Canning And Preserving Fruits And Vegetables
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
As all fruits and vegetables spoil because of the growth of microscopic plants in them, they may be preserved by any means that will destroy the bacteria, yeasts, and molds present and keep others from entering. These tiny plants are found everywhere, particularly in dust. Like the yeast plant, they all require food, moisture, and warmth for growth, and like the yeast plant they die if heated very hot. Some of them, however, can stand great heat, because at a certain stage of their growth they are in the form of spores which boiling will not destroy. If they are heated very hot for three successive days all bacteria will be killed, as each day a part of them will be in a form that cannot stand the heat. The spores may be compared to a seed, a sprouted seed being easy to kill, while a hard dry one is not. Drying also destroys bacteria.
EXPERIMENT I. Put a slice of fresh apple or other fruit into a small screw-top jar, cover with cold water, and seal. Set aside for a week and then note condition.
EXPERIMENT II. Repeat Experiment I but heat jar for one hour, as directed for Canning Fruit with Single Cooking, page 111. Compare results. Where' was decomposition going on? What causes fruit to spoil? Why does 'subjecting it to heat by cooking prevent it from spoiling? Why is sealing necessary ?
EXPERIMENT III. Repeat II, but remove lid after heating.
Two Methods of Canning. There are two ways of canning-one in which the fruit or vegetable is heated only once, the other where it is heated on three successive days. The latter method is the more satisfactory for the home canner. Acid fruits and vegetables may be canned by the first method if preferred, although the second method is the surest.
The Cost. Home canned fruits and vegetables are far cheaper than the commercial product, even if the material is purchased. When it is home grown there is of course a greater saving, and the quality is usually better because the home canner will not use green or overripe fruits.
Selecting the Material. Can fruits and vegetables when in season. The home grown fruits are usually the best, but in some localities the shipped fruits are the only ones available. If they have been long in cold storage they will not be satisfactory. Select fresh, crisp, medium-sized fruits and vegetables.
The best fruits for canning are pears, plums, peaches, figs, apples, pineapples, and cherries. Among the vegetables, tomatoes, corn, beans, beets, okra, asparagus, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes are very satisfactory.
The Best Jars. Use glass jars for canning—they are far safer and really no more costly than tins, as a tin can should not be used more than once, while glass jars can be used for years and very few will be broken if carefully handled.
The jars with glass tops fastened by a wire spring attached to the jar are the most satisfactory. Select jars of a size to suit your family, and buy new rubbers each time a jar is used. Test jars by filling them with water, sealing, and inverting. If water escapes, lid or rubber is defective.
Canning Fruit With Three Cookings. Use perfectly smooth enameled pans and kettles and wooden spoons in the cooking process. Use no tin or iron. Have everything very clean. Prepare the fruit and pack it in the jar tightly up to within an inch of the top. Fill with whatever liquid is to be used. Put on the rubber and the lid, but do not fasten the lid down. Then place the jar on a rack or folded cloth in a large kettle that can be closely covered. Pour in enough water to reach up several inches on the jars, cover the kettle, and place it over the fire. When hot lift the lids and add sugar, if it is to be used, from 1/4 c. to 1 c. of sugar to 1 quart jar of fruit, depending on the acidity of fruit. Bring to the boiling point and boil for ten minutes. Then fasten on the lids and (for most fruits) boil for thirty minutes ; put in a place free from a draft to cool. On second and third days, arrange the jars as on the first day and boil for twenty minutes.
Do not open the jar after the first sealing.
Use firm, solid fruit. Peel and cut in half. If clingstone peaches are used, they may be canned whole. Fill each jar as the peaches are peeled and add water so that they will not discolor. Proceed according to general directions. After sealing on first day, boil for ten minutes; on two succeeding days boil for twenty minutes. Small pieces of fruit may be canned in the same way for pies, using one-fourth cup of sugar.
Canning Fruit With Single Cooking. Proceed as directed above, but fasten down the lids after first heating, and boil for one hour before storing. This method may be used for most acid fruits that are not dense in texture, but it is not desirable for solid fruits or for vegetables.
Fruit Cooked Before Canning. Make a syrup, using one-third of the weight of the fruit in sugar, and allowing three cups of water for each pound of sugar; for example, to six pounds of fruit allow two pounds of sugar and six cups of water. Boil the syrup for ten minutes, using a shallow kettle. Put in the pared fruit, cut in halves, and cook gently until tender. Pack closely in hot sterilized jars. (See Preserving, page 112.) Fill with syrup, and seal.
Fruit may be cooked in water and canned in this way. Berries do not require water.
Canning Vegetables. Proceed according to the general directions for canning, but cook vegetables for fifteen minutes before sealing, then for forty-five minutes. Boil for one hour on second and third days. Cook mixed vegetables for one hour and thirty minutes. As the water around the jars boils down replenish with boiling water, never with cold. Store canned foods in a cool, dry, dark place.
Select tender sweet corn and can as soon as possible after picking. Pre-pare the corn as for cooking, then cut a very thin slice from the top of each row of grains, and scrape with the back of a knife. Put the pulp into pint jars, add one-fourth teaspoonful of salt, and fill with cold water. Proceed as directed.
Wash and string tender beans. Boil in a sack or wire basket for ten minutes. Drain, cool slightly, and pack in jars. Proceed as for corn.
QUESTIONS AND PROBLEMS
Why does continued cooking preserve fruits and vegetables? What jars are most desirable? Why not open the jars after the first sealing? Tell how to select fruit or vegetables for canning. Estimate the cost of one dozen jars of home canned corn, beans, tomatoes, plums, peaches, or berries, including fuel. When tomatoes are eighty cents a bushel, how much will twelve quart jars of the vegetable cost? How does this compare with those bought at the grocery? Do you raise your vegetables or buy them? Tell how to can corn, tomatoes, okra. How should canned foods be stored? Do canned fruit and vegetables take the place of fresh ones in a person's diet?
