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Home Canning 101..The Secret is the Heat

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By Fresh Bites

Bernardin has been making jars in Canada for over 100 years!

Nothing is more Canadian in the summer than canning and preserving.  Fresh strawberries are turned into strawberry jam, cucumbers into dill pickles, and cherries preserved in their syrup for winter cakes.  The leader in canning and preserving in Canada for over 100 years has been Bernardin.  We asked their guru of all things preserved, Chef Emerie Brine, to tell us a bit about Bernardin and the secret to successful home canning.

If you think canning and preserving is a practice reserved exclusively for grandmothers in rural settings, you are sadly mistaken.  Young urbanites are getting into the trend of prepping their seasonal market finds and enjoying them all year long.  Part of it is the trend to support local eating and farmers.  Others are finding the process to be a creative outlet in the kitchen.  Either way, Bernardin is pretty much the brand best known in Canada for the home canner and last year, roughly 3 million Bernardin jars where produced – that’s a lot of pickles!

Besides the classic mason-style jar, Bernardin makes a wide range of products for the home canner from lids and preservatives to labels and accessories.  For those interested in getting into the world of home-canning, you need not be afraid.  “People think that canning is difficult and time consuming, when in fact it's quite simple if you follow a few simple steps” Chef Emerie told us.  “Most people think that canning is done from mom's and grandma's kitchen when in fact many more younger families are getting involved with canning” he added. 

The biggest issue for first time “jar heads” is a spoiled batch.  While the recipes for fruit jam are pretty straightforward (mashed berries, sugar, pectin, cook, add to jars), they miss a very important step to ensure safety and success.  Many a home-canning virgin has ventured out to make jam or pickles only to open them a few months later to find mildew.  “Heat processing is the most important step to canning (placing the hot filled jars in a hot water bath).  Some people skip this step and they don't always achieve success” was Chef Emerie’s advice and a good one to follow.  Even a simple strawberry jam needs time to set and the patented “snap lids” require a solid seal to protect from spoiling. 

Most of the lids we use today snap into place when the jars begin to cool.  According to Bernardin, the cooking time that is part of recipe preparation before the food is placed in jars is not processing time.  It does not alter the "heat processing" time required for safe home canned foods.  Heat processing is not only an important step to killing bacteria but also has to do with pressurization as well.  The altitude where you live will have an impact on the amount of time needed to heat process.  To help, Bernardin offers an easy chart on their Web site and package literature with their products to help you.

If you wanted to get started, what would be the top things one should rush out and buy, other than Bernardin jars?  They have a solution!  “We have an exclusive new canning kit that is an all in one canning kit” commented Chef Emerie.  “It includes a 21 quart canner with rack, 4-pack of our elite jars, Bernardin pectin, a Bernardin tool kit, a how-to DVD, and a small recipe booklet.  This kit is available at Zellers” he added.

Bernardin's home canning starter kit means you have no more excuses!

One of the great things about home-canning is the ability to make it an annual family or friend tradition.  The jars can be re-used and new recipes perfected over time.  Chef Emerie told us that the “snap lids may only be used once however the jars and the screw bands may be used over and over again”.  Replacement snap lids are affordable meaning the initial investment in a set of full-jars with lids (a box of 12 jars with lids costs roughly $10.00 CDN) can be enjoyed economically for years.

So, with so many Canadians getting into home canning, what is the most popular fruit or vegetable to preserve?  “Since strawberries are one of the very first fruits that is available locally, that's the one people usually go for however pickles are also a very popular one they choose” Chef Emerie told us.  “I've also seen lots of new great exciting exotic jams and jellies being introduced as well - as many are wanting new and exciting tastes” he added.

What are you waiting for?  The farmers’ markets are full of great fresh foods and there are so many different ways you could be preparing them for the coming winter.  If you need some help, you can go to Bernardin’s Web Site where Chef Emerie has some short videos and tips to help you.  If you need inspiration, you can also pick up a copy of the book, Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving , or other great guides to home-canning like 250 Home Preserving Favorites by Yvonne Tremblay or the popular Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects by Karen Solomon. 

Whatever you do, remember to do it safely.  Follow the recipes and remember, the final step of heat preservation is the key to success!

Images Courtesy of Bernardin.




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