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Woman's Institute Library of Cookery Volume V Part 8

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(11) (_a_) How do weather conditions affect the quality of berries?

(_b_) What is the most important use of berries in cookery?

(12) Name some varieties of apples that can be purchased in your locality that are best for: (_a_) cookery; (_b_) eating.

(13) How can peach juice be utilized to advantage?

(14) Mention the citrus fruits.

(15) Describe a method of preparing grapefruit for the table.

(16) Describe the preparation of oranges for salads and desserts.

(17) Describe the appearance of bananas in the best condition for serving.

(18) (_a_) Give a test for the ripeness of pineapples. (_b_) Describe the most convenient method of preparing pineapples.

(19) Discuss the use of fruit c.o.c.ktails.

(20) Describe the general preparation of dried fruits that are to be stewed.

CANNING AND DRYING

NECESSITY FOR PRESERVING FOODS

1. The various methods of preserving perishable foods in the home for winter use originated because of necessity. In localities where the seasons for fruits and vegetables are short, the available supply in early times was limited to its particular season. Then foods had to be preserved in some way to provide for the season of scarcity. It was not possible, as it is now, to obtain foods in all parts of the country from localities that produce abundantly or have long seasons, because there were no means of rapid transportation, no cold storage, nor no commercial canning industries.

2. In the small towns and farming communities, the first preservation methods for meats, as well as for fruits and vegetables, were pickling, curing, drying, and preserving. Not until later was canning known. It was this preserving of foodstuffs in the home that led to the manufacture and commercial canning of many kinds of edible materials.

These industries, however, are of comparatively recent origin, the first canning of foods commercially having been done in France about a hundred years ago. At that time gla.s.s jars were utilized, but it was not until tin cans came into use later in England that commercial canning met with much favor.

3. Both canning in the home and commercial canning have had many drawbacks, chief among which was spoiling. It was believed that the spoiling of canned foods was due to the presence of air in the jars or cans, and it is only within the last 50 years that the true cause of spoiling, namely, the presence of bacteria, has been understood. Since that time methods of canning that are much more successful have been originated, and the present methods are the result of the study of bacteria and their functions in nature. It is now definitely known that on this knowledge depends the success of the various canning methods.

4. Since commercial canning provides nearly every kind of foodstuff, and since cold storage and rapid transportation make it possible to supply almost every locality with foods that are out of season, it has not been deemed so necessary to preserve foods in the home. Nevertheless, the present day brings forth a new problem and a new att.i.tude toward the home preservation of foods. There are three distinct reasons why foods should be preserved in the home. The first is to bring about _economy_.

If fruits, vegetables, and other foods can be procured at a price that will make it possible to preserve them in the home at a lower cost than that of the same foods prepared commercially, it will pay from an economical standpoint. The second is to promote _conservation_; that is, to prevent the wasting of food. When fruits and vegetables are plentiful, the supply is often greater than the demand for immediate consumption. Then, unless the surplus food is preserved in some way for later use, there will be a serious loss of food material. The third is to produce _quality_. If the home-canned product can be made superior to that commercially preserved, then, even at an equal or a slightly higher cost, it will pay to preserve food in the home.

5. Of the methods of preserving perishable foods, only two, namely, canning and drying, are considered in this Section. Before satisfactory methods of canning came into use, drying was a common method of preserving both fruits and vegetables, and while it has fallen into disuse to a great extent in the home, much may be said for its value.

Drying consists merely in evaporating the water contained in the food, and, with the exception of keeping it dry and protected from vermin, no care need be given to the food in storage. In the preparation of dried food for the table, it is transformed into its original composition by the addition of water, in which it is usually soaked and then cooked.

The drying of food is simple, and no elaborate equipment is required for carrying out the process. Dried food requires less s.p.a.ce and care in storage than food preserved in any other way, and both paper and cloth containers may be used in storing it. When storage s.p.a.ce is limited, or when there is a very large quant.i.ty of some such food as apples or string beans that cannot be used or canned at once, it is advisable to dry at least a part of them. When used in combination with canning, drying offers an excellent means of preserving foods and thus adding to their variety.

