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How to preserve food (canning) originally from the OHH Blog.

This page gives you step-by-step instructions on the basics of canning. Other ways to store food includes: freezingdehydrating and cold storage. Recipes for canning foods can be found here and some of our all-time favorites are linked below.

“…preserve, or perish. Can, or be canned. Put up, or shut up… Whether you’re a hobbyist dabbling in canning your farmers market finds or an expert gardener with a bountiful harvest,… food grown and lovingly tended just tastes better.” – Nicole Sipe, Canning and Preserving (Hobby Farms: A Popular Kitchen Series, Volume 1)

Canning Science

When food is sterilized in a jar it can be stored for very long periods of time without refrigeration. You can thank the French army for that one. The challenge was sent out to anyone who could figure out a way to easily feed troops during battle. A local brewer met that challenge and the rest is history. Folks have been canning and perfecting canning techniques since the 1800’s.

Modern-day methods are as easy as can be. All you need is time, a few supplies and a good recipe. There are two methods: water bath and pressure canning. Which one you do depends on the foods you choose to can.

Water bath: Cooked or raw foods that are high in acidity can be stored in sterilized jars and placed into boiling water to seal the jars tight and prevent spoilage. These include most fruits and anything that gets pickled.

Pressure canning: Most vegetables and cooked recipes that are low in acidity are pressurized in a cooker for thorough sterilization and sealed tight to prevent spoilage. This method takes a lot longer to do and can strip much of the nutritional value of the food, but is still leagues above store-bought canned food.

How To’s

Water Bath Method

Supplies for the water bath method include a canning pot and rack, a ladle, wide-mouth funnel, tongs for lifting jars, magnetic lid lifter and jars with lids and screw bands. Some of these are usually found in an all-in-one kit in hardware stores, department stores or online. Additional helpful items include a timer, a large stainless mixing bowl, a scale, labels or a marking pen, kitchen towels and a stirring stick.

The water bath method is simple and you should not feel intimidated at all. Start by washing your jars, lids, screw bands, funnel, stir stick and anything that will come in contact with food. The USDA says to sterilize jars, lids and funnels (and anything that will come in contact with the inside of the jar) prior to canning, while other experts point out that the jar will be sterilized if processed for longer than 10 minutes anyway. I avoid the controversy and stick my jars in the sterilization cycle of the dishwasher or boil them for at least 10 minutes. Done.

Prepare your recipe. For jellies, jams, preserves, chutneys, salsas, pickled foods and anything that has enough acidity and pectin*, prepare it and keep it hot until you’re ready to fill the hot, sterilized jars. You can also cold-pack foods by adding the raw food to the jar and filling it with boiling water and seasonings. Bring a pot of water to a (barely) gentle boil. (You want enough water to cover the jars by an inch.) The closer the food is in temperature to that of the pot of water the better, because a drastic temperature change in the glass can shatter it, and what a shame that would be!


Tip: An easy way to make sure you add enough water to the pot is to 1) fill your jars with water for weight, 2) add them to the pot and fill with water to cover by 1 1/2 inches, and 3) take the jars out and you have exactly enough water to bring to a gentle boil.



Tip: A good way to set jelly, jam or preserves is to keep a saucer in the fridge (to stay cold) and use it for “testing”. Pour a teeny bit onto the cold plate and let it sit for a minute or two, then take a spoon (or your finger) and push into the mixture to see if it “crinkles” to your liking. If not, then repeat this test every 5 minutes until it’s just right. If you have a thermometer and know your altitude, then you can also go by the following chart:

Sea Level

1,000 ft

2,000 ft

3,000 ft

4,000 ft

5,000 ft

6,000 ft

7,000 ft

8,000 ft

220° F

218° F

216° F

214° F

212° F

211° F

209° F

207° F

205° F

(Source: National Center For Home Food Preservation.)


Leave a 1/2 inch space headroom in the jar and wipe the rim with a clean towel. Screw on the lid and screw band until it’s finger-tight. Fill one or two at a time and set on the rack, quickly filling more jars to finish filling the pot. The jars should not touch the sides of the pot or each other, so do not over-fill the pot.

Once they’re all in and fully submerged, cover and bring the water up to a rapid boil. Process the jars for 15 minutes or according to the recipe instructions.

After processing, turn off the heat and wait a few minutes. Using the tongs, remove each jar carefully and set on a kitchen towel. (Using a towel prevents a drastic temperature change.) You will start to hear them “pop” which means the lids have sealed.

But don’t be tempted to shelve them just yet… they should sit still and completely cool down before you move them to prevent any problems. After they’ve cooled, tap the lid to make sure the seal is good and then label them with the contents and date.

