Canning

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How is your vegetable garden looking right now? It should be at the peak of production at this point, overflowing with summer bounty. And this is where most people discover the gardener’s dilemma ... too much of a good thing. Sure, planting all those zucchini plants seemed like a brilliant idea back in May, but now? You have so many zucchini that you may have to sell your house. But don’t fret. We have a solution. Canning.

Yes, we know, canning is an abstract concept to most people ... something you’d pin on your “Something to Try When I Buy My Little Villa in Tuscany Someday” board on Pinterest. But it is a LOT easier than you think. Seriously. Odds are that you and your neighbors have a wealth of tomatoes, zucchini, squash, beans, cucumbers, peppers, and myriad other vegetables that hold over beautifully when canned. How great would it be to break out buttered almond string beans from your garden for Christmas dinner? You can do it. Trust us.

So what do you need? Well, it depends on what you have on hand. For example, if you have a big crab-steaming pot, you’re in business. If not, we carry them. We also have jars, lids, labels, tongs, funnels, strainers, pickling spices, muslin, pectin, pickling lime, salt, citric acid, pectin, and everything else that you could possibly need. Okay, we just sensed your eyes glazing over as you moved your mouse towards the close-the-window thingee. You don’t believe us that it is easy. It absolutely is.

The mechanics behind canning and pickling are not particularly complex. In fact, it’s quite easy. A clean jar is filled with prepared food; you apply the flat lid and the threaded ring to the jar and submerge the filled jar in boiling water for a prescribed amount of time (times vary, depending on what you're canning). When the hot jar is removed from the water, the heat starts to escape, taking with it any air left in the jar. The escaping oxygen pulls the lid down, and the vacuum creates an airtight seal. A food-safe sealing compound embedded into the lid aids in the integrity of the seal. Food preserved in this manner will keep safely for at least a year.

So how do you get started? Well, although the process is essentially the same for most vegetables, there are some subtle differences when canning and pickling certain foods, usually depending on the acidity. So, your best bet is to go to the Ball® website freshpreserving.com for simple and complete instructions, including videos. Pinterest and YouTube also have some excellent guides and many creative suggestions on how to preserve your summer harvest. And once you take the leap and discover how easy it is, you’ll be enjoying your homegrown vegetables well into winter!

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Guest May 22, 2017