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Putting up the garden.

Nature has its glories, but to many, a pantry lined with rows of home-canned fruits and vegetables is the most beautiful of sights. The bounty of summer, packed away in precious batches, in cans or in freezer boxes to be brought out and savored on some cold winter's day, must have universal appeal, for nearly 40 percent of American households still can and freeze food at home.

Tomatoes top the list of canning favorites. Their high price in stores makes canning them at home highly (as they say in business) cost-effective. Pickles and relishes are the runners-up; then come jams and jellies--pride of county fairs--and other vegetables and fruits.

Many people don't have the time or the space to put up large stocks for years to come, so small-batch canning has become the preferred method of most homemakers. Working with two to four pints at a time is not tiring and requires little more equipment than that found in most kitchens. The work can often be done along with other kitchen chores.

Canning

Whether canning large or small quantities, only two methods are acceptable: hot-water-bath canning and pressure canning. Open-kettle canning may be used for fruit jellies only. Oven canning and microwave-oven canning do not meet modern standards of safety from deadly botulism or spoilage.

Hot-water-bath canning: Only high-acid foods (fruits, pickled vegetables and some tomatoes) can be safely processed by the hot-water-bath method. Pack the jars with either raw or slightly cooked, hot food; fill with liquid according to the recipe used; attach lids and closures according to the manufacturer's directions; and place in a kettle of hot water on a rack that allows water to circulate under the jars. The water level should be one inch above the jar lids. Add more hot water during processing if necessary. Bring the water to a boil before beginning to count the processing time. When the time is up, remove the jars from the hot water and set them two inches apart on towels or a wire rack until thoroughly cool. To avoid a sudden temperature change, which may cause the glass to crack, do not set the hot jars directly on a cool surface or where cool air will blow on them.

Pressure canning: All vegetables except some tomatoes must be processed under pressure to be absolutely safe. The temperature of boiling water (212[deg.'F.) is not hot enough to kill deadly organisms that may dwell in meats, fish and the low-acid vegetables. Steam pressure of ten pounds indicates the water inside the pressure cooker is at 240[deg.]F.--hot enough to make the foods safe if they are processed for the recommended time. As an extra precaution, all home-canned low-acid foods should be boiled uncovered and stirred often for 15 minutes before being served.

The pressure saucepan, which will process four pint jars, builds up pressure and loses pressure more quickly than the pressure canner and, therefore, requires more time for adequate processing. Although the time for processing in the pressure saucepan and the shorter time for processing in the pressure canner are both given, the directions with the recipes that follow are intended for use with a pressure saucepan rather than the larger pressure canner.

Pressure-canning guidelines: Follow these simple steps in using your pressure cooker for canning. Remember, all authorities on canning agree that pressure canning is the ONLY safe method for processing nonacid foods.

1. Clean and wash all working surfaces. Make sure all your supplies are on hand and ready to use.

2. Use only jars in perfect condition, free from nicks, cracks and sharp edges. Was jars and lids in hot, sudsy water, rinse thoroughly and let stand in hot water until ready to use. Use new lids and closures, and follow manufacturer's directions in exact sequence.

3. Select fresh, firm products according to the size and degree of ripeness. The rule of thumb is two hours from garden to jar. Obviously this is not always possible, but the quicker the better.

4. Wash food thoroughly, several times if necessary; but don't soak the food, because valuable vitamins and minerals will be washed away.

5. Fill hot jars with hot food and leave a half-inch head space for fruits and a one-inch head space for vegetables.

6. Work out air bubbles with clean plastic, nonmetal rod or knife.

7. Wipe rim of jar clean of seeds, pulp and juice.

8. Adjust the lids and closures on jars according to directions.

9. Place rack in pressure cooker. Add five cups of boiling water.

10. Set the hot jars on the rack. Turn heat high.

11. Place cover on the cooker and lock in place.

12. Allow a steady flow of steam to emerge from vent pipe for five to seven minutes.

13. Place pressure regulator on vent pipe. Start counting processing time as soon as desired pressure is reached. Adjust heat to keep pressure at required level. Pressure regulator should maintain a slow, steady rocking motion.