Tip: If any jars do not seal, don’t you fret. This usually means there is an imperfection in the rim of the jar and you can reprocess the contents within 24 hours. Or, just refrigerate it and eat it right away.

Pressure Canning Method

Supplies include a pressure canner and rack, a ladle, wide-mouth funnel, tongs for lifting jars and jars with lids and screw bands. Some of these are usually found in an all-in-one kit in hardware stores, department stores or online. Additional helpful items include a timer, a large stainless mixing bowl, a scale, labels or a marking pen, kitchen towels and a stirring stick.

Stews and soups**, sauces, vegetables, meats and seafood, are pressure canned. Make sure you find recipes that are specific to canning since the process will alter the taste of the food. As above, wash everything that comes in contact with the food. Sterilizing the jars and lids is unnecessary since the length of time to process sterilizes the food and jars anyway, so just make sure they’re clean and rinsed well. Fill the jars and leave a 1/2 inch space headroom in the jar and wipe the rim with a clean towel. Screw on the lid and screw band until it’s finger-tight. Add all jars to the pot, but again, do not over-fill and do not let them touch the sides.

The canner will only need about 3 quarts water in the bottom (or whatever the operating instructions say). For extra safety, I heat up the water to try and match the temperature of the jars. When operating the pressure canner, you should always do so according to the instructions. They are all similar yet different, if that makes any sense..?

For instance: My pressure canner has a vent to allow pressure to be released.

I add the weight after 10 minutes. And then watch the gauge carefully as it begins to rise.

pressure's on

I use the weight only to level off the pressure when needed. Other canners may have a slightly different procedure, so it is important to read the instructions and follow them exactly. Do this with caution though… the pressure should change ever so gradually or it could result in loss of liquid in some of your jars.

One major difference between the water bath method and pressure canning is time. Extra time is needed for the pressure canner to build up to the right pressure, to process the jars to reach sterilization, and to return to normal pressure when finished. You must not rush this process. It can take hours longer than water bath canning so set aside enough time by planning and preparing for it. The good news is that most pressure canners are very tall, which means you can stack the jars vertically and do large batches all at once.

Like riding a bike: once you get it down, it’ll just come naturally.

Start With Easy

For your first batch of canned goodies, do a fruit and use the water bath method. Find a local farm and pick some blackberries or apples. Blackberries can be cooked down and turned into jam or preserves, and you can cook and blend apples into applesauce. You’ll be amazed at how easy it really is! Whole fruits like peaches and pears can be packed with syrup, and tomatoes can be peeled, diced and packed with a touch of lemon juice (or vinegar) and salt. Get these down and you’ll want to try more.

Why not try:

Plum Jammy
Tomato Salsa
Applesauce, Stewed Tomatoes and more quickies
Easy Canned Peppers
Even Easier Pickles and Relish

*Don’t be fooled. Store-bought pectin is the biggest scam of all time! Okay, maybe I exaggerated a bit, but did you know that all fruit contains its own natural form of pectin? Yes, you can set/preserve anything without adding the powdered stuff. In my recipes, sugar and/or homemade apple or lemon pectin is added to cooked fruit for the purpose of gelling. Lemon juice and/or vinegar adds the acid used for preserving. And that’s all you need. So don’t short-cut it; keep it natural and homemade, and save your pennies!

**FYI: Though just about anything can be canned, you have to know the rules. Soups and stews will do well as long as they don’t contain flour or any other thickener. Dishes that are naturally thick (like pea soup) need to combined with extra water (about 1:1) so the center of the food is safely sterilized. All meats need to be pressure canned for the recommended time – no exceptions – usually 70 minutes or longer. Follow a good recipe and when in doubt, freeze it.

Tip: What spoils food is the various bacterium out there. Process the food for the recommended time to sterilize it and end that threat.

Tip: Don’t leave too much head space in your jar because air causes food to darken in color.

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Bone Health: What You Should Know About Osteoporosis

by Christine Bude

Osteoporosis is a progressive condition in which bones become brittle and weak. Osteoporosis literally means “porous bones”. Bones can become so brittle that even a mild stress on the bone can cause a fracture. Fractures are painful injuries that can cause disability.

Bones are the important support structure of the body. Many people, especially young people, tend to take their bone health for granted.

In most cases the bones are weakened when the levels of minerals in the bones are low. Important bone minerals include calcium, phosphorus and other minerals. Osteoporosis can also result from endocrine disorders and excessive use of certain drugs, such as corticosteroids.

People with signs of bone loss can take steps to reverse the damage with some lifestyle changes such as taking calcium, Vitamin D and by weight bearing exercise.

Osteoporosis commonly results in fractures, or broken bones. The fractures are often in the spine, hip or wrist. Osteoporosis is considered a woman’s disease, but also affects men.

