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Old 08-01-2006, 12:31 PM   #11
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Ayrton, canning is great fun and really, really satisfying--nothing like looking a row of jars full of good food, and knowing that you did it yourself.

Call your local extension office. They may be planning a canning class--I know we do them here once every few years.

This link http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/index.html will help you find your local office.

Also--if you want a canning buddy to help walk you thru the process--pm me. I would be glad to help.
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Old 08-02-2006, 03:03 AM   #12
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Ayrton, if I made you nervous enough to spend some time reading about how to safely can food the proper way ... then I am glad I did. People need to be aware that there are consequences for not doing it right.

On the other hand - it's not that difficult to do properly once you know what the rules are. When you started learning to drive a car you learned certain safety rules to make you a safer driver, and had to take a test to demonstrate that you had an understanding of those rules and skills - canning is about the same. It's all about knowing the rules and following them. When you were learning to drive you probably got a book from your Department of Motor Vehicles explaining the rules - in canning we have the Ball Blue Book.

A pressure cooker and a pressure canner (sometimes called a canner/cooker) are essentially the same thing - except for the size. Some pressure cookers can only handle 4-5 pints for canning - while a small pressure canner can generally handle 5 quarts or 8-10 pints (depending on the rack they have). You just need to read the specs on the pot you want to purchase.

We have options for food preservation that our grandmothers did have 50 years ago ... like vacuum packaging and freezing - which can be a better option for some things.

What was it that you wanted to can? We have a bunch of knowledgeable canners and food preservationists in here ... and we're always happy to help.
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Old 08-02-2006, 04:08 AM   #13
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Good morning and THANKS, especially to GB, Michael, and Sparrowgrass.

Sparrowgrass, thanks for offering to hold my hand -- I may take you up on that! As for your suggestion to contact my local extension office, no can do as I reside in Greece.

GB, I hear you about the Ball Blue Book, as I'd heard Michael. I'll arrange to order it and ship it here if one of you would be kind enough to confirm that it actually has vital information that the USDA site doesn't have (I was impressed by that site and did download all the Acrobat files that represent their complete guide).

Michael, your analogy regarding driving was EXACTLY what I was looking for and I'm going to hold on to that. I learned to drive and I love to drive, so ... I'll learn to can and I'll just betcha I'll love it! (Other people scale high mountains to surpass their personal limits ... I plan to conquer canning.)

As for what I want to can: relatively few things come to mind immediately since for years I've just nixed the idea out of fear. Those I mentioned already (chili sauce; watermelon pickles; mango chutney). If I think more about it, I suppose some other childhood favorites that I can't easily/cheaply do here in Greece would be good: apple butter maybe?

I'm not interested in plain ol' veggies as I'll freeze or just stick to seasonal.

Whether it fits technically into "canning" or not, I admit I'm interested also in learning to corn beef and make sourkraut (sp?). Know anyone with expertise in that area?

Again, thank you. I really look forward to receiving your guidance! Now let me run out and check my local market for a proper pressure canner (thanks also, Michael, for clarifying the differences) and canning jars ...
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Old 08-02-2006, 05:39 AM   #14
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Just an "FYI" post for any European-based folk who might be browsing this thread:

"Canning" isn't the term to use here, evidently "preserving" is the English term in Europe. My Google searches improved greatly once I realized this!

Seems the Ball type of jar exists over here from two major manufacturers: the Italian Bormioli Rocco and the German Leifheit (another, "Le Parfait", appears to have only the glass clamp-type top jars). I'm pretty sure it's the Bormioli that I've seen here in Greece.

Bormioli's canning (sorry -- preserving!) jars are under the wing of their "Quattro Stagioni" product group. Within are the usual array, plus a jar -- or rather, bottle -- which appears to be unique to them: their "passata" bottle which is very much like an old-fashioned milk bottle. (I freeze my "passata" in ice-cube trays, but I suppose it's potentially nice to know they offer this bottle if I become a canning-maniac.)

That's it thus far!
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Old 08-02-2006, 03:25 PM   #15
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Sorry, Ayrton, didn't realize you were so far away--offer still holds to help you, if you like.

The USDA site should have all you need, but the Ball Blue Book is convenient, lots of pictures, lots of recipes.

If you are going to start out with chili sauce, watermelon pickles, and mango chutney, you don't really need a pressure canner--you can use a water bath canner for all of those, because of the vinegar/sugar included in the recipes. Your water bath canner needs to be large and deep enough to cover the jars with an inch or 2 of water, at a rolling boil.

It doesn't have to be to be a heavy pan--cheap aluminum or porcelain coated steel will work-- but if you already have a big stock pot, that will work .
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Old 08-03-2006, 01:36 AM   #16
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Sparrowgrass, good morning. I have a question or two if you please (and the hand-holding begins ...):

Have just been looking closely at the .pdf's from the USDA site and one issue kept popping up, namely, that they recommend you use VERY specific recipes and ingredients so that things stay "safe."

