Yes you can…can!

I have been canning since I was a teenager, a tradition that is passed on from one generation to the next. Somewhat of a lost art, I feel in the last few years it is definitely making a comeback. There is nothing quite as rewarding as making and serving your own homemade pickles, preserves and relishes.

Now my mother didn’t can, but my best friend’s mom, Elva, did and she imparted some of her wisdom and knowledge on me at a very young age. The first and most important lesson that I learned is how much better everything she made tasted! This is what inspired me to learn more about it. It does take some time and effort, but with a little organization and the right equipment, it’s really easy and I encourage you to try it!

With summer coming to a close, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to write a series of articles about canning. This week I am going to focus on pickling – one of my favorite things to do to just about any vegetable – move over cucumbers!

If you are a newbie you maybe thinking, “wait a minute, I have no idea what I need to do this!” Here are a few online resources for you, and plenty of time to lay in supplies before Labor Day weekend, when we have our big Roma tomato pick your own harvest at the farm in Moorpark. Believe me, there is nothing better than home canned tomatoes when everyone else is opening a can from the store!

Check out these websites for information on canning supplies and general canning questions:

Canning Across America
Pick Your Own – Canning Supplies
National Center for Home Food Preservation

For the record, I own the following: Pressure Canner, Water Bath Canner (with jar rack), a jar lifter, canning funnel and lots of different sized jars, lids and rings. I like the Ball and Kerr brand jars best. I don’t buy the off brands or use commercial jars; I’ve had some bad experiences using those before.

Pickling
Pickling has been used for generations to preserve foods by lowering their pH level so that bacteria and mold cannot grow or multiply to spoil the food. This process usually involves covering the food in brine that contains vinegar, which has acetic acid. A variety of vegetables, fruits, spices and herbs can be used to make “pickles”.

I like to begin the pickling process with fresh raw food that is carefully washed but otherwise untreated and uncooked. Because these foods are preserved in their raw, natural state as much as possible, they still contain many of their natural enzymes and other nutrients. Make sure to use vinegar that contains at least 5% acetic acid for proper preservation. I tend to use Apple Cider Vinegar because it has vitamins and minerals that distilled vinegar does not have. It’s closer to 6% acetic acid so it also meets that criteria.

pp-prepPickled Peppers
You can pickle any type of peppers with this recipe. If you are not a fan of hot peppers, try using the Underwood peppers that come in your box this time of year.

2 pounds medium to hot peppers (e.g. Hot Banana, Anaheim, Jalapeño)
2 pounds mild peppers (e.g. Sweet Banana, Cherry, Sweet Bell)
8 cloves garlic, peeled with ends cut off
7 cups vinegar
3 1/3 cups water
2 1/2 tablespoons pickling salt

Wash and prepare the vegetables. Using gloves, slice the peppers into appropriate sizes for packing into jars, discarding the seeds the best you can. Sterilize your canning jars, rings and tops. In a large saucepan, mix together garlic, vinegar, water and pickling salt. Bring just to a boil.

Pack peppers into hot, sterilized jars. Pour the hot vinegar mix over the top; making sure garlic clove winds up in each jar. Wipe the top of the jars, put lids on jars and screw the rings on just until you meet resistance. Process in a hot water bath: 10 minutes for half-pint or pint jars and 15 minutes for quarts. At altitudes over 6,000 feet add 5 minutes to the processing time.

Carefully remove the jars from the canner to a dry, clean towel. Allow them to cool completely. You should hear 8 pops as the lids seal and the jars cool. Any unsealed jars can be refrigerated and used promptly.

Let the jars season for 5-6 weeks before opening.

Makes 8 pints of pickled peppers.