I always relegated canning and food preserving to the elderly or people with too much time on their hands. In this modern age, why bother canning your own food when you can find virtually anything pre-made and ready to eat on the grocery store shelves?
Since I’ve been at home on maternity leave, I’ve been rediscovering the joy of preparing my own meals. I get a great deal of enjoyment out of baking from scratch. I like knowing exactly what goes into my food, and it’s so much more satisfying to sit down to a meal that I created myself rather than something that I bought and reheated. I’ve really enjoyed making my own baby food and experimenting with different flavour combinations.
I was browsing through Pinterest the other day and saw a recipe for rhubarb preserves. It looked so good, but I’d never canned anything before. I was intrigued by the thought, but wary. Wasn’t it expensive to get started? Wouldn’t it take a long time? What about the risk of getting food poisoning?
I started looking into it, and as it turns out, canning isn’t the monumental task that I had assumed it was. There was a bit of a start-up cost for the canner and some jars, but overall the process looked relatively simple. I bought some cookbooks from Amazon, which should be arriving any day now. I’m very excited to learn the process and revive the lost (at least to me) art of food preserving, something that was not a hobby, but a necessity for my ancestors.
The first thing that I made was tomato corn salsa. I had a bunch of tomatoes in my fridge that needed to be used up, and in the starter cookbook that came with my canner was a recipe for this salsa. Perfect!
One thing that I have learned so far when canning is that it is important to follow the recipe exactly. If you’re an experimental cook like me, you’re probably prone to omitting an ingredient here or there, or adding extra of something. You can’t do that when food preserving. One of the things that prevents canned food from spoiling is maintaining the correct pH balance. Depending on the food, this may required the addition of an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar. If you skimp on the acid, or add more of the other ingredients, you run the risk of throwing the acidity out of balance and potentially creating harmful bacteria. So as tough as it is, when it comes to preserving, follow the rules.
Tomato Corn Salsa
From the Bernardin™ Home Canning Starter Kit Recipe Book
Makes 6 – 500 mL jars
12 cups tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 6 lbs, or 24 medium)
8 cups whole kernel corn (about 2.2 lbs, or 16 ears)
115 g Bernardin™ Salsa Mix
1-3/4 cups cider vinegar
- Prepare 6-500 mL jars by placing in a boiling water canner and heating to a simmer. Place the snap lids in a bowl of hot (not boililing) water. For more information on preparing jars for canning, refer to your canner’s instruction manual.
- Wash, seed, and chop the tomatoes, then drain off the extra liquid. Measure exactly 12 cups.
- If you’re using fresh corn, blanch the corn in boiling water for one minute, then cut the kernels off. Measure exactly 8 cups.
- In a large saucepan, combine the Salsa Mix and vinegar. Add the tomatoes and corn and mix well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until mixture is heated through.
- Ladle the hot salsa into the hot jars, leaving 1/2″ of headspace. With a non-metallic instrument, remove the air bubbles.
- Wipe the jar rim clean. Centre the hot sealing disk on the jar, then screw on the screw band just until finger-tight.
- Place the hot jars back into the canner and ensure that they are covered by at least 1″ of water. Cover the canner and bring to a rolling boil.
- Once the water is boiling, keep the jars in the covered canner for 20 minutes. (If you live at a higher altitude, check your canner for instructions on longer processing times).
- After 20 minutes of constant boiling, turn off the heat and remove the lid from the canner. Leave the jars in the canner for five minutes. After five minutes, remove the jars from the canner without tilting them, and place them upright on a kitchen towel.
- Cool for 24 hours. Once cooled, check to make sure that the jars have sealed. The snap lids should be concave and shouldn’t move if you press on them. If you remove the screw bands, you should be able to pick the jar up by the snap disk and turn it upside down without leakage.
- Store in a cool, dark place for up to one year.