Have you ever had homemade salsa or strawberry jam from someone’s garden? The taste of fresh fruits and vegetables just can’t be beat. But is there a way to enjoy those fruits and vegetables throughout the year?

In fact, there is! People have used home canning — sometimes called “jarring” — to preserve food for more than a century. Homegrown fruits and vegetables, as well as meats and seafood, can be preserved so they can be enjoyed for months to come.

Home canning offers many, many benefits. By preserving homegrown fresh fruits and vegetables, you can limit your exposure to some of the potentially harmful chemicals and pesticides that are used often on food found in stores.

Using your own home canning recipes, you can also limit the amount of added sugar, salt and preservatives that are found in many processed foods you buy at the store. In this way, home canned foods can be more nutritious than their store-bought counterparts.

Even though you can buy “canned” food at the store, home canning uses glass jars. Most people could not afford the expensive machinery that food manufacturers use to can food for stores. Instead, they use glass jars with seals and reusable lids.

Home canning got started long ago before the days of food preservatives and refrigeration. People needed a way to preserve foods and keep them from spoiling from exposure to mold, yeast and bacteria.

Over time, people discovered that they could heat foods to a temperature hot enough to kill bacteria. They would then seal the heated food in an airtight container, and it would stay edible for months, if not years.

Today, two main tools or methods are used in home canning. Foods with large amounts of acid, such as fruits and tomatoes, can be canned using a boiling water bath canner.

Because these foods are naturally high in acid, they only have to be heated to approximately 120° F to kill bacteria. Most large kitchen pots can be converted into a boiling water bath canner.

Foods low in acidity, like vegetables and soups, must be canned using a pressure canner. Pressure canners use a sealed lid to increase air pressure to elevate temperatures to 240° F or higher to kill bacteria. Pressure canners can be bought in stores.

Why is it so important to make sure bacteria is killed? If you can vegetables, for example, and fail to use a pressure canner that reaches the correct temperature, your canned vegetables could cause botulism.

Botulism is a very serious, sometimes fatal form of food poisoning. It’s caused by Clostridium botulinum, a common bacterium that can be found just about anywhere.

Using proper canning techniques — especially making sure that correct temperatures are reached — will successfully kill these bacteria.

 

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    • You actually CAN put a whole chicken in a can, asd! Some food manufacturers in America and around the world can whole chickens. Thanks for leaving us this comment today and for WONDERing about canned chicken! :-)

  1. Hi, Wonderopolis. I have some questions. How much food should a person get in their body each day? What would life be like without math or art? What would life be like without technology? Why do Americans eat a lot? How far can a person stretch? Why do we go to school? At Christmas, why do we set up a tree? Sorry, Wonderopolis. I have to go, but I do have a lot of questions. Bye, Wonderopolis!

    • Hi, Ruthie! We love it when our Wonder Friends ask questions…it means they’re WONDERing! We appreciate the awesome questions you asked in your comment because they would all make GREAT future Wonders of the Day! Thank you for leaving us such a WONDERful comment! :-)

  2. 1. I learned that home canning offers many benefits.

    2. I learned that vegetables and soups must be canned using pressure canners.

    • Those are great facts about canning, Lorez! We’re glad you explored today’s Wonder and learned some new things! :-)

    • Those are great questions, Zion! First, you can make fresh salsa anytime you want with tomatoes, onions, peppers, and other vegetables from your garden! Yum! For the type of salsa we’re talking about in this Wonder (the type you preserve), you’ll need to cook the ingredients down for several hours while stirring occasionally. Then, ask a grown-up to help you can your salsa so you can eat it year round! :-)

      We don’t think botulism will make a person die instantly. Symptoms can show up in as little as a few hours, though, so anyone who thinks they may have food poisoning or might have been exposed to botulism through something they ate should see a doctor right away! It’s not something to take lightly!

      Thanks for leaving us a comment today! :-)

    • What a SUPER AWESOME comment, Carlos! Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis today and for being a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Hi there, David! We’re glad you left us this comment today to let us know you learned something new from this Wonder of the Day®! Thank you! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you’d like to see a Wonder of the Day® about zombies, ASD! We really appreciate all the Wonder suggestions we receive from our awesome Wonder Friends like you! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Can you “can” with glass?
  • What are the benefits of home canning?
  • What is botulism?

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Try It Out

Ready to try your hand at canning — or jarring — some of your own homemade fresh fruits or vegetables? Home canning is a fun activity that entire families can enjoy together.

Think about some of your favorite foods, and decide what you might like to make together. If you need inspiration, consider making one of these easy and fun home canning recipes:

Preserve the foods you have grown in your garden. Or once you decide on a recipe, take a trip to the store, a local farm or a farmer’s market to buy your ingredients.

Try to pick out the freshest fruits and vegetables you can find. Don’t forget to get any home canning supplies you may need!

When you get started with the home canning process, realize that not all jobs will be appropriate for younger children. Make sure an adult handles the hot water and keeps an eye on the temperature to make sure you’re killing all the bacteria.

Of course, there are plenty of jobs that kids can do. Helping to snap green beans, crush berries or pit cherries are perfect chores for even the smallest children.

If you have an artist in the family, you can also decorate your jars of food and label them with creative names for your finished products!

 

Still Wondering

Explore Science NetLinks’ Farming 2: Packaging and Transport lesson to learn how machines help people grow, package, transport and store food.

 

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