14. Turn off heat at end of processing time and remove the cooker from heat.

15. Let the pressure return to zero. Do not try to hasten the process by removing the pressure regulator, by running cold water over the top or by opening the petcock. This might release the seals on the jars.

16. When the pressure registers zero, remove the pressure regulator and let the canner stand for two minutes. Release the top gradually and lift the cover away from you to prevent any possible scalding by steam.

17. Remove the jars from the pan and set on a rack or damp towels; leave space between the jars. Do not move again until thoroughly cooled.

18. Stay close to the kitchen when you are using a pressure cooker. If the rubber gasket has been checked and the petcock and safety valve are clear, you will have no trouble; but plan to do something nearby just incase.

The most experienced canners do not recommend home canning the following vegetables:

Cabbage, except sauerkraut; cauliflower; celery; cucumbers; eggplant; lettuce; onions; parsnips; turnips; or vegetable mixtures.

Freezing Methods

Freezing is preferred to canning for a number of fruits and vegetables and is equally good in some cases. The size of a freezer depends on space and the number of people it is to service. Good planning makes even a small freezer a worthwhile investment.

Containers: Containers and wrappings for freezing should protect the food so it will retain garden-fresh color, taste and texture. The 1/2-pint, 1-pint and 1-1/2-pint rigid containers with straight bottoms, sides and tops pack easily in the freezer and stack well in the cupboard. When using them, be sure to leave ample head space to allow for expansion and to press the covers firmly into place. The heavy-plastic freezer bags are more easily filled if first placed in a plastic box; they must have as much air as possible pressed out before sealing Glass jars made for freezing are decorative ad useful for gifts.

Labeling and storing: Write the contents and date on masking tape and place the label on the container top where it can be easily read. As soon as the containers are sealed, put them in the freezer; for fast freezing, set them apart for 24 hours to allow air to circulate. When frozen, pack them close together.

Fast freezing means moisture in the food turns into tiny crystals, best preserving the natural texture and flavor. Slow freezing produces large-size crystals, which break down cell walls in the fruits and vegetables and make the thawed product less satisfactory.

Remember! Freezing stops the growth of organisms that cause spoilage but does not kill them. Once the food becomes warm again, which can happen during a power failure or if your freezer is accidentally disconnected, the organisms begin to grow and multiply. Partially thawed foods should be cooked or canned immediately or should be destroyed. Do not refreeze thawed foods.

Freezing guidelines for vegetables:

1. USE only ripe and freshly picked produce.

2. Wash and prepare vegetables according to recipe directions.

3. Wash fruits quickly in cold water and prepare according to recipe, using ascorbic acid to prevent discoloration when necessary.

4. "Blanch" or boil vegetables according to directions. This stops the action of enzymes, which make the vegetables grow. If enzyme action is allowed to continue, the vegetable can become coarse and flavorless. Enzymes defy freezing but cannot withstand heat.

5. Drain the blanched vegetables and plunge immediately into cold water. Allow the same amount of time for cooling as for blanching. Drain thoroughly and follow the directions for packing.

6. The freezer temperature should be 0[deg.]F.

Preparing just two to four half-pint or pint containers at a time from the recipes we offer below will provide added interest in your winter menus.

Broccoli

Broccoli, like other members of the cabbage family, should be frozen, not canned. One pound of raw broccoli will yield one pint of frozen, which will serve two to three people. In small kitchens, do not process more than four pounds at a time. Divide the broccoli so that you blanch no more than one pound at a time.

Freezing: Trim the leaves and large stalk; divide the broccoli into bunches about one inch in diameter with tender stems.

Soak in a bowl containing two quarter of water mixed with half-cup of salt for 15 minutes. Drain, place in a steaming basket and plunge into boiling water for three minutes. Drain and dry on paper toweling. Pack into containers, leaving no head room. Seal and freeze.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts, another cabbage, are best preserved by freezing. One pound yields one pint of frozen sprouts.

Freezing: Choose only bright-green heads and sort according to size for blanching and freezing.