Another recommendation was also to use only bottled lemon juice rather than fresh.

Well, as for the first instruction, my immediate reaction is that it takes much of the potential fun out of the whole thing: so everybody who cans is using THE same recipes (or they're dead)? How boring!

As for the second, while I have three lemon trees in my back yard, I couldn't get ahold of bottled lemon juice even if I held the supermarket up at gunpoint. Just doesn't exist. So am I doomed?

I guess I'd like to know how much real, honest-to-gosh canners are following these recipes exactly? The basic procedures I've already commited to following to the letter, but the recipes? I mean, elsewhere on this site I've sought some chutney and relish recipes and already received some that sound just great. Does this mean because they're not USDA-approved that I should disregard them?

Piffle, if so!
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Old 08-03-2006, 10:37 AM   #17
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OK--here is MY answer (definitely not the USDA or Extension answer).

Yes, you can tweak recipes, but just a little. Acidity and sugar content are important because both of those inhibit bacterial growth, especially if you are waterbath canning. If you want to add or subtract spices--go for it, that won't make any difference. If you decide you want your jam to be sugar free and you leave out all the sugar, you could very well have problems with spoilage or food poisoning.

If you pressure can your recipes, you have a bit more leeway. (Because the temp is higher than 212, and more likely to kill the bacteria.)

As a beginner, I would follow the recipes pretty much as written.

I wouldn't worry about subbing fresh lemon juice for bottled. I wouldn't use bottled lemon juice on a bet, in anything.

There will be some natural variation in any recipe--my fruit may be riper or greener, sweeter or tarter, or more or less watery than yours.

Just one more thing to worry about--are you above 1000 feet? You have to add processing time if you are, or use a higher pressure in the pressure canner.

Post your recipe, and I will forward it to our nutrition person and ask her opinion on the "cannability" of it. (I don't think the work "cannability" is going to catch on. Sounds a little gruesome.)
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Old 08-03-2006, 10:54 AM   #18
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Using bottled lemon juice is a way for the canning company to protect themselves by assuring a known acidity. I wouldn't worry about using fresh.
Chutney and watermelon rind pickles do not require pressure canning--water bath is sufficient.
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Old 08-04-2006, 02:57 AM   #19
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Good morning, everyone -- and thanks again for your input.

As of last evening, I now own four half-liter Bormioli canning jars which is just what my pressure cooker will hold in one go. That means I'm ready!

Sparrowgrass, my watermelon pickle recipe is below. It's a beloved family recipe from an aunt who's a talented gardener, cook, and canner.
Sweet Watermelon Pickles

4 quarts watermelon rind
2 c. white vinegar
4 sticks cinnamon, broken
7 c. sugar
2 T. whole cloves

Cut green and pink flesh off watermelon rind and cut into 1" cubes. Soak in strong salt water overnight. Pour off salt waterand boil in fresh water until just tender, not soft.

Make syrup, add rind and spices, cook 10". Remove from heat, cover and let stand overnight. Drain off syrup, bring to a boil and pouur over rind. Continue this process for 5 nights.

Bring pickles to a boil the fifth morning, cook gently 5". Pack in sterile jars.

As for the other recipes and your kind offer to run them by your nutrition person for their cannability (!!), here's the scoop: for the chili sauce I'd start with The Joy of Cooking recipe which I'd be willing to stick to very accurately. Do you agree that it's probably a "safe" recipe?


As for the mango chutney, I have a couple of choices: the recipe in "Joy" and several recipes I received in response to my "ISO hot mango chutney recipe" thread (Sauces, Marinades, Rubs / condiments section of this site). Here's where my normal impulse in making the chutney would be to pick and choose from the various recipes quite freely -- upping the ginger and chili; changing spices according to taste/availability; changing proportions according to mangoes on hand. I do these things by instinct, usually -- just not a slavish recipe follower (as long as we're not talking about cakes, breads, or other formula baking, that is.)

So ... deep breath ... do I go for it, pressure processing whatever I come up with, and just ... hope?

(Does chutney freeze well?! )
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Old 08-05-2006, 04:34 AM   #20
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Ayrton - now that you have revealed that you live somewhere in Greece it does make a difference. (We have members from all around the world and without knowing where you live it makes it a little difficult to give "location" specific help sometimes). As far as the mechanics - yes the USDA site does contain all of the information that you need - and that is duplicated in the Ball Blue Book. The nice thing about the Ball books is that they provide proven and tested recipes ... with step-by-step instructions. But, the USDA site has some, too.

Joy of Cooking also has some good recipes (that's where I started). But, depending on the publication date, you might want to use newer canning methods. A lot depends on the recipe and the method they used.
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