JEFF TIEDEMAN: Steps to get you started canning and preservingPeople who live in Minnesota and North Dakota often joke that are two seasons: winter and road construction. I would like to add third: canning. And those who go along with me on this know that we’re well into that season.
People who live in Minnesota and North Dakota often joke that are two seasons: winter and road construction. I would like to add third: canning.
And those who go along with me on this know that we’re well into that season.
Besides having a table full of jars, a big canner sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor and rings and lids strewn across the counter, for me there are a couple of other telltale signs that denote canning season has arrived in earnest.
Nearly everywhere I go, people are talking about what they’ve “put up” for the winter or asking me questions pertaining to canning and preserving.
Just the other morning before church, an old neighbor and friend of mine, Pat Svoboda, made a couple of inquiries about canning pickles. He wanted to know if it mattered whether you use soft or hard water in the brine and how long you process jars in a water bath. (Most extension services recommend soft water because hard water can interfere with the curing and cause discoloration of the pickles, particularly if it has high iron content.)
And less than a week earlier, Mary Dinkel of rural Grand Forks shared a recipe for kraut dills with me.
While I don’t claim to be an expert, my experience dates back more than 30 years and includes canning whole tomatoes, salsa, juice and a slew of other fruits and vegetables.
Despite a lack of good moisture this summer — a recent 2-incher and another half-incher did help immensely, though — we have had a good crop of cucumbers that has kept us busy lately.
We’ve already canned more than 30 pints of bread and butter pickles as well as nearly 20 quarts of turmeric dills, one of our favorites. And we’re just getting started.
What you will need
One of the most important keys to successful canning and preserving is reliable jars.
I’m a firm believer of using mason jars from a reputable source. The shelves in my panty are full of Ball and Kerr products. (Both are now made by the Jarden Corp. — formerly Allistra — which also produces Golden Harvest and Bernadin canning jars.)
Here are a few more things that will be helpful if you are just getting started:
• “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes for Today,” edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine. This is the ultimate go-to guide for the canning beginner. It will answer all your questions.
• Screw bands and lids. You can reuse the bands but not the lids. Check the screw bands for rust. Check the lids to make sure the rubber seal is not deformed.
• A water-bath canner. It is a large, deep pot with a metal rack inside to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot and to prevent them from touching one another.
• Canning utensils. Not necessary but helpful. A jar lifter is a large set of tongs coated with soft plastic that is used to lift the jars in and out of hot water. A canning funnel has a wider mouth to make filling the jars easier and less messy. A magnetic wand, a magnet on the end of a plastic stick, helps lift the lids out of the simmering water.
And one more thing: Always check the jars to make sure they don’t have nicks or cracks.
It’s a shame to go through all that work only to end up with your pickles or fruit at the bottom of the canner or spoiled on the shelf.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.