Common Experiences When Canning Fruits
It is a great idea to can fruits in your home. Canning fruits increases shelf life; however, not all fruits can be canned. Commercially, fruits are canned when they are to be exported to other countries. On the other hand, you should consider canning fruits if you need to buy your favorites in bulk and have the fruits ready whenever you crave them.
Common fruits that can be canned include pickles, pears, peaches, and berries, among others.
In this post, I will be writing about some common experiences you can have when canning fruits. Because fruits are quite delicate, one wrong step can alter the outcome when you can fruits. Some people may also experience different features that make them think the canned fruit fruits have gone bad because of their appearance. Many times, the fruits can still be eaten except they give off a bad smell or look rotten.
So, let’s start, find out some of the things that can happen when you can fruits;
Canned fruits floating in the jars
It is common to see canned fruits such as pickles and berries floating in the jars. There are some reasons this happens. Canned fruits can float if they immersed in denser liquids. For example, if the liquid you put in the jar is heavier than the fruit to be canned, it will float. Also, other reasons identified for floating canned fruits include the condition of the fruit. If the fruits are too ripe before canning, you can expect the canned fruits to float. The method of processing fruits before canning can also cause lower buoyancy that makes the fruits float in the jars after canning. Fruits for canning processed at high temperatures will float.
The packaging also determines whether your fruits will float in the jar. It is expected that you put an adequate number of fruits in the jar to eliminate any space in the jar. Putting in few fruits in the jar will allow enough space and the fruits may float in the syrup. However, please avoid packing too many fruits into the jar, or they can be crushed.
Here are some tips to stop your canned fruits from floating.
Use sweeteners when canning fruits. During the processing, you can add some sugar to the fruits you plan to can. The sugar helps to make the fruits dense by absorption. Also, using sweeteners such as sugar can help eliminate some of the liquid content in the fruit which mixes with the canning liquid.
Another way to prevent floating is by selecting fruits that are ripe and firm. Avoid using overripe fruits for canning. Your choice of the syrup also determines whether the fruits will float. You should use canning liquids (syrups) that are not very dense. It is also advised to remove any air bubbles noticed in the canning liquid after pouring in the jar.
I also know some people would rather not use sweeteners when canning fruits. You can still prevent floating by ensuring that the fruits you use are not overripe. The selected fruits must be firm and ripe before canning. Also, avoid overheating the fruits during processing. To conclude this part, you should know that floating fruits in jars is not an indication of low quality or compromised flavor. You should only be concerned if the jar is not properly sealed.
Canning Pickles and Relishes
In this part, I will be writing about some challenges you may encounter when canning pickles and relishes. No worries, the challenges when canning pickles are not complicated, and you can easily use the solutions I have included in this post.
Choosing the right container for processing pickles
The delicate nature of pickles makes it necessary to choose the right container during processing pickles for canning. If you get it right, you can avoid experiences such as discoloration and inadequate fermentation.
For pickles, it is best to use containers made from stainless steel, glass, aluminum, or unchipped enamelware. Using these containers will prevent the introduction of acids or salts that can lead to undesirable reactions and compromise the quality of your pickles. Containers to avoid include those made from iron, copper, brass or galvanized materials which should not be used for processing pickles or storing the canning liquid for your pickles. This helps to lower the chances of pitting. If you have chosen to use brine as canning liquid, avoid stainless steel containers which can become corroded with the salt from brine.
Adding your ingredients to standard recipes for processing pickle or relish before canning
Some people make minor adjustments when processing pickles or relishes for canning. The changes are done to meet particular tastes. If you must make changes, ensure the new additions will not increase the acidity level you plan to maintain, to prevent contamination from botulin bacteria. Alternative ingredients that can be used include vinegar and water added to your syrup for canning.
Why do some canned pickles have a bitter taste?
The bitter tasting pickles could be due to many reasons such as;
The species of pickles
There are different pickle species. Some of these pickles have a characteristic bitter taste than other species. When used for pickling, the bitter taste is retained; however, you can reduce the bitter flavor by soaking pickles in brine. The parts of pickles that taste bitter are the areas around its stem. You can also detect bitter pickles and remove them before canning. Take a small bite from the areas around the stem to know if it has a bitter taste.
If you decide to use any of the ingredients that are alternatives to salt, the outcome may have a bitter taste. It is best if you use only salts produced for pickling to avoid bitter tasting pickles.
Some pickles are hollow, and this can reduce the quality of your canned pickles. The hollow pickles are not fully processed. Hollow pickles may be due to improper fermentation which happens too quickly or using very strong brine for fermentation. Always ensure the brine you use if of high quality and has not been shelved for a very long time before use.
How to prevent microbial action on pickles during canning
Micro-organisms are all around us, without proper care and the right techniques, certain micro-organisms can influence the outcome of your pickles. The action of micro-organisms can cause your pickles to feel slippery or lose its firmness. To prevent this from happening, ensure your pickles are properly immersed in brine before canning. Also, use the right temperature when heating pickles, the heat kills fungi or other bacteria that can make your pickles soft.
