Canning is a GREAT way to preserve food; basically, the food is sealed in an airtight container through a boiling-water bath or under pressure canning. This extends the shelf life of food and keeps it from having to be refrigerated or frozen.
You can preserve TONS of stuff, from jams/jellies to sauces, and yes, pickles!
Boiling-water bath canning is simple: Once the contents are placed in canning jars and sealed, the jars are lowered into a pot filled with enough boiling water to completely cover the jars. Boil for 10-15 minutes (depending on the recipe), carefully remove the jars from the water, and, as the jars cool, they will vacuum seal. You don't need any special equipment, but I HIGHLY recommend purchasing a canning tool kit - this kit contains everything you need, from a magnetic lid lifter for the canning lids, a jar lifter, a wide-mouth funnel for filling the jars, and a headspace ruler (more on these tools below).
I use my pressure canner for my boiling-water bath canning, but you can just a use a big, heavy bottomed pot. Just make sure you have enough room for the jars and water to cover them.
Pressure canning is a bit more difficult; first, you need a pressure canner, which usually has a gauge or weights. The pressure canner will have a tight seal on it; like with pressure COOKING, the pressure increases the boiling point of the contents, making them cook more quickly and effectively sterilizing the food. Pressure-canning is a little more dangerous, as you HAVE to wait for the pressure to drop before opening the canner, and seals CAN let go and cause a huge mess or even injury. Luckily, modern pressure canners are a lot safer than they used to be, and I've never had an accident.
Honestly, I've done pressure canning a few times, and I HATE IT. I prefer to just stick to what I can can (ugh) with a boiling-water bath.
So, how do you know when to use a boiling-water bath or pressure canning? The boiling-water method is only safe for foods with a high pH (under 4.6), and works best for pickles, fruits, jams/jellies and tomatoes. Granted, I know tomatoes are technically a fruit and not a vegetable, but they are acidic and can GREAT. Pressure canning raises the boiling point of the food, killing the bacteria that causes botulism (Clostridium botulinum for my Carl Linnaeus nerds), making it the ideal canning method for vegetables and meats.
For this post, I'll be making do chua, which is a Vietnamese condiment made of carrot and daikon sticks, pickled in a sweet vinegar mixture. Though these ARE vegetables, since I'm adding vinegar and lowering the acidity, a boiling-water bath is sufficient for canning.
|This is the last jar I have, from a batch I made last year...|
|Back then, I didn't have a julienne slicer, so I had to cut everything by hand :(|
You'll just have to keep reading to see exactly WHAT I do with my do chua :)