Can you can?

3 Oct

By Tara Thompson

You know canning food is not popular when you are in Real Canadian Superstore in mid-September and learn that all the canning supplies have been cleared to make room for Halloween candy. But never fear, I found my needed 250mL jars and proceed to continue our family tradition.

Canned tomatoes in the canner
Canned tomatoes in the canner

I remember going to my Gran & Poppa’s house every fall to can peaches and pears. We would all, usually about 5-6 of us, sit around a card table set up in their kitchen and proceed to blanch, peel, cut, pack, and process about 30 jars. I even remember my Mom making pickles and relish when I was a kid. When I met my husband, we incorporated his family’s tradition of canning tomatoes, making tomato/vegetable sauce, and creating jams. Now each year is a little different depending on what is needed (tomatoes and peaches) and what recipes strike our fancy (pickles and pickled pears).

Canned pears and peaches
Canned pears and peaches

I think that besides the tradition of  “this is what is done in the fall”, I like that I know exactly what is in the jars. It’s similar to when we make stocks; I can’t figure out why there is so much sodium in store bought stock, as we never add salt to stock. This made me think of tomato juice. Whenever I’ve tried any of the store bought tomato juice, I’ve found it too salty; maybe next year I’ll try making my own.

Canning isn’t complicated, but there are a number of steps. To get started, some basic supplies are needed:

  1. Mason Jars (we like large mouth jars)
  2. Two-piece lids (sealing disc & rim)
  3. Large pot to prepare the recipe in
  4. Canner (to hold the jars… water must cover the jars)
  5. Accurate measuring spoons and cups

When you find a recipe, follow it precisely and make sure that it is a modern recipe, current with today’s health guidelines.

This year’s new discovery was Pickled Pears (with a few adjustments for our tastes):

1 large lemon
8-1/2 cups water, divided
12 medium ripened Autumn Star pears (with red skins)
1-1/4 cups white sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
4 to 6 bay leaves (1 for each jar)
12 to 24 pink peppercorns (4 for each jar)
12 to 24 green peppercorns (4 for each jar)

Prepare the canner, jars, and lids for canning.

  • Start the water boiling in your canner (it takes longer than you think).
  • Sterilize the jars by either submersing them in boiling water or the rinse cycle of the dishwasher.
    Also while you finish working keep the jars warm to keep them sterilized.
  • Sterilize the lids by keeping them in a small pot of hot water to soften the seals. To prevent them from sticking together, put them in the water opposite each other: bottoms together, tops together.

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the lemon peel from the lemon in one continuous spiral. Cut vertically into pieces (1 for each jar) and set aside.

Squeeze the lemon juice into a large bowl and add 4 cups of water.

Peel, quarter, and core the pears, placing them in the lemon juice solution to prevent discolouration.

Place the sugar, vinegar, and remaining 4 1/2 cups water along with the reserved lemon peel in a large pot and bring to a boil.

Drain the pears and add them to the boiling syrup. Return to a boil and remove from the heat. The syrup should be a pink colour (from the skins).

In each sterilized Mason jar, place 1 piece of lemon peel, 1 bay leaf, 4 pink peppercorns, and 4 green peppercorns. Pack the pears into the jars to within 3/4” of the top of the rim of the jar (headspace). Remove any air trapped in the jars by sliding a rubber spatula down the sides of the jar. Fill with syrup, to the 3/4″ headspace.

Wipe the jar rim with a clean damp cloth. Centre the canning lid on the jar. Apply the screw band (rim) and tighten until just finger tip tight.

Place the jars in the canner and when the water is boiling time the process for 10 minutes. The water should cover the jars by at least 1”.

When 10 minutes is up, remove the lid from the canner and wait 5 minutes before removing the jars. Place the jars on a tea towel or wooden board. Let cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Check that the jars have sealed properly: sealed lids curve downward. Remove screw bands and store them separately (we don’t do this, but it is to prevent moisture and rust). Wipe jars clean, label and store them in a cool dark place until ready to serve.

Makes 3X500mL jars or 6X250mL jars.

    Adapted from “Picture Perfect Pickles: Pickled Pears.” Harrowsmith Country Life. October 2009 (No. 208) pg 86 (also available online through EBSCO’s MasterFILE Premier – check your library’s e-resources!).

    Other canning recipes are available in many places.  Two good books that I found are:

    Put ‘em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling by Sherri Brooks Vinton.

    You Can Can: A Guide to Canning, Preserving, and Pickling ed. Jan Miller

    Check out Tara’s bio on the Contributors page.

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