By Beth Peralta
Pop Quiz, fellow chambanamoms: when you think of mason jars, what are your top three thoughts? Are canning and food preservation one of them? Or is your brain filled more with home decorations, weddings, and adult beverages? It’s okay if that’s what you see. That’s what I saw, too, before this past year.
When I started a new job close to a year ago, I was introduced to food preservation and canning as a very current thing – not something of the past. I’m noticing this popularity in many places, and you probably are, too. I started seeing references in food blogs, noted tasty recipes and tips on Pinterest and other social media outlets. Even one of our local grocery stores has had a highly-trafficked aisle dedicated to canning supplies, books, and other related items for much of the summer.
However, despite all of this contact, I’ve never actually canned as of yet, so I turned to the experts when I wanted to learn more.
I spoke with Leia Kedem, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, and Kristy Powell, Registered Dietitian, fellow toddler-mom, and experienced home preserver. (Full disclosure: University of Illinois Extension is my current employer). They shared their favorite resources, foods, and other tips that can help anyone get started.
Leia leads several canning classes each year, and stressed that there are easy, foolproof ways to get started if it is new to you. Her favorite resource is the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, which can be accessed for free in PDF format here.
She also stressed the importance of getting ingredients and instructions from “reputable, research-based sources. There are a lot of recipes posted on blogs, printed in magazines, and passed down for generations. The problem is they haven’t been tested for safety. A lot of research has been done to figure out the exact ratios of ingredients and how long they need to be ‘processed’ in order to kill potentially fatal bacteria. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has tested recipes for all kinds of things. They also have a troubleshooting section for when your jars don’t seal or you run into other problems.”
Food safety is definitely an important aspect of canning to remember. Certain foods, like green beans (which are low in acidity), must be canned using pressure canning to keep the food safe to eat. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great resource to check out how to safely process the food you want to can!
What’s her favorite recipe to make and share? Strawberry preserves (sounds delicious!)
Kristy has always planted a large garden with her family, and started canning in 2011 after she received a 22-quart pressure cooker from her mother-in-law. She has found that canning has allowed her to make a variety of items with her favorite food to preserve – tomatoes – and also experimented last year with different recipes for the huge crops of apples, peaches, and pears they harvested. Fruit purees have also given her a great way to make foods without added sugar for her toddler to enjoy! Her hands-down favorite resource? The Ball Blue Book to Home Canning.
Do you can at home? What is your favorite recipe?
If you want to get started or learn more, here are excellent resources that can help (including those that are listed above):
Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning
Better Homes and Gardens You Can Can: A Guide to Canning, Preserving, and Pickling.
National Center for Home Food Preservation
University of Illinois Extension – Canning Jams & Jellies
University of Illinois Extension – Food Preservation Resources
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Canning & Freezing Pinterest Board
USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning
Beth Peralta has lived in Champaign-Urbana since 1998, minus a few summers and nine months in grad school. She is a mother to Natalie, wife to Andrew, a registered dietitian nutritionist, and an active community volunteer with the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana. Free time is spent getting back into running after baby, trying new recipes, and checking out things to do in CU with her family.