These are tough times and many of us are growing our own food. Home gardens number more than ever. You can find gardens every where. People seem to be using any available ground to grow vegetables and fruit. I have seen gardens on roofs and balconies as well as the more familiar back yard. Community gardens have grown in number as well. Some very "up-scale" condominium complexes have community gardens. On the other end of the scale, you can find these gardens in low income neighborhoods as well.
I live in Hawaii and I have a South facing lanai that gets very hot, so my garden consists of mostly herbs that can tolerate the heat. However, our complex does have a community garden near the office. We do grow our own tomatoes on the lanai.
So with all this food being grown in your own back yard, whatever it may be, what are you going to do with all that excess produce? Well you could give it away and that is a good choice, but have you ever tried to give zucchini away? Everyone has zucchini at the same time. You could give some to the local food bank again even they can only use so much fresh produce. The logical thing is to preserve the bounty for use later.
There are several ways to preserve food. Freezing and dehydrating are two good ways to do this and in a later article I will discuss each of these methods. But for this article I would like to focus on home canning using the pressure cooker. The only safe way to preserve low acid foods such as most vegetables, meats and fish is to use a pressure canner. This is just a large pressure cooker.
You can home can almost anything. Tomatoes are one of the things that almost everyone puts up. They don't need to be pressurized but can be put up using the water bath method if you add a little lemon juice to each jar.
When using the pressure canner it is important to follow the directions to the letter. This is not a time to take short cuts or guess at what you are doing. Always use proper equipment. Mason jars and new lids are the only kind of jars you can use safely in a pressure canner. Do NOT reuse the lids, they will not seal properly and you could lose your food. Never taste low acid food right out of the jar, bring it to a boil for 10 minutes before tasting. I know this sounds like a long time, but there is always a small chance of spoilage so be careful. Just know that I have been putting food up for many years and have never had a bad batch.
Besides the obvious vegetables, I make a huge pot of soup and divide it into pint jars and process it for later. Nothing tastes better than soup made with fresh vegetables right out of the garden and the next best thing is your home canned soup made from fresh vegetables. Tastes really good in the middle of winter.
Sometimes you can get a real deal on fresh produce during the peak season and canning is a way to have it in the winter. Peach cobbler is so good made with your home canned fresh peaches. By the way, you do not have to add sugar to your fruit when you can it. Just use the fruit juice and it will be wonderful. Also you can control the amount of salt if any in your canned vegetables.
I hope you will give home canning a try, I know you will be pleased and surprised at the results and your family will love it.
Nancy Toney has been using the pressure cooker for over 30 years and is happy to share her experience with you. Check out her website [http://www.buypressurecookers.com]