6. Canning has a greater range of possibilities than drying. A larger number of foods can be preserved in this way, and, besides, the foods require very little preparation, in some cases none at all, when they are removed from the cans. Practically every food that may be desired for use at some future time may be canned and kept if the process is carried out properly. These include the perishable vegetables and fruits of the summer season, as well as any winter vegetables that are not likely to keep in the usual way or that are gathered while they are immature.

Many ready-to-serve dishes may be made up when the ingredients are the most plentiful and canned to keep them for the time when they are difficult or impossible to obtain otherwise. Such foods are very convenient in any emergency. Often, too, when something is being cooked for the table, an extra supply may be made with no greater use of fuel and very little extra labor, and if the excess is canned it will save labor and fuel for another day. In the same way, left-over foods from the table may be preserved by reheating and canning them. Many foods and combinations of foods may be made ready for pies and desserts and then canned, it being often possible to use fruits that are inferior in appearance for such purposes.

Soup may be canned. It may be made especially for canning, or it may be made in larger quant.i.ty than is required for a meal and the surplus canned. For canning, it is an excellent plan to make soup more concentrated than that which would be served immediately, as such soup will require fewer jars and will keep better. Water or milk or the liquid from cooked vegetables or cereals may be added to dilute it when it is to be served.

Meat and fish also may be canned, and many times it is advisable to do this, especially in the case of varieties that cannot be preserved to advantage by such methods as salting, pickling, or curing.

7. The preservation of foods by canning and drying should not be looked at as an old-fashioned idea; rather, it is a matter in which the housewife should be vitally interested. In fact, it is the duty of every housewife to learn all she can about the best methods to employ. Canning methods have been greatly improved within the last few years, and it is a wise plan to adopt the newer methods and follow directions closely.

Especially should this be done if foods canned by the older methods have spoiled or if mold has formed on top of the food in the jars.

In order to preserve foods successfully and with ease, the housewife should realize the importance of carrying out details with precision and care. The exactness with which the ingredients are measured, the choice and care of utensils, the selection and preparation of the food to be canned--all have a direct bearing on whether her results will be successful or not.

By observing such points and exercising a little ingenuity, the economical housewife may provide both a supply and a convenient variety of practical foods for winter use. For example, one single fruit or vegetable may be preserved in a number of ways. Thus, if there is a very large supply of apples that will not keep, some may be canned in large pieces, some may be put through a sieve, seasoned differently, and canned as apple sauce, and some may be cut into small pieces and canned for use in making pies. Apple b.u.t.ter and various kinds of jams and marmalades may be made of all or part apples, or the apples may be spiced and used as a relish. Combining fruits of different flavor in canning also adds variety. In fact, neither quinces nor apples canned alone are so delicious as the two properly combined and canned together.

In the same way, if the housewife will watch the markets closely and make good use of materials at hand, she may provide canned foods at comparatively little cost. Of course, the woman who has a garden of her own has a decided advantage over the one who must depend on the market for foods to can. The woman with access to a garden may can foods as soon as they have been gathered, and for this reason she runs less risk of losing them after they have been canned. Nevertheless, as has been pointed out, it is really the duty of every housewife to preserve food in the home for the use of her family.

CANNING

PRINCIPLES OF CANNING

8. CANNING consists in sealing foods in receptacles, such as cans or jars, in such a way that they will remain sterile for an indefinite period of time. Several methods of canning are in use, and the one to adopt will depend considerably on personal preference and the money that can be expended for the equipment. In any case, successful results in canning depend on the care that is given to every detail that enters into the work. This means, then, that from the selection of the food to be canned to the final operation in canning not one thing that has to do with good results should be overlooked.

9. SELECTION OF FOOD FOR CANNING.--A careful selection of the food that is to be canned is of great importance. If it is in good condition at the time of canning, it is much more likely to remain good when canned than food that is not. The flavor of the finished product also depends a great deal on the condition of the food. Fruits have the best flavor when they are ripe, but they are in the best condition for canning just before they have completely ripened. Immediately following perfect ripeness comes the spoiling stage, and if fruits, as well as vegetables, are canned before they are completely ripe, they are, of course, farther from the conditions that tend to spoil them. This, however, does not mean that green fruits or vegetables should be canned.

