Extension and Ag Research News


Prairie Fare: It’s Time to Retire Great-grandma’s Canning Recipes

Great-grandma’s famous canned tomato recipe might have dire results using today’s tomato varieties.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist NDSU Extension Service

According to food historians, the earliest method used to decide if food was edible was trial and error. Let’s call it “Plan A.” Making a mistake about edibility had dire results.

The survivors then developed “Plan B.”

“Plan B” involved observing animals. If animals ate the food and survived, chances are you would, too. You could get quite hungry and tired observing animals before trying an unfamiliar food, so there was a need for “Plan C.”

Since food wasn’t always available when you needed it, “Plan C” involved preserving familiar foods. Most food preservation techniques likely were discovered by accident. If you lived in the desert, the sun and wind naturally dried your food. Frigid areas of the world offered natural walk-in freezers.

Fermentation was discovered somewhere along the historical line. Wild yeasts and other microorganisms naturally present in the air fell on fruit, causing the sugars to ferment into alcohol. Someone tried it and liked it, maybe too much. Wine was the result. Sauerkraut and yogurt had similar beginnings.

Pickling, curing with salt and preserving with sugar to make jams were other discoveries that extended the shelf life of foods throughout history. Canning foods had its beginnings in the 1790s when a Frenchman, Nicolas Appert, heated food in glass bottles and noted that the food didn’t spoil as quickly. Scientists, including Louis Pasteur, later learned much about microorganisms and their relationship to food spoilage and developed other preservation techniques.

Much of the research about home canning took place in the 1940s and continues today. Recommendations change as scientists learn more about what is safe and what isn’t.

Many of “Great-grandma’s” recipes probably are no longer considered safe, even though generations of relatives may have survived eating the food. Tomato varieties, for example, have been bred to be less acidic to appeal to our tastes. Great-grandma’s famous canned tomato recipe might have dire results using today’s tomato varieties.

Preserve food safely with these general rules for safe canning.

Use a pressure canner and current USDA processing guidelines to can low-acid foods, such as vegetables and meats. Acidify tomatoes with the recommended amount of lemon juice or citric acid prior to canning. Use research-tested salsa recipes and don’t alter ingredient proportions. If you create your own salsa and want to preserve it, freezing it is the safest option. Seal jams and jellies with a regular canning lid (not wax) and process in a boiling water bath for five to 10 minutes, depending on altitude. Here is a fruit salsa recipe developed at the University of Georgia for the National Center for Home Food Preservation. For more safe canning recipes, visit the NDSU Extension Service Web site at http://www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/food.htm.

Peach Apple Salsa

6 c. (2 1/4 pounds) chopped Roma tomatoes (about 3 pounds of tomatoes as purchased) 2 1/2 c. diced yellow onions (about 1 pound or two large onions as purchased) 2 c. chopped green bell peppers (about 1 1/2 large peppers as purchased) 10 c. (3 1/2 pounds) chopped hard, unripe peaches (about nine medium peaches or 4 1/2 pounds as purchased) 2 c. chopped Granny Smith apples (about two large apples as purchased) 4 Tbsp. mixed pickling spice 1 Tbsp. canning salt 2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes 3 3/4 c. (1 1/4 pounds) packed, light brown sugar 2 1/4 c. cider vinegar (5 percent)

Wash and rinse pint canning jars and keep hot until ready to use. Prepare lids according to manufacturer’s directions. Place pickling spice on a clean, double-layered, 6-inch-square piece of 100 percent cheesecloth. Bring corners together and tie with a clean string. (Or use a purchased muslin spice bag.) Wash and peel tomatoes (place washed tomatoes in boiling water for one minute, then immediately place in cold water and slip off skins). Chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Peel, wash and seed bell peppers and then chop into 1/4-inch pieces. Combine chopped tomatoes, onions and peppers in an 8- or 10-quart Dutch oven or saucepot. Wash, peel and pit peaches. Cut into halves and soak 10 minutes in ascorbic acid solution (1,500 milligrams per half-gallon of water). Quickly chop peaches and apples into 1/2-inch cubes to prevent browning. Add chopped peaches and apples to the saucepot with the vegetables. Add the pickling spice bag to the saucepot. Stir in the salt, red pepper flakes, brown sugar and vinegar. Bring to boiling, stirring gently to mix ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the spice bag from the pan and discard. With a slotted spoon, fill salsa solids into hot, clean pint jars, leaving 1 1/4-inch headspace. Cover with cooking liquid, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel and apply two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner. At altitudes from 0 to 1,000 feet, process 15 minutes; at 1,001 to 6,000 feet, process 20 minutes. Above 6,000 feet, process 25 minutes.

Yield: About seven 1-pint jars. Each 1/2-cup serving has 146 calories, 37 grams of carbohydrate, 0.3 gram of fiber and 253 milligrams of sodium.

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, jgardenr@ndsuext.nodak.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.nodak.edu
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