Discoloration of pickles
Some of the reasons pickles can become discolored after processing are as follows; if you have used containers made from iron for processing the pickles. Also, adding too many spices, and the use of iodized salt can cause discoloration. Hard water with undesirable minerals can also make pickles become discolored after processing. What you will notice is a darker colored pickle in the jar. To avoid discoloration, consider the reasons I have stated above.
Canned pickles can become shriveled
You may also have noticed that some of your canned pickles have become shriveled. This could have happened due to the addition of sugar, salt, or vinegar. Overcooking can also cause pickles to shrivel. To avoid shriveling, you should dilute the solution until it is adequate for your pickles.
The importance of heating pickles in a boiling water bath canner
The boiling water bath canner is very common and most preferred when processing pickles. Heat is necessary to eliminate any micro-organisms that can contaminate the pickles or reduce shelf life. This means you should always ensure your pickles are heated at the right temperature for an adequate duration before canning.
Another situation you may experience is the loss of color when processing sauerkraut. This mostly happens because the cabbage has not been adequately trimmed or if you failed to immerse the cabbage in the solution during fermentation completely. Sauerkraut can also become discolored when the added salt is insufficient, or if the temperature during fermentation is too high. Discoloration can also happen when your sauerkraut has been stored for too long.
How to sustain the firmness in sauerkraut
No one likes soft sauerkraut. To make it retain firmness for longer periods, you must ensure the salt used in processing is adequate. You can get guidance in this regard from the recipe you have chosen. Also, the heat during fermentation should not be too high. It is also essential to eliminate air pockets by packing the jar adequately.
Alternative sweeteners for canning fruits
Many people would rather use alternative sweeteners instead of sugar when canning fruits. Sugar is recommended because it can help retain the quality and texture of the fruit. However, if you do not like the idea of using sugar, there are excellent alternatives. For example, you can use corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, and fruit juice as sweeteners when home canning fruits.
Honey, corn, or maple syrup are favorites as alternatives because they add more flavor. If you need to use fruit juice, extract the quantity needed, and simmer on low heat while stirring. This should be done for a few minutes, remove the pulp by filtration and your canning juice is ready.
However, you should avoid artificial sweeteners because they tend to be too strong and can sometimes make the liquid taste bitter.
Some alternative sweeteners can also cause discoloration of the fruits. If you notice any signs of discoloration, you can make changes when home canning fruits next time. The alternatives are quite more expensive and have a higher amount of calories than regular sugar. But you can gain more nutrients and better taste.
Sugar is essential when home canning fruits because it helps to retain the texture, color, and improve flavor. However, you can try any of the alternative sweeteners and get desired results.
Tips to prevent discoloration when canning fruits
Discolored canned fruits may not have lower quality, but some people believe it promotes loss of appeal when the fruits are about to be consumed. A good way to prevent discoloration of canned fruits is the use of ascorbic acid, also called vitamin C.
The process is quite easy. Ascorbic acid can prevent oxidation in canned foods; oxidation is identified as one of the reasons for discoloration. Add a ¼ teaspoon of ascorbic acid to one quart of fruits or your vegetables. This measurement can also be done according to the recommendations on the ascorbic acid product packaging when you need to use it for varying portions of fruits or vegetables.
Variations in the color of canned foods
One of the common causes of discoloration in canned foods is oxidation. The signs of oxidation can be observed at the upper layer of the canned foods which become discolored. Oxidation happens when air enters the jars if the seal has been compromised. To prevent oxidation, ensure your home canning is done with proper jars that can be adequately sealed.
Also, the discoloration can happen when containers made from iron or copper have been used for the processing. The rate of discoloration is quickened when you over process fruits or vegetables in such containers. Please consider the containers I recommended earlier in this post to avoid discolored fruits after canning.
It should be noted that your fruits can still be eaten if they become discolored. First, you should ensure the discoloration has not happened because the fruit is contaminated or spoiled. If there are no signs of contamination, it should be safe to eat the fruits.
Cloudy canning liquids
The liquid in some canned fruits can become cloudy. If this happens, you will need to confirm that the food is safe to eat. Perform this simple test, boil the fruit for about ten minutes, if you notice foaming or an offensive odor while boiling, it has gone bad and should be discarded.
The liquid used for canning may become cloudy when foods with high starch content have been canned. Also, heating foods of different quality can cause cloudiness, for example, if you mix tender fruits with overripe fruits, the outcome after heating will be uneven and can influence the long-term condition of the canning liquid. Other reasons for cloudy liquids in canned foods include the addition of salt, hard water with some impurities, or during the fermentation process.
In some cases, when beets or cauliflower are canned, you may observe discoloration. The beets may have reddish pigmentation. This may be due to overcooking during the processing. The beets can still be eaten if this is the case. Cauliflower can also have reddish, blue, or purple pigmentation. Depending on the appearance, you can decide to use it in different ways. If the pigmentation on cauliflower is not so prominent, there is no need to worry. But, if the cauliflower has been discolored and looks unappetizing, you can use it to make relishes instead.
In many cases, situations encountered when canning fruits can be remedied. So you can salvage a large part of your fruits or vegetables. Overall, always ensure the jars are properly sealed when canning to prevent contamination.