From Asparagus to Zucchini: Vegetable Canning for Beginners

Bell-peppersWelcome to the world of canning vegetables! Preserving vegetables yourself gives you the freedom to adjust cooking methods, ingredients, and flavor to taste—as well as to guarantee a stash of your seasonal favorites throughout the year, impress friends and family, and even save some cash in the process. Let’s start by looking at some of the vegetable canning basics.

Pressure Canning Vegetables

All vegetables except tomatoes, sauerkraut, and pickles are low enough in acid that they must always be processed in a pressure canner. Other methods are simply not safe. Because it takes only one spoonful from one jar of poisoned food to cause serious illness or death, the canner may be the most important investment you make.

All canners work according to the same principle. The pan has a tight sealing lid with a regulator. When a small amount of water (usually 1 to 3 inches) is heated in the canner, it is converted to steam, which builds up pressure and reaches temperatures substantially higher than boiling. At 10 to 15 pounds of pressure, the temperature is 240° to 250° F. Safety features maintain pressure at reasonable levels and auto-release if the pressure becomes too high.

There are two types of pressure canners—those with a dial gauge that shows the pressure, and those with a weight control that makes a noise when it reaches the required pressure. Before using any pressure canner, check to ensure that parts are in good working order and read the manufacturer’s directions, including recommended temperatures for your altitude.

Our preference for pressure canners is the All American Pressure Canner, we have found it to be the best for performance.

Step By Step

1.  After packing Mason Jars and fitting them with lids and screwbands, put the rack in the canner and add 2 to 3 inches of water.  Then place jars on the rack.  If you like, you may fill the rack before placing it in the canner.  Put the lid on the canner and fasten it securely.

2.  Open the petcock or remove the weight.  Heat on high until steam flows out.

3.  Continue to heat on high for 10 minutes before closing the petcock or placing the weight on the vent port.  During the next 3 to 5 minutes, the pressure will build.

4.  When the dial gauge shows the recommended amount of pressure, or when the petcock begins jiggling or rocking, set the timer for the time specified in your recipe.  At high altitudes, increase the pressure ½ pound for each 1,000 feet above sea level.

5.  Maintain a temperature at or just above the specified gauge pressure.  Weighted gauges will jiggle 2 or 3 times per minute or rock slowly, depending on the brand.  Avoid large variations in temperature, which may cause liquid to be forced from jars, jeopardizing the seal.

6.  When the time is up, turn off the heat, remove canner from burner if possible, and let it depressurize.  Do not use cold water to speed depressurization and avoid opening the vent port.  Let the canner sit 30 minutes if loaded with pints, or 45 minutes with quarts.  Some models cool more quickly and have vent locks that indicate when pressure is normal.

7.  When pressure has returned to normal, remove the weight or open the petcock.  Let canner sit for two minutes before unfastening and removing the lid.  Keep your face away from the canner to avoid escaping steam.

8.  Using a jar lifter, remove the jars and place them on a folded towel, allowing at least 1 inch of air to circulate between them. Let cool, then store in a cool, dry, dark place.


Timetable for Pressure Canning Vegetables

Vegetable

Method

Inches of Headroom

Minutes to Precook

Minutes to Process a Pint

Minutes to Process a Quart

Asparagus

Raw pack

½

30

40

Beans, fresh lima

Hot pack

1

Bring to a boil

40

50

Beans, snap

Raw pack

½

20

25

Beets

Hot pack

½

15

30

35

Broccoli

Hot pack

1

3

30

35

Brussels sprouts

Hot pack

1

3

30

35

Cabbage

Hot pack

1

3

45

55

Carrots

Raw pack

1

25

30

Cauliflower

Hot pack

1

3

30

35

Celery

Hot pack

1

3

30

35

Cream style corn

Hot pack

1

Bring to a boil

85

Pints only

Whole kernel corn

Raw pack

1

55

Pints only

Whole kernel corn

Hot pack

1

Bring to a boil

55

Pints only

Eggplant

Hot  pack

1

5

30

40

Mushrooms

Hot pack

½

Boil 5 minutes

45

Okra

Hot pack

½

1

25

40

Parsnips

Hot pack

1

3

30

35

Peas

Raw pack

1

40

40

Peas

Hot pack

1

Bring to a boil

40

40

Peppers

Hot pack

1

3

35

Pints only

Whole potatoes

Hot pack

½

10

35

40

Cubed potatoes

Hot pack

½

2

35

40

Soybeans

Hot pack

1

Bring to a boil

55

65

Spinach and other greens

Hot pack

½

Steam 10 minutes

70

90

Summer squash (such as
zucchini)

Hot pack

½

Bring to a boil

30

40

Sweet potatoes

Dry pack

1

20-30

65

90

Sweet potatoes

Hot pack

1

20

65

90


Boiling Water Processing Vegetables

Even if you don’t have a pressure canner, you can make your own pickles and canned tomatoes by processing in boiling water. Use the same instructions as for pressure canning, using sanitized jars and lids, except in a boiling water bath with water that covers the lid by at least 2 inches. Follow the recommendations in the table below to guarantee safe and delicious tomato products!

Timetable for Boiling Water Processing Tomatoes

Produce

Pack

Pint Processing Time

Quart Processing Time

Headroom(in inches)

Tomato juice

Hot

35

40

½

Tomato juice and flesh

Hot

35

40

½

 

Crushed tomatoes

Hot

35

45

½

Tomato sauce

Hot

35

40

¼

Whole or halved tomatoes in
juice

Raw or hot

85

85

½

Whole or halved tomatoes,
no liquid

Raw

85

85

½

 


Recipes

The following recipes include the most popular vegetable dishes for canning. Feel free to adjust spices and flavors (but not acidity or processing times) to taste. Enjoy your vegetable canning adventures!

