an array of homemade jams in jars

So you’re all done planting for your summer menu - fresh tomatoes, peppers, and berries - but you still want to go play out in the garden? This is a perfect time for squeezing in a few more plants for winter and spring. Canning and preserving for the winter is a time-honored tradition that connects us to the generations that have gone before.

Today, we are concerned about making sure we know what is in our food and providing the healthiest options for our family. With canning, we enjoy the benefit of opening up a jar and knowing exactly what ingredients are in it.

Start Planning your Canning Garden

Plant what you eat. Plant what your family loves, and then plant a lot of it! Plan your garden with your grocery list in mind. What are your family favorites, what do you wish you could have more after your garden isn’t producing? What foods always sit in the pantry uneaten? Think about what you end up buying at the grocery store most often. Then think about harvesting a large amount on the day you will be doing your canning. Time your planting accordingly.

Plant What You Can Can

There are some foods that are better suited for canning than others and the pH levels determine what processing method you will use. Because of their acidity, lower risk foods include fruit jams and jellies and whole fruits. The high sugar content of fruit jams, jellies and preserves add an extra measure of safety and barriers to even spoilage.

According to the canning experts at Ball, water bath canning is ideal for high-acid foods and recipes that incorporate the correct measure of acid. The combination of time and temperature destroys mold, yeast, and enzymes that cause spoilage while creating a vacuum seal. This process is recommended for produce and recipes including:

  • Fruits and fruit juices
  • Jams and jellies
  • Salsas
  • Tomatoes
  • Pickles and relishes
  • Chutneys, sauces, pie fillings
  • Vinegars
  • Condiments

Pressure canning is the only processing method that reaches the high temperature (240°F) needed to safely preserve low-acid foods. It is the combination of time and temperature that will destroy food-borne bacteria and create a vacuum seal necessary to prevent spoilage. This process is required to preserve foods and recipes like:

  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Salsas
  • Vegetables
  • Chili
  • Seafood
Plant extra rows of popular canning vegetables now (like green beans) so you will have an abundance for preserving come harvest time!

Canning Food Safely

Once you’ve finished with the planning and the planting, spend your time learning about the correct canning process. It’s important to know how to can safely and there are significant food safety risks you take by following inaccurate advice. Reliable, up-to-date canning and food preservation instructions can be found at the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning. The Oregon State University Home Food Preservation website also has an abundance of resources for you.