Friday, June 11, 2010

Canning 101

Last night, my mom and I attended a food preservation class at the Caswell County Extension Office. During the three hour class, we ate a nice dinner they provided, listened to different women lecture on the basics of canning and observed how to properly use a pressure cooker. Canning is something I have been wanting to learn for a long time, so this class was a great starting point.

During World War II, growing and preserving your own food was considered “patriotic.” By providing your own food, it allowed the government to send more rations to the troops. Thus, Americans dubbed their vegetable plots “victory gardens.” I thought the World War II poster below was kind of comical. I'm still not sure why her face looks so surprised. :)

Today, people can for a number of reasons. Some do it for health reasons because they want to know where their food is coming from and what’s in it. Others do it for economic reasons; they either want to save money or support the local economy by purchasing locally grown produce.

During the lectures, I learned a lot of interesting things I didn't know before. For instance, I never knew that after the lid had sealed you could unscrew the cap. I always thought it was the cap that held it on! Another interesting tidbit is that you use different methods depending on your product's pH. The more acidic foods you can simply boil in hot water, while the more basic foods must be processed with extreme caution. The reason for this is because the bacteria clostridium botulinum is activated by heat and can grow in an oxygen-free environment. (Conditions I thought killed bacteria!) Improperly canned foods have the possibility of developing botulism, a serious condition that can lead to death. However, the clostridium botulinum toxin is easily destroyed by boiling your product for 10 minutes.

In addition to the healthy and economic values of canning, it is so...homey. There is nothing quite as beautiful as a sparkling jar of homemade jam topped with a quaint cloth cap. Simple homemade gifts are always very special to me because of the thought and work that went into making them. Not to mention homemade preserves taste better too. Now I am just waiting for the blackberries to ripen so I can try out my newfound skills. Happy canning! :)


Hosanna said...

I love canning. I still have a few jars in my pantry from last year, and soon it will be canning season again - it lasted a loooong time!