Canning Vegetables From Your Garden

Canning Vegetables From Your Garden

I’m convinced that no one can make homemade bread and butter pickles as good as my mother. Perfectly seasoned with a rich texture, they’ve become esteemed among our family. Her recipe, one she tinkered with over the years until she was satisfied, contains just the right amount of onions, vinegar and sugar. One taste and store-bought pickles won’t quite do it for you ever again.

As a kid, I’d help plant cucumbers in the early spring, and in a few months, slithering vines provided more than enough leftovers to be canned. Over the years, she started canning or pickling green beans, peppers, asparagus and, another personal favorite, okra. Having the ability to preserve our vegetables helped us to justify a bigger garden, as we were less likely to waste. Canning vegetables was also a way for us to enjoy the fruits of our hard labor well into the fall and winter. By the time we ran out, our winter garden was producing carrots and lettuce until spring returned, when strawberries, blueberries and blackberries began to ripen. Then, we planted again and the cycle continued.  

Even if you don’t have a garden of your own, you can preserve store-bought produce. Buy local and fresh for the best-tasting results. Getting started is easy. There are only a few materials you’ll need, and the others you’ll likely have lying around the house. We’ll go over the two primary methods for preserving vegetables, each with specific directions.

Water Bath Canning

This involves submerging filled jars into a pot of boiling water. Only highly acidic foods are safe to preserve by water bath canning because their alkalinity blocks the growth of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum that can cause botulism, which means most vegetables cannot be canned with this method. A way around this is to pickle vegetables using vinegar, which is acidic. Mostly, water bath canning is used to preserve fruits and high-acid vegetables, as well as jams, jellies, salsas, relishes, sauces and condiments, each with about a one year shelf life. If you’re unsure of the acidity of the produce you’d like to preserve, use a pH table as a guide.

What You’ll Need

Water bath canner or large saucepot with a lid
Jar rack
Mason jars with new lids
Spoon, funnel and ladle
Jar lifter
Non-metallic spatula

Pressure Canning

If you aren’t pickling your vegetables, you’ll need to use this method. Water bath canning heats the water to 212 degrees, while pressure canning raises that to 240 degrees, effectively killing any Clostridium botulinum spores. You can pre-cook your vegetables before preserving them, or can them raw. When stored in a cool, dark place, your preserves will have a one year shelf life.

What You’ll Need

Pressure canner
Jar rack
Mason jars and new lids
Spoon, funnel and ladle
Jar lifter