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Ask Jackie Online
By Jackie Clay

January 17, 2007
Jackie Clay
Jackie Clay answers questions on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.
Click Here to learn how to Ask Jackie a question.

Canning pureed bananas

I have a two-part question. I had read about canning pureed bananas and decided to try it. I pureed the bananas with a small amount of water and some lime juice to reduce browning. I then filled the jars and allowed about one inch headroom, but during canning (I used a pressure canner at 10 lbs pressure for 35 minutes) some of the puree leaked out. The jars still sealed, so I am unsure which jars leaked. Are they okay this way or should I redo the process? Secondly, the puree has now turned a shade of reddish brown in spite of the lime juice. Why did this happen? Have you ever canned bananas?

Astrid Cook
Astridcook at myarbonne.com

No, I have never canned bananas. I dehydrate them instead. They dehydrate very easily. I just dip them in lemon juice before putting on the dehydrator trays to prevent discoloration and arrange them in a single layer. They dry very quickly and keep forever. The chips also make a great snack. To use them, simply soak in cold water until they are soft again or run them through a food grinder or blender until they are fine and use in cakes, muffins, quick breads or whatever recipe you choose.

—Jackie

Canning gravy

I am searching for a safe recipe to can gravy, especially sausage gravy. My local extension agent said it was not considered safe, because of the thickness of the product, but I know you can purchase canned gravy in the store. Is there a safe way to can this, or am I better off just freezing it? Thank you for your time, I appreciate all the information I glean from your simple life wisdom.

Victoria Peter
Davisburg, Michigan

I've heard this too, but I really feel if you make your gravy reasonably thin that you can home can it. For instance, there's a recipe for chicken a la king in my recent Ball Blue Book, which contains a flour-thickened gravy. But this is only my opinion; I cannot advise canning gravy to any one.

—Jackie

Best stove for canning

My question is what would you recommend for a stove that is best for a large quantity of home canning. I have just returned after living as an expatriate for 30 years and am perplexed by the multitude of choices in stoves. I want a stove that will last me for the rest of my life (approx. 30 years), anticipating canning for most of that time.

I presume that you recommend a gas range and one that has a continuous grate. Other than that, do you have any comments or recommendations?

Linda Cox
N. Canton, Ohio

I really cannot recommend a stove to you as I've always lived broke and couldn't buy a new stove, even if I wanted one. Yes, I do recommend a gas range; electric stoves are more difficult to cook and can on. Look for one with heavy burner guards; lightweight ones slide and shift under the canners. Make sure the height is right for you. Lifting heavy canners up and down off the stove is extra hard if the stove's height is too high for your convenience. Make sure that if there's a range hood or upper oven that you can get a large canning kettle under it. (One of my wood kitchen ranges had a warming shelf that was so low that I couldn't get my very large canner under it and onto the best spot on the stovetop.)

Lucky you to be shopping for a long-lasting, heavy-duty new stove!

—Jackie

Canning homemade sausage

I will soon be purchasing some homemade sausage. My grandmother used to can sausage. Do you have a recipe? How do I get the jars to seal? Is it kept in the refrigerator or on the pantry shelf?

Faye Carver
Roxboro, North Carolina

I'm assuming that you'll be getting ground sausage. This is real easy to home can. But you will need to use a pressure canner for safety and good results. Simply make your patties a little oversized, as they will shrink. Then lightly brown them in a frying pan until they start to shrink. Then pack them in a stack in wide mouthed pint canning jars to within 1 inch of the top of the jar. I add water to the fat they were cooked in and add about 3 Tbsp. to each jar. Be sure to wipe the jar rims very clean of grease; it will prevent the jars from sealing. Then place a hot, previously simmered lid on the jar and screw down the band firmly tight. Process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary; consult your canning manual for directions) for 15 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.

The jars seal when they are cooling, after they come out of the canner, once the dial reaches zero.