Basic Canned Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 8 quarts peeled and chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  •  1 tablespoon salt

Directions

Gently toss tomatoes with lemon juice and salt, then fill jars to 1/4-inch of tops.
Run a slim, non-metal tool down along the insides of jars to release any air bubbles.
Add additional paste, if necessary, to within 1/4-inch of tops.
Wipe tops and threads of jars with damp clean cloth.
Put on lids and screw bands as manufacturer directs.
Process in a boiling water bath for 45 minutes.

Variations
Cook tomatoes over medium-low heat until completely broken down to make tomato sauce, then can as for Basic Canned Tomatoes. Up to 25% of the contents of the sauce may contain herbs or other cooked vegetables, such as roasted peppers, sautéed minced onions, or garlic.
To make a tomato paste, cook tomatoes over medium-low heat until broken down and the volume is reduced by half. Strain through cheesecloth, then can as for Basic Canned Tomatoes.

Classic Dill Pickles

Ingredients

  • 25 pickling cucumbers, 2-3 inches long
  • 4 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons celery or fennel seeds
  • 4 sprigs fresh dill
  • 1 cup pickling salt, dissolved in 8 cups water

Directions
Wash cucumbers thoroughly. Soak 24 hours in brine. Drain and pat dry.
Bring vinegar, sugar, and spices to a boil.
Add cucumbers and cook 5 minutes over medium heat.
Pack cucumbers and spices in hot, sterilized jars.
Cover with cooking liquid and seal. Wait a month before opening. Makes 8 cups.


Dilly Beans

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds high quality whole green beans
  • 2 teaspoons crushed dried hot red pepper
  • 4 teaspoons dried dill seed
  • 7 cloves of peeled fresh garlic
  • 5 cups vinegar
  • 5 cups water
  • ½ cup picking salt

Directions
Wash beans thoroughly, remove stems and tips, and cut them as uniformly as possible to allow them to stand upright in pint canning jars, coming to the shoulder of the jar.
Have jars clean and very hot, and lids and sealers ready in scalding water.
In each jar, place ½ tsp of dill seed, one garlic clove, and ¼ tsp of crushed hot red pepper. Pack beans upright in jars, leaving one inch of headroom.
Heat the water, vinegar, and salt together. When the mixture boils, pour it over the beans, filling each jar to ½ inch from the top.
Run a knife down and around to remove trapped air, adjust lids, and process in a 185°F bath for ten minutes after the water in the canner returns to simmer. Remove jars and complete seals if necessary.
Makes 7 pints.

Note: if you substitute ground cayenne pepper for the crushed hot red pepper, use only 1/8 tsp per jar (or prepare for a fiery treat!) Wait at least two weeks to allow the beans to develop their full flavor.


Peter’s Pickled Peppers

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds hot peppers (such as serrano, habanero, jalapeno, or a blend) cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 6 cups vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium onion, diced

Directions
Combine the hot peppers in a large pot. Add the vinegar, water, garlic, and onion.
Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
Ladle cooked peppers into sterile jars and fill to the top with the remaining liquid, leaving ¼ inch headspace, and lid.
Process in a water bath for 10 to 15 minutes.
Refrigerate jars after opening.


Watermelon Pickles
Choose thick sections of rind for this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups watermelon rind
  • ½ cup pickling salt
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 ½ tablespoons whole cloves
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups water

Directions
Peel off the skin and trim off any remains of pink flesh. Cut into one inch cubes. Dissolve salt in cold water and pour it over rind cubes to cover (add more water if needed). Let stand 5 to 6 hours. Drain and rinse well.
Cover the rind cubes with fresh water and cook until barely tender, no more than ten minutes, erring on the side of crispness, then drain.
Combine sugar, vinegar, and water; add cloves tied in a cloth bag; bring mixture to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Pour over rind cubes and let stand overnight. In the morning, bring to boiling and cook until rind is translucent but not at all mushy, about ten minutes.
Remove spice bag and pack cubes in hot, sterilized pint jars. Add boiling syrup, leaving ½ inch of headroom; adjust lids. Process in a 185° F water bath for ten minutes. Remove jars and complete seals if necessary. Makes 4 pints.


Antipasto

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cauliflower chunks
  • 1 cup broccoli chunks
  • 2 zucchini, cut in sticks
  • 2 carrots, cut in sticks
  • 2 celery sticks, roughly sliced
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup pickling salt
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 hot peppers (such as banana peppers), chopped
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds

Directions
In a large bowl, arrange vegetables in layers, sprinkling salt between each layer.
Add 6 cups of water. Cover bowl with plastic film and place a weight on top to prevent the vegetables from floating. Keep the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse under cold water for 2 minutes and drain again.
Combine 2 cups water with vinegar and sugar.
Dissolve sugar over low heat.
Divide garlic, hot peppers, and mustard seeds among the jars. Pack with vegetables.
Cover with sugared vinegar, leaving 1 ¼ inches head space. Seal and process 20 minutes in boiling water or 5 minutes in a pressure cooker.
Wait three weeks before tasting. Makes 10 cups.

 

Comments

  1. Hi Paula and Wanda. Interesting article and love the recipes. Just to let you know the mason jar link is dead.

    Ken

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