I've done quite a bit of canning in the past several years, both pressure canning and water bath canning. But I've always made products to sell at market—soups, pickles, jams, salsas. In the homesteading/small farming world, these are called value-added products. You take the produce you've grown or sourced from another farm and turn it into a product that sells at a higher profit than what selling straight produce would bring in. It can become a good income source once you've established a regular market clientele.
What I've not done is use canning to save money in the home food budget like so many families regularly did during the Depression. In today's economy, it's a great way to make the most of your harvest and, even if you don't grow it yourself, to take advantage of bulk buys with local farmers and seasonal sales, and turn them into healthy pantry staples. Forget about extreme couponing. You may save money by clipping coupons and, you should use them if they're for items you'd normally purchase, but, in my view, you still end up with unhealthy, processed, chemical-filled yuck for food. With canning and other preserving techniques like freezing and dehydrating, you know what you're feeding your family.
I noticed on a recent trip to the grocery store that fresh corn was on sale at 10 ears for $3. Down here in south Florida, that's a fabulous price and it's a wonderful treat because it's an off-season vegetable for us (we plant corn in the fall here for winter harvest). I hesitated to pick it up at first because I couldn't remember where corn fell on the 2013 Dirty Dozen list. And, while I try to eat as healthy a diet as possible, I can't afford a 100% locally-grown organic produce, grass-fed meat, and free-range poultry diet. So I have to make choices. I try to make educated choices. What would be the point if I was going to douse my innards with pesticides? With a quick internet search on my return home, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that corn is on the Clean 15 list this year and happens to be one of the cleanest veggies on the list. I was pumped. I had my first project.
First, some basics about pressure canning. Lots of people are scared of pressure canners. It's understandable. We've all heard the horror stories about jars exploding and lids flying across rooms and, in years past, I'd agree they were a bit on the dangerous side. Today's pressure canners have all sorts of safety features, though, and there's no reason to be fearful if you take good care of your pressure canner and follow the instruction manual that's included in the box.
Now, which canner to purchase. There are several pressure canners on the market, but the top 2 brands are the All American canners and the Presto canners. They each have different sizes to fit your budget and personal needs. I happen to love my Presto canners. I have both the 23 and 16 quart Presto canner models. They do have more parts than the All-American canners, but are easier on the budget and quite versatile. They can be used for pressure canning, water bath canning, and pressure cooking. They also work well on glass top and ceramic top stoves. SB Canning, a popular canning website, has put together a helpful list of which flat top and glass top stoves work with which canners.
|Presto 23-quart pressure canner|
|Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving|
Shucking and Cleaning the Corn
This is the most tedious part of the preparation. Getting those husks and silks off. Be sure to snap the stem off, too.
|Shucked, de-silked, and cleaned corn.|
You may want to use a corn de-silking brush to help you in this endeavor because you want your corn to be as silk-free as possible.
|Corn Silk Brush|
There are several ways of cutting corn kernels off the cob. The most common and most labor intensive, as far as I'm concerned, is doing it with a knife. Thirty ears of corn took me close to 2 hours to cut because I was trying to be sure not to cut too deep and get the cob in the cut, but also not cut so shallow that I missed out on good eating corn. And I didn't want to cut myself, either! Using a bundt pan is a recommended way to do this quite safely.
|Cutting corn into bundt pan.|
|OXO Good Grips Corn Stripper|
|Corn kernels cut off the cob.|
Preparing your jars and canner is a multistep process. First, place your canner on the stove with the canning rack placed on the bottom and fill it about a third of the way with water (be sure to follow the instructions from your specific canner manufacturer; they are all different). Add a splash of distilled white vinegar to the water. This helps to keep the inside of your canner clean and helps with keeping the lids clean during the actual canning process. Place the jars you plan to use in this batch of canning into the canner and fill each about half way with water to hold them in place. In my Presto 16-quart pressure canner, I'm able to process 10 pints in each batch. Turn the stove on to medium to begin heating.
Now, bring a pot of water to a boil on another burner and keep it simmering. This is the water that will be poured into the jars of corn because we're doing the raw pack method. And then, of course, you need a small pot with the jar lids heating on medium low to soften the seals. The lids do not need to boil. They simply need to soften the seals. Add a splash of white vinegar to this pot also.
Filling The Jars
Use your canning jar tongs to pull one jar out at a time and empty the water directly into the canner (you may find that your water level is high enough and need to empty the water into the sink). Using your canning funnel, fill your jar with raw corn, leaving a healthy half inch headspace (to the neck of the jar). Add a teaspoon of kosher salt to the jar and ladle in enough boiling water to cover the corn, leaving a half inch headspace. Check for air bubbles and adjust if necessary. Wipe the jar rim with a clean paper towel to be sure you get a good seal, and place a warmed lid on the jar, centering it, and then screw on the lid band to finger tight. Place the jar back into the canner. Repeat this process until your canner is full. It's time to process.
Processing Your Corn
Your pressure canner is now filled with jars of raw corn. Place the lid on your canner and lock it down. Turn the heat up to high, allowing steam to escape thru the vent for 10 minutes. After the pressure lock engages (in the case of the Presto canners, it stands upright), place the pressure gauge on the lid and let the pressure build to 11 pounds. As soon as it hits 11 pounds, you can start your timer for 55 minutes. I find that in order to keep my pressure canner at the proper pressure throughout the processing time, as I see it rounding the bend toward 10 pounds, I turn the heat down on the burner to keep it as close to 11 pounds as possible so I don't burn the corn. In my case, turning the heat down to 2 on my burner keeps the pressure at a steady 11-12 throughout the processing time. Remember that if at any time during the process, the pressure falls below 11, you must start the 55-minute time process over again.
At the end of the 55 minutes, I simply turn the burner off. The manufacturer's instructions say to take the canner off the heat, but I'm not strong enough to lift my pressure canner when it's full. So, at the suggestion of many canning websites, I simply turn the burner off and allow the canner to cool. It takes about an hour. When the pressure gauge drops down to 0 (zero), take the gauge off and set your timer for 10 minutes. This allows the contents of the canner to de-pressurize.
|18 pints of canned corn.|
I used 30 ears of corn for my first batch. And out of that I got 18 pints of corn. The corn cost me $9 at the grocery store. Wait. There's more. I was an efficient little canner. With an additional $6 spent on ingredients (carrots, celery, onions and spices), I turned the cobs into 13-1/2 quarts of delicious Corny Vegetable Stock.
|13-1/2 quarts of Corny Vegetable Stock|
Ingredients (corn, carrots, celery, onion, spices) - $15.00
Swanson's Vegetable Stock (13.5 quarts at $2.69 each) - $36.32
Delmonte Canned Corn 15.5 ounces (18 cans at $0.98 each) - $17.64
Profit = $38.96
I'd say I did pretty well. Not only did I make money, but it's healthier because it's homemade. No additives or chemicals.
Give it a try. I think you'll be pleased with your results.