Properly sealed jars will keep on the shelf indefinitely, given decent conditions (relatively dark, cooler and dry).

If you have never canned, pick up a canning manual and read it over before starting. Home canning is not only very easy but tons of fun, too. Don't let a pressure canner scare you. I've canned for more than 40 years now and have never even come close to having an accident.

—Jackie

Corn relish

I have a recipe for corn relish and would like to know if it is possible to can it. The only moisture comes from the dressing. I tried freezing and feel the corn gets a little mushy. I wasn't sure if I needed more liquid in order to be able to can this. See below.

Corn Relish:

Corn: 2 canned/drained or fresh, cooked and cut off the cob
Black Beans: 1 canned/drained & rinsed
Red Pepper: chopped
Green Pepper: chopped
Red Onions: chopped
Cilantro: fresh & chopped
Caesar Dressing: I use Good Seasons and follow the directions on the package

Mix everything together.

Elizabeth Clark (nickname BaBa)
Chillicothe, Ohio

I honestly can't be sure you can home can your corn relish, with the Caesar Dressing used in place of sugar and vinegar in most corn relishes. So I guess the safest thing would be for you to make it fresh or freeze it.

—Jackie

3-day pickles

I have a recipe for 3-day pickles: 1st day salt bath; 2nd and 3rd; sugar, vinegar, onions, tumeric, mustard seed. My question is, when I finally put the pickles in the jar, are they to be refrigerated or can I put them up?

Becky Harrington
Windsor, California

You can home can your pickles easily. On the last day, bring your brine up to a boil, then add the pickles. Bring that up to a rolling boil and immediately pack the pickles into hot jars and fill to within ˝" of the top of the jar with your boiling brine. Wipe the rim of the jars clean and place a hot, previously simmered lid on each jar and screw the band down firmly tight. Process in a boiling water bath (have this water boiling when you put the pickle jars in it to avoid cooking them too long and making them mushy) for 10 minutes, counting from the time that the kettle returns to a full rolling boil.

Enjoy your pickles.

—Jackie

Canning meat-based soups

I have some recipes that call for freezing that have cream of mushroom and cream of celery soup in them. I would prefet to can them. Would this be possible and if so for how long should I can pints that have hamburger and stew meat in them? They will be in pints.

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

Any time you have a recipe you want to home can, you will need to process it for the time recommended for the ingredient that requires the longest processing; in this case, meat. Do make sure that your recipe is made with the creamed soups relatively thin. Insufficient thorough heating will result if you can creamed soups or gravies that are thickened too much. Any recipe with red meat in it is processed for 75 minutes for pints (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary; consult your canning manual for directions).

Another caution; if you are canning a recipe with, say, tomatoes in it (high acid), but also meat or vegetables (low acid), you MUST use a pressure canner to get the temperature of the processing food up high enough to be safely stored.

—Jackie

Prickly pear jelly

You mentioned canning prickly pear jelly. This past weekend I was with my best friend at the beach near Wilmington, North Carolina. We picked prickly pears (not an easy job—spines even pierce Playtex gloves; next year we'll try leather) We made several pint and 1/2 pint jars. They didn't set enough—we have syrup instead.

My question is, is there any way to fix this? Can the syrup be reheated and more gelatin added even though we have already sweetened it? Or maybe you have a recipe of what to do with this syrup.

Vicky Bandy
Raleigh, North Carolina

Lucky you! Prickly pear jam or even syrup is great. I miss it up here in the northwoods. You can open your jars and simply cook it down more until it reaches the jelling point (where a clean, cool teaspoonful will slide in a sheet off the side of the spoon, instead of dripping off) or you can simply enjoy your prickly pear syrup over ice cream, yogurt, on pancakes, waffles or even cakes; it's so good. I even make smoothies with it, using vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberries and the syrup, whizzed in the blender. Oohhh, I'm suddenly very hungry.

—Jackie




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