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Canning And Preserving

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lperry   
Found a steak in my deep freeze that has been there for 5 years. Eat or pitch?

I'm not an expert on meat, but it's my guess that it will taste distinctively like freezer and not be worth the trouble of cooking it. Otherwise, I've heard stories of people eating meat from animals that were preserved for centuries by glaciers or other ice, so assuming proper cooking, you'll probably survive. Then again, I don't work for the USDA. :rolleyes:

The list is endless. With canning, if something looks OK, and smells OK it probably is. The risk of botulism is low. The government, however, would not approve.

The government would not approve of most of my canning. I use the dreaded steam canner that has not been tested, so is deemed "unsafe." With acid, sugar, or brine, I don't worry. When it comes to something like low-acid and pressure canning, I'm there on the USDA site taking notes.

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mdt   
I'm not an expert on meat, but it's my guess that it will taste distinctively like freezer and not be worth the trouble of cooking it. Otherwise, I've heard stories of people eating meat from animals that were preserved for centuries by glaciers or other ice, so assuming proper cooking, you'll probably survive. Then again, I don't work for the USDA. :rolleyes:

The meat is in a cryovac bag which should keep out any bad flavors. I guess I will thaw it at some point and see if it passes the sniff test.

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I would like to freeze the fantastic shelled English peas now available at farmers markets. Can you simply place uncooked peas in a freezer bag or should you blanch them first? If blanching is required, about how long should I blanch them for? My plan is to preserve as many peas and fresh corn on the cob as possible to use in the Fall and Winter! Thanks!

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I would like to freeze the fantastic shelled English peas now available at farmers markets. Can you simply place uncooked peas in a freezer bag or should you blanch them first? If blanching is required, about how long should I blanch them for? My plan is to preserve as many peas and fresh corn on the cob as possible to use in the Fall and Winter! Thanks!

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DanielK   
I would like to freeze the fantastic shelled English peas now available at farmers markets. Can you simply place uncooked peas in a freezer bag or should you blanch them first? If blanching is required, about how long should I blanch them for? My plan is to preserve as many peas and fresh corn on the cob as possible to use in the Fall and Winter! Thanks!

Click me.

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I would like to freeze the fantastic shelled English peas now available at farmers markets. Can you simply place uncooked peas in a freezer bag or should you blanch them first? If blanching is required, about how long should I blanch them for? My plan is to preserve as many peas and fresh corn on the cob as possible to use in the Fall and Winter! Thanks!
The only way that this would make sense, is if you grow peas yourself and have an abundance of plants and the time to shell and blanch all of those peas. They are extremely expensive when you buy them, in terms of the price per pound/usable food ratio. Corn is a different story--I froze a lot of corn when I had a big garden, and it's not that hard to do. But really, the quality of frozen peas will not be anything like fresh. And if you do it, I think you will have a hard time telling the difference with good quality commercial frozen peas, which will be a LOT cheaper.

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lperry   

Shifting gears, a couple of days ago I made ramp vinegar, an idea I will freely admit I stole from a vendor at the Old Town farmer's market. (Biggs I think?) I couldn't bring myself to cook the things, trend or no. I could smell them through three bags. So off they are in a bottle of vinegar (that will now knock you clear across the room if you open it) so I can add small quantities of rampessence to various things that have yet to occur to me.

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monavano   
I would like to freeze the fantastic shelled English peas now available at farmers markets. Can you simply place uncooked peas in a freezer bag or should you blanch them first? If blanching is required, about how long should I blanch them for? My plan is to preserve as many peas and fresh corn on the cob as possible to use in the Fall and Winter! Thanks!

2 years ago, I stocked up on fresh corn on the cob and froze it in vacuum-sealed bags. I can tell you that freezing is not kind to corn. My sense is that flash-frozen corn from the supermarket is better out of season. If I did freeze fresh corn again, I'd take it off the cobb, because it's really not the same as when you cook it right out of the field in summer. Have you had better luck or a better method with corn?

Inspired by Stefano's beautifully simple tomato sauces at the 14th St. market, I am determined to overcome my fear of canning and make tomato sauce (and maybe even jams, *gulp*) this year.

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2 years ago, I stocked up on fresh corn on the cob and froze it in vacuum-sealed bags. I can tell you that freezing is not kind to corn. My sense is that flash-frozen corn from the supermarket is better out of season. If I did freeze fresh corn again, I'd take it off the cobb, because it's really not the same as when you cook it right out of the field in summer. Have you had better luck or a better method with corn?

Inspired by Stefano's beautifully simple tomato sauces at the 14th St. market, I am determined to overcome my fear of canning and make tomato sauce (and maybe even jams, *gulp*) this year.

I read up somewhere that the best way to freeze fresh corn is to blanch it first. I'll have to find the link and send it along to you.