Fruit is made into preserves by being cooked with sugar until quite thick, then sealed while hot. Preserves do not fill the place of fresh fruit in the diet and must be ranked with sweets. Peaches, plums, pears, figs, the rind of watermelon, and tomatoes are all used for preserves.
Fruit must be in good condition—not overripe. If it is desirable to preserve the shape, be very careful in handling the fruit. For soft fruits, such as well ripened peaches, a syrup is prepared first, then the fruit is added and cooked until clear. Where color and shape are not so important, the fruit and sugar may be cooked together. Syrup burns easily, so the cooking must be gentle. Use a shallow kettle for preserves, for if the mass is heavy the shape of individual fruit is spoiled.
The proportion of sugar to fruit varies according to the acidity. Water is used in making the syrup for the drier fruits, such as plums, while berries, figs, and tomatoes require no water.
To Sterilize Jars and Glasses. After washing them very clean, lay jars and lids on a rack or towel in a kettle and cover with cold water. Heat gradually to the boiling point and boil for 15 to 20 minutes. Keep them hot until ready to use. Lift out with a long fork. set on a towel, and fill immediately with hot fruit. After a jar is filled, pass the handle of a silver spoon that has been scalded, around inside the jar to force out air bubbles. Adjust the rubber and fasten on the lid.
Prepare a syrup, allowing three-fourths of a pound of sugar to one pound of fruit, and half a cup of water to each pound of sugar. Bring the syrup to the boiling point. Skim. Then cook until moderately thick. Add the fruit, first pricking the skin with a knitting needle four or five times. Cook gently until clear and until the syrup is thick.
Pare the fruit and proceed as above, using one-half cup of water to a half pound of sugar for the syrup.
Use six oranges, one lemon, twice the weight of fruit in sugar, and twine the weight of fruit in water.
Wash the fruit well and cut first in half horizontally, then into very thin slices. Remove the seeds. Put into a porcelain bowl. Pour the water in and let soak over night. Turn into a saucepan and cook gently until tender —about one and one-half hours being required. Then add the sugar and cook gently until the rind is clear and the marmalade jellies when tested. Put into sterilized glasses and seal.
Peach Sweet Pickles
Use 7 lbs. peaches, 4 lbs. sugar, 1 qt. vinegar, 2 oz. stick cinnamon.
Peel, or scald and rub, clingstone peaches. Stick four cloves into each peach. Cook sugar, vinegar, and cinnamon for twenty minutes, add the peaches, and cook gently until tender. Pack in jars and cover with the syrup. Seal while hot. Pickles, owing to the condiments used, are more difficult to digest than preserves.
EXPERIMENT IV. To 2 tbsp. hot cooked fruit juice add 2 tbsp. absolute alcohol; stir and cool. If a gelatinous mass forms in bottom of dish, the juice contains pectin.
The juice of most acid fruit contains a jelly-like substance known as pectin or pectose. When the juice is cooked, a jelly is formed; if sugar is added the jelly forms before the juice is much reduced and a better flavor is secured. Jellies are more digestible than preserves. The general proportion of sugar to juice varies according to acidity. From three-fourths to one pound is the usual allowance for one pint of juice. If the juice is very watery the smaller quantity of sugar is used. If too much sugar is used, the juice will not jelly but will form a syrup. Fruit for jelly must be. rather underripe, for if overripe there is too little pectose. Berries should not be used if they have been picked just after a rain, as they will then contain too much water. Over-cooked jelly is apt to be somewhat stringy rather than firm and tender. From what fruits can you make jelly? What kinds cannot be so used?
The Jelly Bag. For making a jelly bag, use a piece of doubled cheesecloth.
Use acid plums. Wash and turn them into a preserving kettle. Add just enough water to prevent their burning—not more than one cup to a gallon of fruit. Boil for twenty minutes, lifting them from the bottom to prevent sticking. When all the skins are broken and the juice runs freely stir well and turn into a jelly bag. Let drain over night into a porcelain bowl. Measure the juice and allow three-fourths pound of sugar to each pint of juice. Put the sugar into a moderately hot oven and leave until quite hot. Heat the juice and let it boil for ten minutes. Then add the hot sugar, and as soon as the sugar is melted, test. If it jellies, turn into hot sterilized glasses, and seal. Keep in a cool, dry closet.
The Test for Jelly. As soon as the sugar is dissolved in the juice, put a spoonful of it on an ice-cold saucer in a cool place. In a few moments draw the tip of a spoon across the surface. If it makes a film or skin the jelly is done. If not, repeat the test almost immediately, as the jelly forms very rapidly. Jelly may also be tested by pouring a little from the spoon. If it breaks off in drops or flakes it is done.
Sealing Jelly. Seal jelly immediately by a cover of hot paraffin which has been melted in a small saucepan. As the paraffin shrinks a little when cool, the lid must be put on immediately and a strip of paper pasted over the joining of glass and lid.
Jelly from Berries
Wash and drain the berries. Warm on the back of the range until juice flows freely. Then mash through a sieve, drain through a jelly bag, and proceed as for plum jelly. Currants, blackberries, and dewberries may be used in this way. In the west a sour little berry known by its Spanish name of agrito (that is, "the little sour one") grows, and may be used for jelly. Use just enough water to cover the bottom of the kettle and cook it very slightly, as the seeds give a bitter flavor.