If you've picked the fruits and vegetables in your garden but find you can't eat them all, don't let them go to waste. When they're at their peak flavor and ripeness, can them. Canning is a great way to store your garden produce or produce from the farmer's market. Produce will keep up to a year if canned properly. Learn more about canning below to get started.
Canning is really just heat processing. It involves placing food in sealable jars, which you then heat for a while, and cool later. Heating up the jars kills the microorganisms that cause spoilage. When the jars cool, air pressure seals the containers tight. This keeps out other microorganisms and maintains freshness.
There are two basic methods of canning (which actually requires mason jars, not tin cans): boiling and pressure canning. Pressure canning is used to preserve low-acid foods, like vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood. In this method, your jars of food are placed in 2-3 inches of water in a special pressure cooker which is heated to a temperature of at least 240 °F to kill any possible Clostridium botulinum spores.
The easier boiling water canning method is used to preserve high-acid foods, like tomatoes, fruits, jams, jellies and pickles. In this method, your jars of food are placed in a large pot, completely covered with boiling water (212 °F, at sea level), and cooked for a specified amount of time.
When canning with the easier boiling water method, always use clean and unflawed jars (those with no cracks or nicks). You can reuse your jars, but always use new rings and lids. Sterilize your jars, rings and lids in boiling water, making sure the water you boil is cold to start. Cover your jars with the water, and, with a rack or trivet, keep them from touching the bottom of the pot. Bring your water to a rolling boil, then reduce to a gentle boil for 10 minutes. Be sure to only remove jars and jar parts with tongs. When placing your food in the jars, note that different foods require different headspaces (the space between the top of the food and the lid).
You don't have to stick to plain fruits and vegetables when you can. Add spices, herbs and other items to make salsa, sides and soups in bulk to enjoy later. Jellies and jams are also popular foods to can. Be creative and resourceful with the produce you have, and be sure to follow specific instructions from a reputable online source such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.