Mason jars: They’re also for canning

  • By Barbara Quinn The Monterey County Herald
  • Monday, August 18, 2014 8:59am
  • Life

It was the last line that caught my attention. Kelsey, whose company markets Ball brand home canning jars, wrote, “After all, in addition to wedding décor and DIY (Do It Yourself) crafts, mason jars’ original purpose was for home canning!”

Well, of course. Most of us know that mason jars are for canning food (with the exception of those who might need to look up “what is home canning?” on their iPhones.)

Mason jars can be used for other tasks, I acknowledge. Like the cute little green (2014 Limited Edition) Ball jars with screw-on solar light lids that illuminate the steps on my front porch..

All of this is to say that August 16 was International Can-it-Forward Day. A day, say organizers, to celebrate the joys of fresh preserving.

Why would we want to spend time canning our own food? One reason is to preserve fresh produce when it is at its peak of ripeness. Such as when your apricot tree is dripping with more fruit than you can eat or give away.

And contrary to what we might assume, properly canned food retains much of its original nutritional value. A 2012 study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found comparable nutrient quality for canned peaches and fresh peaches. And the preserved peaches largely maintained their nutrient content after being stored for three months.

Different foods require different canning methods, however. High acid foods such as fruit, jams, jellies, salsa, and pickles are the easiest to preserve, say experts. Jars filled with these foods require boiling in a 212 degree F water bath for a specified time.

Low acid foods such as vegetables, meat and seafood require special handling to eliminate the risk for the deadly bacteria Clostridium botluium. These foods therefore require processing at a higher temperature (240 degrees F) which requires pressure cooking.

Best time to preserve food? During peak harvest season. And most of us are pretty much there right now, according to Ball brand’s Harvesting and Fresh Preserving Guide.

So I asked Kelsey to give me some tips for canning fruit that might encourage me to get my jars off the porch and into the kitchen.

“Certainly!” she replied.

1. Prepare your gear. Wash your jars in warm soapy water or in a dishwasher. Then keep them warm in simmering water. Fill a separate stockpot with water and bring to a simmer.

2. Select and prepare recipe. One of the benefits of fresh preserving is that you can select your own recipe and have more control over your foods. Fill each jar with prepared food. Remove air bubbles, wipe the rims and twist on the lids and bands.

3. Preserve your food. Once you’ve filled your jars, simply place them into a canning rack. Bring the water to a steady boil and boil jars for the time specified in the recipe. Once jars have been processed, allow jars to cool for 12-24 hours.

And by the way, I was reminded that my pretty green canning jars have no special nutritional advantage over clear jars. However, they do make pickles and asparagus look especially delicious. That got my attention.

Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at bquinnchomp.org.

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