Canning preserves healthy food and family

As families look for ways to trim grocery bills, Shelby County Extension Agent Angela Treadaway thinks many should strongly consider the lost practice of preserving.

“It’s something we used to do years ago,” Treadaway said. “It was a necessity. Our predecessors had to do it to get by.”

Treadaway said modern gardeners and home cooks have their own reasons for preserving. She said many want to know what goes into the jar.

She said the only concern in canning at home is making sure you do it properly.

Fresh food is perishable because of its high water content. A variety of concerns can cause food to spoil, including increased growth of microorganisms, increased activity of food enzymes, increased reactions with oxygen and adverse effects from moisture loss. The process of preserving slows down or stops these activities — leaving the food safe to consume.

Treadaway often teaches community classes on canning and other methods of preserving fruits and vegetables.

Two of the most common methods are pressure canning and waterbath canning.

Vegetables must reach the necessary 240 degrees in order to kill any possibility of botulism. Botulism is a bacteria that can be fatal if not caught and treated quickly.

Treadaway said waterbath canning only brings produce to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature works fine for fruits, but not vegetables, which require pressure canning.

Treadaway especially enjoys passing this knowledge on to youth so they can bring back the tradition. In June, she taught a class of pre-teens exactly how to make their own salsa and jam.

“It was a lot easier than I thought it would be,” 10-year-old Lizzie Sexton said.

Not only can you save money by preserving foods, it can also be incredibly satisfying, Treadaway said.

“It’s so rewarding to go to your pantry and pull out a can of homegrown vegetables to serve to family or even give as gifts,” she said.

For additional information about canning, contact Treadaway at 410-3696.

Tomato salsa

20-25 pounds of tomatoes, peeled and chopped

3 cups chopped onions

1 tablespoon of oregano

2 tablespoons commercial garlic

2 cups diced assorted mild peppers (red, yellow, orange, banana or whatever you have)

1/2 cup diced, fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoon salt

1 diced jalapeño pepper, optional if you want hot salsa

1 1/2 cups five percent acidity apple cider vinegar

3 (6 oz) cans of tomato paste — if you like a richer, thicker flavor and texture

After peeling and chopping the tomatoes place them in a big saucepan and bring to a simmer while chopping other ingredients.

Mix other ingredients except for cilantro (it will turn black if cooked too long) and bring to a simmer again for about 10 minutes. Have jars and lids ready (pint size).

Pour salsa into hot jars and process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. Remove from water bath canner and let stand in a draft free area on a towel. Label and store away in a cool, dry pantry. Will keep for 1 year.