Bone loss, in early stages, does not usually cause pain or symptoms. As bone loss progresses, symptoms may include back pain, loss of height and fractures of the vertebrae, wrists, hips or other bones.

We tend to think of bone as unchanging, but that is not the case. Bones are a living part of the body that changes constantly. When bones do not have enough minerals, they lose strength and density. In young people, bone is constantly breaking down and making new bone. As the body ages, the process of making new bone is slower. Estrogen production decreases and bone loss increases dramatically.

Risk of developing osteoporosis in later years depends on the amount of bone mass built between the ages of 25 and 35. 35 is the age of peak bone mass. It is like bank account. The higher the peak bone mass, the more bone “in the bank”. With more bone in the bank, a person is less likely to develop osteoporosis.

Therefore, it is important to keep bones healthy. There are habits that a person can adopt that contribute to a lifetime of bone health. Important habits that keep bones healthy include:

  • Regular exercise – particularly weight bearing exercise
  • Adequate amount of calcium
  • Adequate amount of vitamin D, important for the assimilation of calcium

People with osteoporosis have an increased risk of fracture. Bones most vulnerable to fracture are the hips and spine. Hip fractures frequently occur as a result of a fall. Spinal vertebrate can fracture because the bones in the back become so weak that they compress. Compression fractures cause severe pain.

There are a number of risk factors that increase the likelihood for developing osteoporosis. Some risk factors, such as gender, cannot be controlled. Other factors, such as lifestyle habits, can be changed. Following are the risk factors for developing osteoporosis:

  1. Sex/Gender. Women are about twice as likely to develop osteoporosis as men. The reason is that women start with lower bone mass than men. Women experience a sudden drop in estrogen at menopause that accelerates bone loss.
  2. Age. Older people have higher risk. Bones weaken with age.
  3. Race. Races with the highest risk of osteoporosis are of white or Southeast Asian descent. Black and Hispanic races have a lower risk, but still have risk.
  4. Family history. Osteoporosis runs in families.
  5. Frame size. People with thin or small frames have a higher risk because they have less bone mass to draw from.
  6. Tobacco use. While researchers do not clearly understand the reason, they do know that tobacco use contributes to weak bones.
  7. Estrogen. Risk is increased if a woman has had less lifetime exposure to the hormone estrogen. Women who experience early menopause, or who have their ovaries removed before the age of 45 have increased risk.
  8. Eating disorders. Anorexia nervous and bulimia create a higher osteoporosis risk.
  9. Corticosteroid Medications. Medications such as prednisone and cortisone are damaging to the bones.
  10. Thyroid hormone. Excessive thyroid hormone can cause bone loss.
  11. Diuretics. Used to prevent fluid buildup on the body, diuretics cause the kidneys to excrete excess calcium.
  12. Medications. Anti seizure medications, heparin and other medications can cause bone loss.
  13. Breast Cancer. Some cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, can increase risk of osteoporosis.
  14. Low calcium intake. Lack of dietary calcium plays a major role in bone loss.
  15. Medical conditions. Some conditions affect the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Conditions such as Crohns disease, anorexia nervosa and Cushing’s disease increase risk.
  16. Sedentary lifestyle. Exercise is important for bone health.
  17. Soda. Although the link between osteoporosis and soda with caffeine is not clear, there appears to be a link. It is possible that the caffeine interferes with calcium absorption and increase mineral loss. People who do drink caffeinated soda should get adequate calcium and vitamin D to counteract the bone loss.
  18. Chronic alcoholism. Alcoholism is one of the leading risk factors for men. Excess alcohol consumption interferes with bone formation and the body’s ability to absorb important calcium.
  19. Depression. People with serious depression have increased rate of bone loss.
  20. Radiation. Radiation for cancer treatment can weaken the bone.

The risk of osteoporosis can be reduced by changing lifestyle habits that are risk factors. Prevention tips include:

  • Take calcium and vitamin D. Experts recommend at least 1,200 mg of calcium and 400 IU daily
  • Exercise helps to build strong bones
  • Eat soy products
  • Hormone Therapy is sometimes prescribed. Talk to your doctor
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
  • Limit caffeine
  • Maintain good posture
  • Prevent falls
  • Wear low healed shoes with non-slip soles
  • Manage Pain. Don’t ignore pain, talk to your doctor

Osteoporosis is a disease that can increase the risk of fracture and lower the quality of life as a person ages. In the early stages of osteoporosis there will probably not be any symptoms. Once symptoms start, a significant amount of bone loss has probably already taken place. Take advantage of the excellent information available to prevent suffering from osteoporosis and bone loss.

Information in this article is not intended as medical advice. If you have a medical condition, consult your physician.

Mayo Clinic website

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