Linnette Goard, Food Safety Specialist with Ohio State University Extension, demonstrates how to preserve pickles using a water bath canner. For more on home food preservation click here.
Quick process pickles differ from fermented pickles because the pickling process uses acetic acid from vinegar rather than lactic acid from fermentation. Quick process pickles are ideal for those who want to make pickles, start to finish, in a few days. However, the flavor of fresh pack or quick process pickles is better if they are left to stand in sealed jars for several weeks.
The correct acid concentration, in the form of vinegar, is important because acid prevents the growth of Clostridium botulinum, a deadly microorganism, in quick process pickles. If acid concentration is not sufficient, there is a danger of botulism poisoning. Therefore, use only tested recipes, and do not change the proportion of food, water, and vinegar.
For tested recipes and step by step instructions on how to make quick process pickles click here.
Information Compiled by Lydia Medeiros, Professor, Department of Human Nutrition.
Updated 2008 by Lois Clark, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Auglaize County, and Jean DeBrosse, Program Assistant, Family and Consumer Sciences, Greene County.
Reviewed by Julie Shertzer, Ph.D., R.D., Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension.
Linnette Goard, Food Safety Specialist, Ohio State University Extension demonstrates how to make and preserve homemade salsa using a water bath canner. For more on home canning click here
Methods for canning foods at home have changed greatly since the procedure was first introduced almost two centuries ago. Since then, research has enabled home canners to simplify and safely preserve higher quality foods. Knowing why canning works and what causes food to spoil underscores the importance of following directions carefully.
How Canning Preserves Foods
Invisible microorganisms are all around us. Many are beneficial; others are harmful. All foods contain microorganisms, the major cause of food spoilage. Proper canning techniques stop this spoilage by using heat to destroy microorganisms. During the canning process, air is driven from the jar and a vacuum is formed as the jar cools and seals, preventing microorganisms from entering and recontaminating the food. It does not take long at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (F), the temperature at which water boils, to force air out, create a vacuum, and seal a jar. It does, however, take a specific amount of heat for a specific amount of time to kill certain bacteria. Although a jar is “sealed,” all bacteria are not necessarily killed. Adequate acid (as in pickled products and fruits) or sugar (as in jams and jellies) protects against the growth of some microorganisms. In low-acid foods, however, some microorganisms are not destroyed at 212 degrees F. Low-acid foods, therefore, must be heated to higher temperatures that can be reached only with a pressure canner. Low-acid foods, such as vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish, must be pressure canned at the recommended time and temperature to destroy Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that causes botulism food poisoning. Canning low-acid foods in boiling water canners is absolutely unsafe
To read the full article on Canning Basics, including step by step instructions, click here.
Information compiled by Ruth Anne Foote, Extension Agent, Home Economics, Mercer County.
Updated by Marcia Jess, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ottawa County.
Reviewed by Dan Remley, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences/Community Development, Butler County.
First, if the cucumbers you’re growing aren’t a suitable variety for pickling, you might be disappointed in the results. Pickling cucumbers are usually smaller than cucumbers grown for slicing, and they tend to have thicker, bumpier skins. According to the cooking encyclopedia The Cook’s Thesaurus, the best varieties for pickling include gherkin, cornichon, Kirby and lemon cucumber.
But if you want to try, your first decision will be whether you want to make fermented pickles, which are pickled from lactic acid in a fermentation process over three to four weeks in a crock or other suitable container, or quick-process pickles, which are pickled from acetic acid from vinegar in a process that takes just a few days.
If you have a burpless variety growing in your garden, go for the quick process, because burpless varieties produce an enzyme at maturity that causes pickles to soften during fermentation. Always choose smaller cucumbers — they make crisper pickles.
You can find detailed guidance for pickling cucumbers (and other vegetables) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Complete Guide to Home Canning, available online from the University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation at http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html. In addition, Ohio State University Extension offers two fact sheets, “Making Fermented Dill Pickles” and “Quick Process Pickles,” at http://ohioline.osu.edu/lines/food.html.
Among the tips you’ll want to follow:
- Pay strict attention to all guidelines, and process in a water bath canner according to recipe directions. Otherwise, your pickles may spoil or, worse, cause food poisoning.
- Always trim about a quarter-inch from the blossom end of the cucumber to prevent pickles from softening.
