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Want to save $$$ and eat healthier?

With the costs of food going up and the economy remaining stagnant, consumers are anxious to learn anything they can about ways to make food last longer. Thursday, a dozen ladies met at the Adult Activity Center to take a class on canning and learn how it can keep foods fresh for longer.

Dianne Jones, program coordinator, taught the class and was joined by her mother, Rosie Chambers. Jones showed the ladies how to use straight canning and oven canning (heating jars in the oven to eliminate any moisture) in order to keep their food lasting longer and tasting fresher.

“You can probably go to the store and pick up a jar of canned fruit for a lot cheaper than it would cost you to can it yourself,” she said. “But I guarantee it will not have a fraction of the flavor or nutrients, and it won’t last nearly as long.”

Jones demonstrated techniques of canning both with a pressure cooker, and without a pressure cooker. The straight canning method can be accomplished without the use of a pressure cooker.

Jones said straight canning is the best process for storing fruit, because you can control the cooking time for each type of fruit.

“You may cover fruit with water only, or you can add sugar with a little bit of water to make a syrup,” she said. “Make sure all your jars and lids are ready for fruit before you begin to cook it.”

Jones said the process is different depending on the fruit, but provided a recipe for storing blueberries.

Straight canning process for blueberries:

Rinse blueberries with cold water, remove stems and trash, and then rinse berries again. Place berries in a large cooking pan and cover with water. Bring berries to a rolling boil and reduce heat, letting berries simmer for 10 minutes. Place jar lids seal-side-up in a skillet with one inch of water covering the bottom, and bring to a rolling boil for two minutes before reducing heat.

Place a canning jar in a small pan and with a measuring cup or ladle, fill jars with berries to 1/2 inch of the jar top. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean wet cloth, making sure the rim is completely clean. Take a hot lid from the skillet and place on the jar rim, before adding the jar ring tightly. Set aside and let the jar cool. You will hear the jar lids seal with a popping sound as the glass begins to cool down. Date and label jars when cool, and store in a dry place.

Jones also taught the class about the process of dry canning, which can store a variety of dried goods, including wheat, flour, pasta, rice, beans and oatmeal. She said that items stored with the dry canning method can last for as long as 20 years.

“I think everyone should do dry canning,” she said. “You can buy the item at today’s price, and still have it 20 years later even though the price may have gone way up. I use it for flour, sugar and oatmeal especially, but you can also use it for dried fruit like raisins.”

Oven canning process for dry products:

Wash jars well, making sure to rinse thoroughly several times. You must be sure there is no soapy residue, because it will cause the products to go rancid. Do no more than 12 jars at any one time. Place the jars in the oven at a low temperature (225 degrees) for four hours or overnight, to ensure that no moisture is present.

Remove jars from the oven and fill with the desired product, shaking jars as you fill to cause settling. Place new dry lids on the jars and tighten the rings very tightly. Return jars to a 225-degree oven and cook for one hour. Some of the jars will seal and some may not, but sealing does not seem to be necessary.

You can also can dry fruits with this method. The only differences are as follows: Pack the fruit loosely in jars and then place the jars uncovered in an oven. Heat the jars at 150 degrees for 20 minutes, then put on lids and store.

JAR CANNED CHICKEN

Ingredients:

seven 1-quart jars (lids and rings also)

14 pounds of boneless chicken breast

4 teaspoons of salt

7 teaspoons of garlic salt

6 chicken bouillon cubes

(This recipe requires a pressure canner cooker)

Directions:

Rinse chicken in warm water, drain and cut into chunks. Place chicken in two large cooking pots. Cover with water, and stir in salt, garlic and bouillon (half in each pot). Bring to a boil and let cook on low for 20-30 minutes. While chicken is cooking, make sure your jars and lids are washed. Get your pressure canner cooker ready for use; check to be sure the canner lid gasket is in place and the rack is in the bottom of the cooker.

Add two quarts of water to the canner cooker and set aside. Fill each 1-quart jar with chicken and liquid to 1 inch from the top of the jar. Make sure all chicken pieces are completely covered with liquid and then place lids and rings on top of jars tightly, and place in the canner cooker. Put the canner cooker lid on and make sure it is closed properly.

Turn the canner cooker on high and let pressure build without the pressure regulator on the stem, until hot steam is coming out of the stem. When steam is visible, put the pressure regulator on. Let the pressure build until 10 pounds, adjusting the heat to keep it at this point (watch the canner cooker carefully; do not let the pressure rise above 15 pounds).

Cook for 90 minutes. After 90 minutes, remove the canner cooker from the heat and allow it to cool until the pressure falls to 0 pounds. Remove the pressure regulator, then remove the lid carefully in a way to let steam escape away from your face. Remove the jars from the canner cooker, retighten lids and allow to cool. As the jars are cooling, the lids will make a popping sound when they seal. Date and label the jars, then store in a cool dry place.