If you’re someone who goes all gaga seeing your favorite summer vegetables, we’re sure you may often end up buying more vegetables than you can ever consume before the season ends. Seeing your favorite vegetables go to waste is a major heartbreak. However, what if we tell you that you don’t have to discard the leftover vegetable stock? You can preserve them and enjoy them well into the winter season. You read that right! Canning food is a popular technique that many people practice to preserve leftover summer vegetables so that they can enjoy the taste of summer when the weather becomes cold.
If you think canning food is a tiring and long process, let us tell you that it might take you a while to get done with the job, but at the end of the day, it’s all worth it.
If the idea of canning summer vegetables excites you, continue reading this blog post to know all about canning leftover summer vegetables!
What is Canning?
Canning is simply preserving the food to save it from getting spoiled and wasted. The process involves employing different techniques depending on the type of food you’re canning and then storing the processed foods into air-tight glass jars. Vegetables are heated at sufficiently high temperatures so as to stop the enzyme action (enzymes get denatured at high temperatures) and kill the spoilage microorganisms. When there are no spoilage microorganisms and no active enzymatic activity, the food doesn’t go bad.
The process of canning food can feel overwhelming at first, but once you get hold of the process, you’ll find it easier to preserve your favorite foods – even enjoy doing it!
How to Can Vegetables
Canned vegetables won’t go bad only if you can them right. If it’s your first time canning vegetables, you may want a clear, step-by-step guide to take you through the process.
Harvest Vegetables on Time
The first and most important step to can you leftover summer vegetables is harvesting them at the right time. You’re preserving summer vegetables because you want to enjoy the same flavor when the vegetables aren’t available. You can only get that flavor if you can these vegetables when their flavor is at its best, and that’s when the vegetables are fully mature. Collect only the vegetables that are tender and mature.
Prepare the Vegetables for Canning
When you’re canning vegetables, you should follow a simple rule religiously – from the garden to the can within 2 hours. Spread the vegetables in the coolest spot of your home right after you harvest them. If you’re getting the vegetables directly from the farm market, make sure that you’re picking the freshest of the vegetables. The best place to keep the vegetables is in the refrigerator, of course.
Once the vegetables are cool enough, wash them well under running water. Make sure no dirt remains on the vegetables. Make it a point not to leave the vegetables stand in water. It’ll make them go soft and mushy.
Sort the vegetables to make sure you’re only using the ones that are at a similar level of maturity for a can so that when you open the can, you don’t have to deal with one portion of the contents being cooked soon and the other taking too long to be fully done – leaving you with a dish with half-cooked or over-cooked vegetables.
Pack the Jars
Now that you’ve sorted the vegetables for canning, you now have to decide on a method to pack the cans or jars. You’ve got 2 options; you can either choose the hot pack method or the raw pack method. Both preserve your favorite summer vegetables equally well.
Hot Pack Method
The hot pack method involves placing the vegetables in boiling water. The vegetables are heated for a few minutes (the duration varies with the vegetable that you’re canning). At this point, the heat kills the spoilage microorganisms and destroys all the enzymes in the vegetable. Your vegetables may appear smaller after boiling. You should use enough water for boiling that the vegetables are fully submerged in water. This water will be used as the preserving liquid when you fill the storage jars.
Raw Pack Method
As you can tell by the name, vegetables are not boiled and are packed raw. The vegetables are washed and sorted the same way; you just don’t pre-heat them.
Prepare the Jars
Canning jars are easily available in the market. They’re different from the regular jars because the regular jars can’t withstand the high pressure that’s involved in the canning process. Wash the jars thoroughly. Sterilizing them before filling them up is a nice thing to do. You wouldn’t want any microorganisms on the jar to spoil your leftover summer vegetables. Make sure your jars are slightly warm when you pour the hot contents into them; otherwise, they’ll crack. Check that the lids are fitting tightly.
Fill the Jars
Take a warm jar and transfer the vegetables into it. Fill the jar with the hot liquid in which the vegetable was boiled. In the case of the raw-packed method, use plain boiling water. The water should be enough to cover all of the vegetables in the jar. Don’t fill the jar too much. The vegetables should be packed loosely to allow the circulation of the liquid during the canning process.
Give the contents of the jar a mix with a spatula. Make sure to slide the spatula all the way to the bottom on each side to lift any air bubbles that might have formed. Air can cause the darkening of vegetables. Clean the mouth of the jar so that there’s no debris that might hinder the tight closure of lids. Now, place the jars in a pressure canner.
A pressure canner is a large pot with an adjustable pressure gauge that allows you to regulate the pressure of steam inside the pressure pot. The temperature of the pressurized steam is higher than boiling water, and therefore, the steaming process is completed in a shorter duration. The pressure should be set at 10 pounds (240oF) during the canning process. Most vegetables (except tomatoes) are non-acidic, and you need to expose them to a higher temperature to kill microorganisms.
After the recommended time for the vegetables that you’re canning is over, take the jars out of the pressure canner and let them cool before storing them away in a cool, dry place. You can store canned vegetables for up to a year and a half.
Canning your leftover summer vegetables is an absolutely great way to enjoy the taste of your favorite vegetables during the off-season. While it is too much work, the effort you put in will go a long way!