Preserving 101: Principles of Canning


Summer gardening season is in full swing, and we are starting to enjoy this year’s harvest. For some of us there will be a surplus, and when it comes to what the hell am I going to do with all these {…} (fill in gap), preserving is the answer. I am not an experienced canner, but the women in my family are. Watching the process (and enjoying the outcome) a million times over, I feel the time has come to join the club. Funny, this turning 30 thing. First yeast dough, and now this… 🙂

Home canning is a fulfilling experience and an economical way to preserve quality produce, not to mention a source of pride when the food is enjoyed by family and friends. In order not to let your hard work go to waste, we need to talk about proper canning practices. This topic should not be taken lightly, as all the advantages will be lost when poor quality products are used, seals are failing, and food is spoiling. I’ve read USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning so you don’t have to, and I actually found it fascinating. Am I a weirdo? Sure, but hey, my father is a microbiologist. Certain things just run in the blood I suppose.

And so, I’ve decided to break down the very basics of preserving for you in a series of posts. Preserving 101 is meant to be your (and my) guide for home canning, and I will be referring back to it in future posts. Hope you’ll find it useful!

How does canning work? Due to the high percentage of water in them, most fresh foods are very perishable. Bacteria, mold and yeasts start multiplying quickly on the surface and inside bruised, damaged parts. Enzymes activize, and reactions with oxygen start soon after harvesting. Washing and peeling only reduces the number of germs slightly. Proper canning on the other hand removes oxygen, destroys enzymes and prevent the growth of microorganisms.

Food safety. I cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure the destruction of the largest expected number of microorganisms. Consuming spoiled food may cause health issues ranging from a light tummy ache to lethal food poisoning. Botulism, a deadly form of toxication is caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. These spores are harmlessly present in the soil, but when ideal conditions exist (moist, low acidity food and absence of air) they start producing a deadly toxin. Fortunately, health hazards can be avoided by following a few simple routines.

What are proper canning practices? Carefully select and wash fresh, properly matured food, discard of diseased, insect-damaged pieces and bruised parts. Peel, if applicable. Use sterilized, undamaged jars and lids. Always maintain adequate temperatures and processing times. Add preservatives such as citric acid, vinegar, sugar or salt. Form high vacuum in jars to achieve tight seals in order to keep liquid, air and microorganisms out.

If you are not frightened off yet (you shouldn’t be!), drop by later for the next piece on the subject of canning and learn how to sterilize jars. It’s very uncomplicated, you’ll see!


4 thoughts on “Preserving 101: Principles of Canning

  1. Pingback: Garlic Confit |

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