Canning & Freezing 101
What do you do with all the vegetables from your garden? You will cook what you can but then there is always more than you can use. Why not can or freeze it?
There are several free publications available from the Mississippi State University Extension Service that will tell you exactly how to safely can, freeze or dry your fruits and vegetables. Check with your local County Extension Office or go to msucares.com to read or download the publications right to your computer. Publications are: Home Canning - Publication 1152; Freezing Fruits - Publication 663; Freezing Vegetables - publication 974; Back to Basics Drying Fruits - Information Sheet 725; and Back to Basics Drying Vegetables - Information Sheet 723.
Here are a few excerpts from our publications to get you started.
The golden rule of home canning is, "The quality of the foods preserved with only be as good as the quality of the foods when they were fresh." You should use only fresh, firm fruits and young tender vegetables for preserving.
EQUIPMENT NEEDED FOR HOME CANNING
Steam Pressure Canners - For common vegetables except tomatoes, use a steam pressure canner. Before you use a steam pressure canner, be sure to check out all parts for safe operation during canning.
Water Bath Canners - You can buy water bath canners for canning fruits and other high-acid contents foods. However, you can use any big metal container as long as it is deep enough for the water to be 2 - 4 inches over the tops of jars and still boil freely. The canner must have a tight-fitting cover and a wire or wooden rack. If the rack has dividers, the jars will not touch each other or fall against the sides of the canner during processing.
Canning Jars - Be sure that all glass canning jars and closures are in perfect condition. Discard any with cracks, chips, dents, or rust; defects prevent airtight seals. Wash the glass jars, lids, and bands in hot, soapy water and rinse well. Metal lids with sealing compound on them may need boiling or holding in boiling water for a few minutes.
EQUIPMENT AND METHODS NOT RECOMMENDED
Open-kettle canning and canning in conventional ovens, microwave ovens, and dishwashers are not recommended.
First Steps - Begin preparation of most vegetables with washing. Sort vegetables by size for heating and packing unless they are to be cut into pieces of uniform size. Peel, trim and cut into pieces, as directed for each vegetable. An important step in preparing vegetables for freezing is heating or "blanching".
Heating in Boiling Water - Use a blancher, which has a blanching basket and cover. Or fit a wire basket into a large kettle, and add a cover. For each pound of prepared vegetable use at least 1 gallon of boiling water in the blancher or kettle. Put vegetables in blanching basket or wire basket and lower into boiling water. Put lid on blancher or kettle and start counting time immediately. Keep heat high for time given in directions for vegetables you are freezing.
Cooling and Packing - After vegetables are heated, cool quickly and thoroughly to stop cooking. Pack the food into freezer bags or other freezer containers. Seal and freeze at once. Store at 0 degrees F. or below.
- Select firm, evenly ripe fruit of the right variety for freezing.
- Wash fruit in cold water before hulling or paring. Wash a small amount at one time to prevent bruising. Don't let fruit soak in water. Slice fruit directly into the carton containing syrup or add sugar at once to the fruit.
- Fruits packed with dry sugar or sugar syrup usually retain their color, flavor, and texture better than those packed without sugar.
- Some fruits darken during freezing unless treated to retard browning. Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) is effective in preserving the color and flavor of fruit and adds nutritive value. It also adds to the expense of freezing fruits. A crystalline or powdered form ascorbic acid is easier and better to use than tablets.
- Use a package that protects the quality of the fruit while in storage.
- Leave headspace in the container as directed for each fruit.
- Seal. Label with the names of the fruit; the date and the purpose for which the fruit is intended.
- Freeze at once.