The Rapidian

It's canning season!

The Local Feed on WYCE provides tips for canning locally grown produce.

/Theresa Hogerheide

Need Recipes?

There are many sources for canning recipes. Visit MI Local Foodbeet for sauce recipes to enjoy year round. 

Over the past two weeks, on WYCE’s The Local Feed, I have been talking about canning tips. The extended audio is linked above. There are more than a dozen farmers markets in the Grand Rapids area and plenty of farm stands further afield. The local grocery and specialty stores also sell locally grown produce. Now is the time to get started.
There are two kinds of canning procedures: water bath and pressure canning. For water bath canning you need a very large pot with a rack in the bottom. It will typically hold seven glass canning jars. With the filled jars in the pot, the water is boiled for a specific length of time to process the food. A pressure canner is an appliance that traps steam to process the food using the pressure created. Low-acid foods, such as green beans and beets, require higher sterilization temperatures, and this is accomplished with a pressure canner.
- Start each season with a small canning project to get over what I call Canning Amnesia. It is easy to forget the process.
- Know how long the project will take – and plan extra time. Canning a bushel of tomatoes could take 9 – 10 hours.
- Wash the produce the night before, so you can get right to canning in the morning.
- Be sure to take a break to stretch and rest your hands if you are peeling a large amount of produce. 
- Don’t put the peelings in the disposal; it will most likely clog.
- Wear shoes! Canning is no time to risk spilling boiling water on your feet or slipping in socks.
- Be flexible with your attitude about the results. The project might not look how you envisioned it but will probably still taste good.
- Have a set of towels of various sizes specifically for food processing. They will get stained.
- Don’t boil the canning lids. This is mentioned on the manufacturer’s literature.
- Wipe up spills on the range top immediately so they don’t crust over while the burner is on for hours.
- Have an oven mitt for each hand.
- Other than a light touch to verify that the jars have sealed, don’t touch them for 24 hours. 
- Wipe up juice splashes immediately to prevent staining of surfaces.
- Think about how much of a fruit or vegetable you will use. Don’t make extra unless you wish to give it away.
- Canning is NOT for children. Engage them in how delicious the food is or in a freezer jam project. Teach them to can later in life.
- Follow the directions from a canning cookbook or on the pectin package. Purchase a book written by the canning jar manufacturer. 
- If you end up with filled jars that are not going into the canner, don’t put the citric acid in them. Uncooked citric acid is very tart. 
- If you are cold packing tomatoes – use juicy ones. The paste-type tomatoes will not fill up the jar in the end unless they are especially squished down into it. 
- If the jar does not seal, put it into the refrigerator or freezer right away. Eat the food within a few days if refrigerated. 
- Know which produce must be canned in a pressure canner and which can be canned in a boiling water bath.
- The first step is to read the instructions for the pressure canner – AND follow them completely. 
- Do NOT try to remove the cover or anything on or attached to the cover while there is still pressure. 
- Determine the appropriate cooking time; prep the canning jars, lids, and rings. 
- Think about how you are going to handle peeling the produce. My book indicated that the beet skins would ‘slip off’ after 15 – 25 minutes of boiling, but they started to loosen after 45 minutes of boiling. I read online that using a butter knife to cut the ends off of the beets and push the skins off was helpful. I found it so.
- You could can meals such as chili or soups in a pressure canner. Time it with your normal meal prep for efficiency. But, the portions to be canned must go in undercooked, so that they are not mushy after the canning process.
- I found that when I added citric acid to a meal including my summer canned tomatoes – which already had citric acid – the food was way too tart. So after that, I left out the citric acid for the chili or soup that included pre-canned tomatoes. 
- Canning cooks the food, so you need to put raw or only slightly sautéed foods into the canner. (This pertains to vegetarian food. Check your pressure canner instructions for meat.)
- If you are doing more than one batch in the pressure canner, have a book or other activity ready. There is a lot of time spent waiting for the canner to depressurize and then re-pressurize for the second batch.
- When packing starchy vegetables such as beets into a pressure canner, be sure to pack them down in order to have enough to fill the jar when the vegetables settle.
Go forth and can! It is very rewarding. And, can food with a buddy or teach others, because it is fun to have company.

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