4 Reasons why you Should be Canning and Simple Steps for Canning Salsa.
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Summer holds so many joys, but gardening and canning is one of my biggest summer joys.
I feel like food preserving is a bit of a lost art. I know very few people, young or old, who still preserve food and I find that so difficult to understand. By the way, canning is only one method of food preservation. There is also freezing, drying and more.
Here are three reasons why you should be preserving food.
1. Waste not, want not.
I love when friends and neighbors bring me their “extra” veggies from their summer vegetable garden. I always smile a little though when they tell me, “Oh, it would have just rotted. We can’t eat that much.”… Really?! Believe me, gardening is my therapy and sometimes you just don’t know how much you are going to get– or not get. Yet, it is a very rare occurrence here that anything from my garden will rot. I’m usually waiting on veggies to come off the plant for canning. Same goes with picking berries in the spring. Check out how to make a simple strawberry syrup from fresh picked strawberries. You can also chop up and freeze just about anything for later use in the year.
2. The green effect.
A big question I usually get is “does it save money?”. The answer is difficult, because it depends on the situation and how technical you want to get.
My answer is, if you are canning from a free source, yes. A free source means, you did not purchase the food that went into the cans. It becomes even cheaper after the first time you can, because you can reuse your jars and bands. Always buy new lids!
Another green effect, is knowing what is in your food. You made it in your kitchen, from your garden. You know exactly what you are eating.
3. Preserving food is a skill, and a simple one to learn.
It really is not as intimidating as it seems. Preserving food is not ‘hipster’ or a cool ‘hippy’ thing. In the past, it was a survival skill. For some it still is. The keyword is skill. The knowledge of this ability could save you hardship in a survival situation.
A great resource for safely learning about home food preserving is the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
4. Making memories.
Gathering in the kitchen and spending time on something that is so fruitful, makes the best of memories. When I can on my own, I love to turn on an audio book or even Netflix and enjoy the ME time. Getting my kids involved in the food prep is so fun, and I know creating great traditions. Even grabbing a bunch a gal pals and gabbing while you chop makes for lighter work and together time.
Let’s get started!
Yes, canning takes time. However, what I found to be the most difficult when I started canning was getting things organized and started in the right order. That is what I will help simplify for you. So when it comes time to fill your jars you will be ready to go.
Start by gathering all your ingredients together. You want to use fresh and ripe vegetables. Canning is not to preserve what is a day from rotting. Fresh and flavorful is best.
Get a small sauce pan out and fill it with water. Begin simmering on the stove.
Get a medium sized pot out and fill it with water. Bring to a boil.
Get a large pot— and I mean LARGE — like a soup/stock pot out. Set to side.
A bowl of cold water.
Take apart your jars, lids and bands. Put your jars and bands in the dishwasher and run on a sanitize cycle. Basically, you want to make sure your jars are clean, dry and hot when it comes time to fill them with your cooked salsa.
Take the lids and put them in the small sauce pan with simmering water on the stove. You want to sanitize your lids and keep them warm for when it comes time to fill the jars.
When the medium sized pot begins boiling. Gently lower tomatoes into the pot one by one. You want to keep the tomatoes in just until the skins split.
When the skin has split, remove the the tomatoes and dip them into a bowl of cold water.
Doing this, makes the skins peel off easily, causing you less stress. 🙂
Now, get to chopping! Chop, chop, choppity-chop.
Chop jalapenos, chop bell peppers, chop onions.
If you want thick chunky salsa go ahead and hand chop as you would like. I like to use a food processor on my jalapenos, bell peppers and onions. Dump all those chopped veggies into your LARGE pot.
Add your diced tomatoes, fresh cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, salt, garlic, tomato paste and sugar. Stir, Cover and cook for 40 minutes over medium high heat.
While this is cooking, grab a large towel and lay it out on the counter. This will catch any spill or messes when filling your jars.
If you have another large pot, fill it halfway with water. Grab some metal cookie cutters, or additional jar bands (tied together) and place at the bottom of the pot. This will be your Water Bath to finish out the canning process. The cutters or jar bands at the bottom serve as a rack. While I have placed my jars directly into the pot, without a rack, before. This is just an extra step to be sure your salsa does not become scorched at the bottom and most importantly that the bottom of your jars don’t become to hot and crack.
When you have about 5 minutes left for the salsa to cook, start taking your jars and bands out of the dishwasher and dry them thoroughly. Make sure they remain HOT, and place them out on the towel. Take the lids out of the small simmering sauce pan and dry them thoroughly also. Keep the dishtowel nearby that used to dry your jars, bands and lids.
Most people think you need a lot of fancy tools and equipment to can. While there are some great things to invest in, two items that I say are a necessity (and are cheap) is a jar funnel and jar lifter. This set also comes with a lid lifter and head space tool. A good bang for your buck.
Let me just say, for a few years I canned only with what I already had in my kitchen. It can be done. BUT The funnel saves you a big mess, and the jar lifter saves your fingerprints.
Now that your salsa is cooked. Bring your pot near your jars and using a ladle, funnel the salsa into the hot jars. Leave about 1/2″ of head space in the jar and make sure that there are no air bubbles. Grab the dishtowel, and wipe the rim of the jar to be sure it is clean and dry. You want a good seal.
Center a lid onto the jar. Keeping a finger in the center to keep the lid steady, hand tighten a band around the lid and jar. You do not need the band to be super tight.
Slowly lower your jars into the boiling water of the large pot. (Water Bath) Don’t crowd them in, you can always do multiple baths. Make sure the tops of the jars are covered by at least an inch or two. You want the water bath to be at a rolling boil. Cover with a lid and let process for 20 minutes, or adjust more for your altitude.
Once time is up, use your jar lifter and carefully place back on a toweled surface. Don’t set the jars too close together. Give them enough room to cool down. As the next 12 hours goes by, leave the jars out to cool and listen for the fun sounds of jar lids popping. The pop means a good vacuum seal. POP!
After 12 hours, check the seals on your jars. You can do this by pressing gently on the center of the lid. The lid should not flex back and forth at all. Also, get at eye level and be sure the lids are concave. I sometimes will remove the bands to do a check. You should be able to remove the band and the lid stay securely on the jar. Push slightly at the lip of the lid. SLIGHTLY. You do not want to release the seal, but by the same regard the seal should not break by a slight nudge if processed correctly.
If you do have jars that did not seal, empty the salsa into a sauce pan and heat on low. Inspect your jar for any nicks or cracks. Using clean and hot jars, bands and NEW lids. Start the process of refilling and hot water bathing them again, as before. Sometimes you can get a bad lid. Be sure to start with a new lid if you are re-processing.
Or you could always pour that salsa in a bowl and go ahead and eat it. 😉
Do you preserve food? What is your favorite thing to can? If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below or you can always send me an email using my contact page.