Canning Instructions to Preserve Food

Deanna Kawatski's canning instructions to preserve food from the harvest, including fruits, vegetables, meat and fish, as well as how to make her grandmother's favorite jams and pickles.

| August/September 1996

Late season harvest canning instructions to preserve food such as meat, fish, and the fruit and vegetable harvest. 

Canning Instructions to Preserve Food

I was never more secure in our wilderness home than when I lifted the latch and opened our pine cupboards to see double rows of variously shaped bottles traveling all the way to the far log wall. The ruby of pickled beets, the purple hue of huckleberries, rows of peas, pickles, and velvet raspberries in scarlet syrup were waiting for the long winter. Throughout our years in the bush, we ate only wild meat and the rabbits, chickens, and geese we raised ourselves. The store of moose and bear rose and fell with the seasons but we preserved everything from hindquarter roasts to heart and tongue to soup stock from boiling down the bones. I confess that for me the beginning of each canning season still initiates an energetic fumble through cupboards and drawers, while I mumble, "Where's my favorite funnel?" "Where in tarnation are the tongs?" or "Where's the confounded colander?" The wise canner assembles all tools in advance, and one advantage of this method of preservation is that once the equipment is acquired, none of it needs to be purchased again. Well...almost none.

Why do I bother with this time-consuming and inevitably messy seasonal chore? How about the spiritual zing of opening a jar of ruby cherries or apricots for dessert in the depths of February? Now how about saving all the money you would have dumped into fresh produce for the entire winter? Getting warmer? Not only is preserving economical, in the long run it also saves time.

The simple theory behind canning is that heat and an airtight seal preserve fruit and vegetables safely for months. The food, packed in jars, is heated to very high temperatures to destroy enzymes, bacteria, and other food-spoiling microorganisms. As the sealers heat, the air is driven from them, and as they cool a vacuum seal forms. This vacuum seal prevents the air from re-entering the jars and spoiling the contents. And unlike frozen produce, canned foods are not dependent on electricity to keep them sound. In our grandparents' time, refrigeration wasn't available and canning was the most practical method for storing perishables.

My own grandmother, with belt cinched tight on her pink housedress, and in shoes fit for battle, would march back and forth across the kitchen hoisting hot jars from the steaming water bath. Nanny canned in the same spirit that she conducted most of her business. Her preserves were like prayer bottles filled with the best of the harvest. Nothing matched her pears, or the tangerine tone of her pickled crabapples. Unlike me, Nanny was completely prepared and she followed the procedure with crisp efficiency. Also preserved in my mind is my own firm resolution to side-step the domestic yoke and seek out a life of adventure. Ironically my trail led to a remote pioneer existence where survival included canning countless jars of produce every year. On our Coast Mountain homestead, where, like our grandparents, we lived without refrigeration, it was our chief storage method.

The Two Basic Canning Strategies

Water-Bath Canning 

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