I happily picked up the phone on a recent morning when I saw my Momma was on the other end. She was super stoked to talk about what she was doing: getting ready to put up green beans and tomatoes.
Just so you know, “put up” is the country way of saying she’s going to can some vegetables.
She was particularly excited because she had looked up the rules for canning to refresh her memory (I don’t know why because she is an expert at it), and she found that some recommendations had changed.
She used to spend hours sterilizing her lids and jars in boiling hot water before beginning the canning process. However, according to the corporation Ball, the unofficial authority on canning, it’s now recommended to simply wash them in hot soapy water and air dry. After extensive research, testers found that the process of canning will do the sterilizing. Ball does still recommend preheating the jars before canning to acclimate them to the process’s hot conditions.
Another rule that has changed regards the lids. Previously, canners around the world were advised to boil the lids before placing them hot and steaming on the jars. Ball now recommends skipping this step, as well.
I know, exciting, right?
Canning is a practice that has been passed down through the years as a way to help continue eating a harvest well past the growing season. Beginner gardeners may find canning intimidating, but flipping through the Ball Blue Book will get you up to speed and feeling pumped to turn those cukes into pickles.
Canning has seen a big resurgence in the past few years, most likely due to the rise of organic gardening. Plus, with homegrown food, you know all the ingredients, which is important for vegans and people with dangerous food allergies.
The most common veggies to “put up” are tomatoes, peppers, green beans, beets and cucumbers. Some vegetables, such as green beans and beets, are universal, and all varieties can be canned. However, when canning vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers, care must be used in choosing the right types to grow in your garden to use later.
Greens beans and beets are typically canned as they are or pickled. “Dilly beans” are quite popular, although I would prefer to eat a whole jar of pickled beets in one sitting.
According to the book “You Can Can” by Better Homes and Gardens, paste tomatoes like San Marzano, Ahmish Paste and Principe Borghese are best for canning because they have fewer seeds and are meatier. Avoid canning sandwich slicer tomatoes due to the many seeds in the fruit. The book also advises against canning cherry tomatoes, which are too small and can be difficult to peel. Green tomatoes can be used in lots of recipes. This comes in handy during autumn when tomato plants are full of unripe fruit that won’t survive the upcoming frosts.
When choosing cucumbers to make pickles and relishes, choose a tough cucumber with a thicker skin to make sure it stands up to the rough process of canning. Some types of pickles conveniently include variations of the word “pickle” in their name. These include Picklebush, The Boston Pickling and the Burpee Pickler. These cukes are squat and bumpier than the more elegant and smooth slicer varieties found in salads at your favorite restaurant.
After you’ve grown a good mess of beans or picked a bushel of cucumbers, it’s time to find your preferred recipe and start canning those veggies. Both of the books mentioned above provide easy, detailed instructions on how to can, as well as a variety of recipes to suit individual tastes.
Canning is a great adventure to embark on and one that is incredibly satisfying. Don’t be afraid to take the jump and “put ’em up” this year!