I'm going to try my hand at tomato sauce and strawberry jam this year too! Hopefully my attempts will be successful enough to blog about!

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monavano   
I read up somewhere that the best way to freeze fresh corn is to blanch it first. I'll have to find the link and send it along to you.

I'm going to try my hand at tomato sauce and strawberry jam this year too! Hopefully my attempts will be successful enough to blog about!

Please do...I was a bit dissappointed when in the middle of winter, I pulled out my summer corn and found it water-logged and not as flavorful.

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lperry   

^ All vegetables must be blanched before freezing. Fruits, not so much. Blanching does something that keeps the structure more intact, and it also stops enzymatic activity.

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I read up somewhere that the best way to freeze fresh corn is to blanch it first. I'll have to find the link and send it along to you.
The best way to freeze corn is to briefly blanch the cobs, then cut the kernels off the cobs. Dry the kernels off and spread them in a single layer on a sheet pan that was lined with parchment or wax paper. Put the sheet pan into the freezer for 6-8 hours. Use a spatula to scrape up the frozen kernels and then bag them in freezer strength zip lock bags. Make sure that they don't thaw before you get them back into the freezer, or they will clump up and have lousy texture. This tray method, minus the blanching, is the best way to freeze berries.

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I freeze a ton of corn (although maybe not with as much care as Zora describes), and I find it's okay as long as you are careful what you use it in. Soup, stew, chilli are all fine, but it doesn't hold up so well for salads or salsas. This is fine by me--I use frozen stuff in winter foods, and eat my salads & salsas in summer when it's fresh.

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Does anyone have any go to guides/books/lists of techniques/recipes for someone who is interested in learning more about the process of canning (and obviously eventually picking it up :( ). It's something I've always wanted to check out but never (until now!) looked into it. Any tips/ideas would be very much appreciated !

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Does anyone have any go to guides/books/lists of techniques/recipes for someone who is interested in learning more about the process of canning (and obviously eventually picking it up :( ). It's something I've always wanted to check out but never (until now!) looked into it. Any tips/ideas would be very much appreciated !

These two books are the ones I used to learn about canning and preserving. (The Ball Blue Book is still considered "the bible.")

Ball Blue Book

Putting Food By

Admittedly, we're talking about 35 years ago, and there may be some very good newer references available. I know that I've read a couple of reviews of "small batch" canning and preserving books this year that sound promising, but I can't recall the titles/authors.

Other books on the subject.

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lperry   

Does anyone have any go to guides/books/lists of techniques/recipes for someone who is interested in learning more about the process of canning (and obviously eventually picking it up :( ). It's something I've always wanted to check out but never (until now!) looked into it. Any tips/ideas would be very much appreciated !

The USDA has a nice overview and recipes online. Don't let the fascist tone of the publication scare you off. :P

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Came across this article in this mornings Wall Street Journal and I thought it was interesting (this is actually the front of a section of the actual paper and is fairly prominent on their online site) so I thought I'd post it here. It made me wonder if there are classes like they mention here in DC? Don, not sure if adding this in it's entirety is cool (since it might be behind the subscription wall) so if not, I can remove.

By ANA CAMPOY

Pots are boiling on every burner and the kitchen counters are covered with a jumble of bowls, measuring cups and jars. Steam fills the house with the scent of vinegar and caramelizing sugar.

We're canning.

This two-century-old technique of preserving food—or "putting up," in canning-speak—is making a big comeback.

The worst recession in decades and a trend toward healthier eating are inspiring many Americans to grow their own food. Now the harvest season is turning many of these gardeners into canners looking to stretch the bounty of the garden into the winter.

Canning statistics are hard to come by, but Elizabeth Andress, project director of the National Center for Home Food Preservation, a government-funded program that advises consumers on how to safely preserve food, says requests for canning classes are flooding in at a rate not seen in many years.

Hundreds of cooks gathered at the end of August in simultaneous countrywide canning fests organized by Canning Across America, a new Web site for canning devotees (www.canningacrossamerica.com). At Jarden Corp.'s Jarden Home Brands—the maker of Kerr and Ball brand jars—sales of canning equipment are up 30% this year through mid-September, over the same period in 2008. And canning classes from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Boise, Idaho, report seeing skyrocketing enrollments this year.

Canning has been around since the dawn of the 19th century, when, at Napoleon's behest, a Frenchman developed a method of sealing food in bottles to prevent spoilage on long military campaigns. The process was later adapted to factory-sealed metal cans, but at home, "canning" is still practiced in thick glass jars.

Lately, canning has found new appeal as a healthier alternative to the chemicals and preservatives found in many prepared foods, says Brenda Schmidt, brand manager at Jarden. By preserving their own fruits and vegetables, people can also customize the amount of sugar or salt used. Canned foods will keep for varying lengths of time, depending on the recipe, but the National Center for Home Food Preservation says that you should can only what you plan to eat within a year.

