Your home-canned products will be only as good as the fresh foods you start with. For high-quality, safe, home-canned foods, select the freshest foods possible. Discard diseased and moldy foods. Don’t can foods that you wouldn’t serve at your table fresh.
Fruits and vegetables are at peak quality for six to 12 hours after they’re picked. For this reason, produce picked from your garden or purchased from you-pick stands or nearby farmers markets is usually good for canning.
Allow apricots, peaches, pears and plums to ripen one or more days between harvest and canning for best results. If you must delay the canning of other fresh produce, keep it refrigerated until you are ready to can.
Chill and can fresh, home-slaughtered red meats and poultry without delay. Do not can meat from diseased animals. Immediately after catching fish, remove guts and put the fish on ice; can within two days.
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Tips for keeping food color and flavor
Use only high-quality foods at their proper maturity, free from diseases and bruises.
Use the hot-pack method, especially for acid foods that will be processed in a boiling-water or steam canner.
Prevent darkening of fruits by holding them in an ascorbic acid (vitamin C) solution.
Fill jars while food is still hot, and use the correct headspace as specified in recipes.
Lightly tighten screw bands using fingertips only, but not as tightly as possible. Process and cool jars.
Store the jars in a cool, dark place (50–70 degrees F).
Can no more food than you will use within a year.
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Prevent produce from darkening
Ascorbic acid helps prevent the discoloration of apples, apricots, peaches, pears, mushrooms and potatoes, and stem-end darkening of cherries and grapes. You can find ascorbic acid in several forms:
Pure powdered ascorbic acid is available where canning supplies are sold. One level teaspoon of pure powder weighs about 3 grams. Use 1 teaspoon per gallon of water as a treatment solution.
Vitamin C tablets are economical and available in a variety of locations. Crush and dissolve six 500-milligram tablets in a gallon of water as a treatment solution.
Commercially prepared mixtures of ascorbic and citric acid are available where canning supplies are sold. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Citric acid powder is often sold in supermarkets, but it is less effective in controlling darkening.
State Nutrition Specialist
University of Missouri Extension