- Use only non-iodized salt made for pickling or canning. Regular table salt has anti-caking agents that can make the brine cloudy. Flake salt varies in density, so you can’t be certain you’re using the proper amount. If you want to make low-sodium pickles, use a tested recipe. Don’t try to make fermented pickles with less salt than in the recipe; the amount is necessary to inhibit the growth of undesirable bacteria.
One of the best resources for beginner and experienced canners alike is the National Center for Home Food Preservation, hosted by the University of Georgia,http://nchfp.uga.edu.
The site offers free access to many reliable sources of canning information, including the ability to download the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Complete Guide to Home Canning. (Note: You can also purchase a spiral-bound printed version of the USDA guide for $18 from the Education Store of Purdue Extension, https://mdc.itap.purdue.edu/.)
Ohio State University Extension also offers food preservation information: go tohttp://ohioline.osu.edu, click on “Food,” and click on “Food Preservation” for a series of fact sheets. You’ll probably want to start with the four-page Canning Basics, which includes other recommended books for canning. Classes are also available; check out one near you:http://go.osu.edu/fdpreserv.
As you gather materials and start doing some homework, there are a few other things you can do to make sure you’re all set when your garden bounty is ready for preserving:
- Get the dial gauge on the pressure canner tested to make sure it’s giving an accurate reading. Check with your local Extension office for information about this service. If the gauge reads high or low by more than 2 pounds at 5, 10 or 15 pounds per square inch (psi), you’ll need to have it replaced.
- It would be helpful to read the manual that came with the canner. If you don’t have it, you might be able to find it online, or you can try to contact the manufacturer for a copy.
- Make sure you have all the equipment you’ll need for canning. You didn’t mention if you also received the accessories you may need, such as a jar lifter, a bubble freer or a funnel with an extra-wide mouth. You might also want to stock up now on jars and lids.
- Find out what your altitude is. At more than 1,000 feet above sea level, water boils at a lower temperature, which means your canning process may not kill all bacteria if you don’t follow instructions for high-altitude canning. Some people are surprised that even Midwest states like Ohio have areas above 1,000 feet. There are plenty of smartphone apps that can tell you the altitude at your location, or you can inquire at your local Extension office or Soil Conservation Service. Or, go to the U.S. Geological Survey’s website at http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic and click the menus for your state and county for a list of elevations at various locations in your area.
Congratulations on your interest in exploring a new skill. Home canning isn’t rocket science, but it does require time and effort. And it must be done properly to ensure safety.
It may be best to dip your toes into canning by using the boiling water bath canning method instead of pressure canning. Boiling water canning is less complicated and requires less-expensive equipment.
However, you can use water bath canning only for acid foods. That includes berries and all other fruits, and sauerkraut and other fermented products. Tomatoes are right on the line between acid and low-acid foods — you can use the boiling water bath method if you add extra acid (lemon juice or citric acid, for example) to the tomatoes when you process them.
It’s vitally important to follow canning recipes and guidelines precisely. Adding or eliminating ingredients can affect the food’s acidity, which could affect the processing time required to an unknown degree. Canning recipes have been scientifically tested to make sure bacteria or other contaminants don’t spoil your hard work or make people sick.
Also, make sure your jars are made for home canning. Check that they’re not chipped. Use new lids each time.
You can buy a boiling water canner if you want to, but all you really need is a pot large enough to be able to cover jars with one or two inches of water, plus another one or two inches above that to allow the water to stay at a full rolling boil. You’ll also need a rack that fits in the bottom of the pot, so water gets underneath the jars, too.
Plus, you’ll need to know if you’re more than 1,000 feet above sea level. At elevations above 1,000 feet, water boils at temperatures lower than 212 degrees Fahrenheit. That means you’ll need to increase the processing time as indicated in recipes. One way to find your elevation is to go to the U.S. Geological Survey website at http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic.
Of course, there are a host of other considerations you’ll need be aware of. A good place to start is the National Center for Home Food Preservation at http://nchfp.uga.edu. The site contains detailed canning information, a free online home study course and downloadable PDFs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Complete Guide to Home Canning. You can also purchase the USDA guide from Purdue University at https://mdc.itap.purdue.edu/.
Ohio State University Extension offers fact sheets that you’ll find helpful at http://ohioline.osu.edu/lines/food.html. Or, contact your OSU Extension office (listed at http://extension.osu.edu/locate-an-office) to see if programs are locally available.