Canning, freezing garden sunshine

Opening up a bag of garden fresh corn in the winter is like pulling out a bag of sunshine, said Linda Stover to her students.

Linda Stover (left) and Carolynn Gachne talked about canning and freezing garden produced at the Green Valley Garden Center Aug. 23 to a class of eight new and experienced canners. Photo by Tammy Sakry

Linda Stover (left) and Carolynn Gachne talked about canning and freezing garden produced at the Green Valley Garden Center Aug. 23 to a class of eight new and experienced canners. Photo by Tammy Sakry

Stover along with Carolynn Gachne shared basic canning and freezing techniques during an Aug. 23 “Preserve Your Harvest” class at Green Valley Garden Center, Ramsey.

“People want to know more about preserving their food because it saves money, it’s healthier and it tastes better,” Gachne said.

“And it’s just a way to keep your garden going through the winter.”

There is also an element of getting back to the basics.

“People are starting to realize how important it is to grow our own things if we can or at least go to the farmers market if they don’t have room for a (garden),” said Stover, who works as Green Valley Garden Center’s head vegetable gardener.

The gardeners worked hard to grow their produce and with canning and freezing it, people can preserve all their hard work. Why waste it, she said.

Frozen cream corn
4 quarts corn (off the cob) approximately 1 1/2 dozen ears
3 cups of water
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt
Boil 5 minutes (stir so the corn does not scorch). Remove from burner. Add 1 stick of butter and stir thoroughly
Cool and freeze.

It also allows people to control the amount of sugar and salt used, Stover said.

Stover freezes tomatoes, peppers and zucchini.

Grape tomatos should be partially thawed for the freshest taste, she said.

Since 2008, the interest in canning and preserving methods has grown.

The University of Minnesota Extension has seen the interest grow quite a bit since 2009, said Debbie Botzek-Linn, extension educator of food safety in St. Cloud.

In the late 1980s to the early 2000s, interest in canning and food preservation had waned, but in 2008-2009 interest picked up again, she said.

In 2009, the extension service held classes for 235 home preservers and introduced a home food preservation e-newsletter.

In 2010, 1,084 home preservers had taken the class and the extension’s food preservation website had 927 hits.

A year later, class attendance had dropped to 504 people but the website had 2,859 hits.

This year, things have stabilized because “I think we have reached a lot of people who were interested in it,” Botzek-Linn said.

As of this month, the extension service food preservation classes had 264 attendees, but its e-newsletter had more than 2,000 subscribers and its Twitter account has 2,424 followers.

 

The process

For canning, there are two different types of methods – hot water bath and pressure canning, said Gachne, who prefers pressure canning.

Zucchini bars
1/2 cup of oil
1 3/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 1.2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of butter
2 eggs
2 cups of shredded zucchini
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons of coco powder
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until well blended. Pour into a jellyroll pan, 15 1/2 inch by 10 1/2 inch by 1 1/8 inches. Top with 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and 1.4 cup of brown sugar. Bake in 350 degree oven for 25 or more minutes. Check the center with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the bars are done. Enjoy your veggies!

Pressure canning only requires three inches of water and it is not necessary to sterilize the jars because the pressure cookers gets up to 240 degrees, she said

The hot water bath method requires water to cover the jars completely, Gachne said.

Pressure canning is not recommended for glass or ceramic top stoves, said Botzek-Linn in a phone interview.

The weight can crack the glass and the way the stove elements regulate can prevent the pressure cooker from maintaining proper pressure, she said.

Hot water baths can be done on the glass and ceramic stops with a flat bottom canner, Botzek-Linn said.

For those that chose to freeze, Stover recommends rinsing all vegetables or fruits first.

Vegetables, like corn and beans, should be blanched before going into the freezer, she said.

Once rinsed, berries can be put on a cookie sheet and frozen in the freezer. Once frozen, put them in a air tight container or bag, Stover said.

With all produce, make sure to squeeze all of the air out of the container, she said.

 

Tips

Water can make a big difference in the end product, said Botzek-Linn.

Some people use distilled or spring water while others like well water, she said.

Using hard water can toughen peas and beans and shrivel pickles as well as create cloudy water in the canning jar, Botzek-Linn said.

Soft water can turn beans to mush, she said.

As a general guideline, Botzek-Linn recommends too hard or too soft of water.

“Find a water that works for you, use it,” she said.

 

Why bother?

The increased interest in food preservation comes as people are taking a more interest in local foods, the taste of that food and an increasing desire for organic foods, Botzek-Linn said.

There also an increase number of people gardening and more farmers markets, she said.

But preserving food many not be cost effective.

It can be expensive to start canning with purchasing a canner and jars as well as the sugar and canning salts, Botzek-Linn said.

But all of it can be used in the following years, except the lids, she said.

It is also time consuming.

For Terri Evans of Ham Lake the nearly 30 hours of canning she has done this year and the cost is worth the effort.

She has spent $36 for the supplies that she can use again and “you can’t buy tomatoes for a whole year for that,” she said.

She also knows what is in the cans, not food colorings or syrup, Evans said.

The other drawback for some is the time commitment.

“It is a constant process because you need to can while (the produce) is fresh, Gachne said.

“When things are fresh, you have to do it.”

There is also a question of storage.

For each person, it will be a question of freezer space or if there is enough space to store the jars in a cool dark space, somewhere ranging between 50-70 degrees, Botzek-Linn said.

For Corrie Libby of Ramsey, canning is keeping up a tradition started when she and her cousin helped her grandmother with the canning.

“All of the teenage cousins would go to grandmas and stuff jars,” she said.

Now she and her sister, who hates cooking but loves canning, get together and make a girls’ day of it, said Libby who attended the Green Valley classes looking for more ideas beyond canning tomatoes.

“I did not know what all you could do with the (produce),” said sister-in-law Kathy Falkowski of St. Francis.

“When you can or freeze, you know what is going into it,” said Katherine Goddu of Ramsey.

Goddu uses canning to get her children involved.

They help pick the apples for apple sauce. Her kids will no longer like the regular store-bought apple sauce, she said.

Canned apple sauce, jams and other canned produce can also make good gifts, Gachne said.

For Goddu’s former neighbor Jasmine Yesil, canning is new.

When she tried Goddu’s pickles, Yesil decided to explore food preservation.

“I work and I don’t have time to do this stuff. But you have to draw the line on some of this and get the kids involved,” said the Elk River mother.

Her teen son has even suggested ways they can preserve their own food, like dehydrating bananas, Yesil said.

 

Looking for more

For more information on food preservation techniques and ideas, visit the University of Minnesota Extension Services website: http://www1.extension.umn.edu/food-safety/preserving/.

Tammy Sakry is at tammy.sakry@ecm-inc.com


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