Ensuring High-Quality Canned Foods
Canning is a method of food preservation and its primary aim is to prevent the growth of microorganisms that would spoil the food and create danger to consumers. Canning does not create super quality canned food, it simply preserves the food that we make. If we prepare a good dish, canning will definitely preserve its quality for a long time. If we simply throw in some meat without spices, salt or broth, we would preserve it, but it would hardly be a culinary masterpiece. In other words, all good cooking principles should be applied not only for the safety of the product, but also for its taste and flavor. Begin with good-quality fresh foods suitable for canning. Quality varies among varieties of fruits and vegetables. Discard diseased and moldy food. Trim small diseased lesions or spots from food. Can fruits and vegetables picked from your garden or purchased from nearby farmers when the products are at their peak of quality-within 6 to 12 hours after harvest for most vegetables. For best quality, apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums should be ripened 1 or more days between harvest and canning. If you must delay the canning of other fresh produce, keep in a shady, cool place. Many fresh foods contain from 10 percent to more than 30 percent air. How long canned food retains high quality depends on how much air is removed from food before jars are sealed.
Maintaining Color and Flavor in Canned Food
To maintain good natural color and flavor in stored canned food, you must:
- Remove oxygen from food tissues and jars.
- Quickly destroy the food enzymes.
- Obtain high jar vacuums and airtight jar seals.
Follow these guidelines to ensure that your canned foods retain optimum colors and flavors during processing and storage:
- Use only high-quality foods which are at the proper maturity and are free of diseases and bruises. Use the hot-pack method, especially with acid foods to be processed in boiling water. Don't unnecessarily expose prepared foods to air. Can them as soon as possible. While preparing a canner load of jars, keep peeled, halved, quartered, sliced, or diced apples, apricots, nectarines, peaches, and pears in a solution of 3 grams (3,000 milligrams) ascorbic acid* to 1 gallon of cold water. This procedure is also useful in maintaining the natural color of mushrooms and potatoes, and for preventing stem-end discoloration in cherries and grapes. Fill hot foods into jars and adjust headspace as specified in recipes. Tighten screw bands securely, but if you are especially strong, not as tightly as possible. Process and cool jars. Store the jars in a relatively cool, dark place, preferably between 50-70° F (10-21° C). Can no more food than you will use within a year. You can get ascorbic acid* in several forms:
- Pure powdered form - seasonally available among cannersí supplies in supermarkets. One level teaspoon of pure powder weighs about 3 grams. Use 1 teaspoon per gallon of water as a treatment solution.
- Vitamin C tablets - economical and available year-round in many stores. Buy 500 - milligram tablets; crush and dissolve six tablets per gallon of water as a treatment solution.
- Commercially prepared mixes of ascorbic and citric acid - seasonally available among cannersí supplies in supermarkets. Sometimes citric acid powder is sold in supermarkets, but it is less effective in controlling discoloration. If you choose to use these products, follow the manufacturer's directions.