and dilly beans are common veggies to can, but the options are endless. Look here for some yummy recipes.
Peel the vegetable if it has a skin (like tomatoes), remove any blemishes, cut up the vegetable into manageable sized pieces, and boil. How long you boil depends on what type of vegetable you're canning. Check out these recipes.
At this point make sure that your canning pot is 2/3 full of water and heating on the stove to be ready for step 4.
Put the vegetables in the sterilized glass jars and fill with syrup; leave a half- to one-inch of space at the top of the jar. Many folks find a funnel to be helpful in filling the jars neatly, but I use a ladle and clean up any drips with a wet sponge.
Place the flat lids and rings on the jars. Put the ring on tightly but do not over tighten (think "firm twist"--not Incredible Hulk).
Once the pot of water is boiling, place your filled jars on the wire rack and gently lower into the pot. Most vegetables need to be boiled for 20-30 minutes. Consult this guide for more specific info--especially if you live at a high altitude. Watching boiling water can be tedious but, for safety's sake, stay alert and present in your kitchen while the jars are boiling.
Once your jars have boiled for the appropriate length of time, use the lifting tongs to carefully remove each jar from the boiling water and place on a towel or cooling rack. Do not touch the jars until they have completely cooled.
When the jars are cool, unscrew the ring (this allows any water to escape and avoid rust) and re-tighten. Do not remove the flat lid. Tap on the center of the flat lid. If you hear a "pop" then it is not sealed properly. If this is the case, put the jar in the refrigerator right away--it can still be used. You will need to reprocess (reboil) the jar in order to ensure a safe seal.
Store your jars of yummy goodness somewhere away from direct heat, sunlight, and drafts.
How long can I store my canned veggies?
Generally speaking, canned veggies can be safely stored for a year.
Although I've never had it, I suspect botulism isn't fun. When you open your jar, the contents should smell and taste normal. Do not eat if the jar is leaking, bulging, or swollen. If in doubt, throw it out.
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Image of canned vegetablesvia Shutterstock