Wash well, remove any loose leaves and trim the bottom stems. Blanch in boiling water; allow three minutes for small, four minutes for medium and five minutes for large sprouts. Drain and plunge into very cold water for three to six minutes. Drain and dry on paper toweling. Pack into containers, and leave no head room. Seal and freeze.

Cauliflower

Select tender, snow-white heads for freezing. Two medium-size heads yield three pints of frozen cauliflower.

Freezing: Trim any brown imperfections and soak the heads in a water-salt solution (four teaspoons of salt for each gallon of water) for 30 minutes to remove any insects.

Break into florets, cut away the large stalks and break and cut florets into pieces about one inch across. Blanch for three minutes in salted, boiling water. Plunge immediately into cold water. Drain, dry and pack the cauliflower loosely into containers; leave no head space. Seal and freeze.

Corn

Although corn cans and freezes well, the exceptionally long processing time required for canning corn makes freezing more desirable for those of us on tight schedules. Two to 2-1/2 pounds in husks yields one pint and may be processed as cream style or whole kernel.

Select ears with plump, tender kernels and thin, sweet milk. If the milk is thick and starchy, process as cream style. Husk the corn, remove the silk and wash the ears.

Freezing: In a saucepan mix two quarts of corn cut off cob, one pint water, one-fourth cup sugar and two teaspoons salt. Boil lightly for ten minutes. Do not drain. Cool. Pack into containers, leaving one-half inch head space. Seal and freeze.

Spinach (and Other Greens)

Because canning requires a long processing time, we prefer to freeze our freshly picked spinach and other greens. Select young, tender leaves. Two pints.

Freezing: Wash leaves well and remove the tough stems. If desired, cut leaves of chard into pieces. Heat the greens in boiling water for two minutes. Plunge into cold water and drain.

Pack into containers and leave half-inch head space. Seal and freeze.

Tomatoes

Hybridization has produced sweeter and meatier varieties of tomatoes that, though delicious when eaten raw, can no longer be considered acid fruits.

Canning: Because there may be questions about the safety of some species of tomatoes when processed in the hot-water bath, we will only describe the pressure-canning method here. Process four jars at a time, which will require six pounds or two dozen medium-size tomatoes.

Sort tomatoes by size, wash well and dip a fe at a time into boiling water for 30 seconds. Slip off skins and drop tomatoes into jars. Fill jars to within half-inch of top. If the tomatoes are very juicy, pur off the excess juice into a bowl and press the tomatoes down gently, getting in as many as possible.

Cut some of the tomatoes in halves and quarters to fill in any empty spaces. Add half teaspoon salt and half teaspoon sugar to each pint jar, if desired. Wipe the rim of the jars and adjust the lids. Place the jars on a rack in a pressure saucepan containing two inches of boiling water. Process 35 minutes at ten pounds pressure (15 minutes at ten pounds in pressure canner).

Quick Cucumber Pickles

(Makes 4 pints) 4 cups cucumbers, chopped 2 cups onions, chopped 1 green pepper, chopped 1 red pepper, chopped 2 teaspoons canning salt 1/4 teaspoon turmeric 1 cup cider vinegar 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed 1/4 teaspoon celery seed 1/2 cup sugar

Combine chopped cucumbers, onion, peppers and salt and stir for 2 or 3 minutes. Line a colander with 3 thicknesses of damp cheesecloth and drain the vegetables for 15 minutes. Place remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add vegetables, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Pack in hot, clean jars to within 1/2 inch of top. Wipe rims and adjust lids. Process in hot-water bath for 5 minutes. remove jars from the water and cool.

Whole Green Tomato Pickle

(Makes 2 pints) 1 pound small green tomatoes 2 sprigs dill 2 cloves garlic 1/2 cup cider vinegar 1-1/2 cups water 1-1/2 tablespoons canning salt 1 teaspoon pickling spices

Put tomatoes in jars; add a garlic clove and a sprig of dill to each jar. Combine vinegar, water, canning salt and the spices contained in a small muslin bag in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the muslin bag and pour the boiling brine in the jars, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Adjust lids. Process in a hot-water bath for 15 minutes. Remove jars and cool.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes recipes; preserving vegetables and fruits
Author:Turgeon, Charlotte
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1985
Words:2415
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