In the weak economy, others are turning to it as a money saver. A few seeds planted in the spring can yield enough canned produce to last a year. But Ms. Andress, of the canning education program, warns that canning food isn't always cheaper than buying it from the grocery store.

I decided to take a class to find out for myself. I found a teacher through Slow Food Dallas, a chapter of an international organization that promotes traditional ingredients and food. I signed up for a private class with one other student, then bought supplies at my local farmer's market in Dallas, where I paid $8 for four pounds of fresh, firm cucumbers grown in Lipan, Texas, west of Fort Worth.

I bought vinegar, pickling salt, dill seeds and peppercorns at the supermarket and canning jars at the hardware store—all for $25.42. The canning teacher brought a big pot with a rack, which would have set me back another $25. My classmate showed up with $10 worth of peaches, some lemons and a bag of sugar. We were all set for our canning initiation.

I quickly discovered that preserving requires more rigor than my usual haphazard cooking method of tossing vegetables around in a sauté pan.

Our teacher devised an assembly line to process our two products, pickles and peach jam, to make the most of our limited counter space.

Strict Procedures

Canners must follow strict procedures, sticking to food safety guidelines issued by the U.S. Agriculture Department. The main threat is a microorganism called Clostridium botulinum, found on the surface of most produce. In a low-acid environment with no air, such as a food-filled jar, these bacteria can produce toxins that cause botulism, a deadly form of food poisoning.

One way to prevent that is by using a pressure cooker to heat food to a high temperature. The other is by adding vinegar or lemon juice to the food during canning. We used the latter technique, stuffing our fruit and vegetables into jars and then boiling them in a big pot of water.

First we washed our containers—pint and half-pint Ball brand glass jars, which have been made since 1884—in the dishwasher. Then we made the brine—a mixture of salt, water and vinegar for the pickles—and heated it on the stove. The peaches were blanched and peeled.

Peach Jam

At my station, I chopped a mound of cucumbers as best I could. I had already cut my finger by the second or third cucumber, and the slices ranged from fat to skinny. Although their irregularity was not intentional, I liked to think it gave them an artisanal quality.

Meanwhile, my classmate stirred a mixture of sugar and peaches over the stove. Recent heavy rains had forced the grower to pull them early from the tree, so they were as hard as tennis balls and refused to disintegrate. Instead of jam, we decided, we would make chunky peach preserves.

The next stop was the packing station. We squeezed as many cucumbers as we could into the jars, which were piping hot from the dishwasher. (Heating the jars prevents them from shattering when you pour in hot brine and preserves.)

Once the jars were full, we placed round metallic lids on them and held them in place with a separate ring that was screwed on over them. Then we submerged the jars in boiling water in order to destroy any microorganisms and remove oxygen. Slowly, the counter filled with jars that emitted a satisfying popping sound as the lids sealed, ensuring the food will keep without spoiling.

The Verdict: Delicious

Before the last batch was done, we were spooning peach preserves onto pieces of a baguette. The verdict: delicious, sweet, tangy and rich, despite the unripe peaches. The dill pickles had a sharp, full flavor that made store-bought versions seem overly sweet and dull.

In about four hours we produced eight one-pint jars of pickles at a cost of $2.14 each, and seven $2.60 half-pint jars of preserves. Those figures do not include our teacher's $100 fee nor the energy, water and labor we expended, but they do include all our ingredients and the jars. That's less than the $2.43 I paid for dill pickles at the supermarket, and the $3.12 I paid for store-bought preserves.

Although home-canned goods are not exactly a bargain, their taste is dramatically better and, in my view, well worth the labor. I'm not motivated enough to tackle a canning session on my own, but I'm definitely interested in team canning, which was as much fun as a dinner party and more productive.

My next canning project is already in the works. I have a bountiful crop of gypsy peppers and a good recipe for pickled peppers. All I need now are a few fellow canners to put them up.

Write to Ana Campoy at ana.campoy@dowjones.com

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chaofun   

Hey all, does anyone know where I could find canning materials, jars specifically, in NOVA? I have a mess of ramps to pickle, and I am going to make sauerkraut in the other. I apologize if I missed this somewhere in the topic or on the board.

-Theo

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leleboo   

Hey all, does anyone know where I could find canning materials, jars specifically, in NOVA? I have a mess of ramps to pickle, and I am going to make sauerkraut in the other. I apologize if I missed this somewhere in the topic or on the board.

-Theo

Theo, there's this topic on canning supplies, but it's not specific to NOVA.

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Heather   

Theo, try an Ace hardware store or a Wal-Mart. Food Lion (Bloom?) used to carry stuff, but I have no idea if they still do. Good luck.

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lperry   

Shoppers Food Warehouse has them. I picked up some lids last week at the one at Potomac Yard.

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