Whenever possible, any food that is to be canned should be perfectly fresh. The sooner it is canned after it has been gathered, the more satisfactory will be the results. For instance, it is better to can it 12 hours after gathering than 24 hours, but to can it 2 hours after is much better. Fruits, such as berries, that are especially perishable should not be allowed to stand overnight if this can be prevented; and it is absolutely necessary to can some vegetables, such as peas, beans, and corn, within a very few hours after gathering. Unless this is done, they will develop a bad flavor because of _flat sour_, a condition that results from the action of certain bacteria. Imperfect fruits should not be canned, but should be used for making jam, marmalade, or jelly.

10. WHY CANNED FOODS SPOIL.--Canned foods spoil because of the action of micro-organisms that cause fermentation, putrefaction, and molding. The reasons for the spoiling of food are thoroughly discussed in _Essentials of Cookery_, Part 2, and in that discussion canning is mentioned as one of the means of preserving food or preventing it from spoiling. However, when canning does not prove effective, it is because undesirable bacteria are present in the food. Either they have not been destroyed by the canning process or they have been allowed to enter before the jar was closed, and have then developed to such an extent as to cause the food to spoil. Odors, flavors, and gases result from the putrefaction, fermentation, or molding caused by these bacteria, and these make the foods offensive or harmful, or perhaps both.

11. PREVENTING CANNED FOODS FROM SPOILING.--From what has just been said, it will be seen that the success of canning depends entirely on destroying harmful micro-organisms that are present in the food and preventing those present in the air from entering the jars in which the food is placed.

Some foods are more difficult to keep than others, because bacteria act on them more readily and the foods themselves contain nothing that prevents their growth. Among such foods are meat, fish, peas, corn, beans, and meat soups. On the other hand, some foods contain acids that prevent the growth of bacteria, and these keep easily. Among these are rhubarb, cranberries, and green gooseberries. However, foods that keep easily are few, and in most cases extreme care in the process of canning must be exercised.

12. While warmth is necessary for bacterial growth, very high temperatures will destroy or r.e.t.a.r.d it. In canning, a temperature as high as 212 degrees Fahrenheit, or boiling point, r.e.t.a.r.ds the growth of active bacteria, but r.e.t.a.r.ding their growth is not sufficient. They must be rendered inactive. To do this requires either a higher temperature than boiling point or long continued cooking at 212 degrees. _Spores_ are a protective form that many kinds of bacteria a.s.sume under unfavorable conditions. They are very difficult to kill, and unless they are completely destroyed in the canning process, they will develop into active bacteria when conditions again become favorable. The result of the spore development is the spoiling of the food.

13. Other things besides the application of heat a.s.sist in the keeping of canned food, as, for example, the acids of the fruits and vegetables themselves, as has been mentioned. The use of sugar also a.s.sists; the greater the quant.i.ty of sugar in solution the easier it will be to keep the food. This is proved in the case of jams and jellies, which will keep without being sealed tight or put into jars immediately after cooking. Salt helps to keep vegetables that are canned, and, in making b.u.t.ters, conserves, and pickles, the spices and vinegars used help to protect the foods from bacterial action. However, none of these things are essential to the keeping of any _sterile food_, by which is meant food in which all bacteria or sources of bacteria have been rendered inactive by the application of sufficient heat.

14. CANNING PRESERVATIVES.--Numerous compounds, usually in the form of powders, are advertised as being useful for keeping canned foods from spoiling. None of them should be used, however, because they are unnecessary. If the work of canning is carefully and effectively done, good foods will keep perfectly without the addition of a preservative.

The pure-food laws of the United States and of many of the states themselves forbid the use of some preservatives because of their harmful effect on the human system. For this reason, to say nothing of the extra expense that would be incurred in their use, such preservatives may well be left alone.

GENERAL EQUIPMENT FOR CANNING

15. The equipment required for canning depends on two things: the quant.i.ty of food to be canned at one time and, since there are several canning methods in use, the canning method that is to be employed.

Various kinds of elaborate equipment have been devised to make the work of canning easy as well as effective. However, it is possible to do excellent work with simple equipment, and if the matter of expense must be considered there should be no hesitation about choosing the simplest and least expensive and doing the work in the best possible way with it.

It is important also that utensils already included in the household equipment be improvised to meet the needs of the canning season as far as possible.

16. Whatever the canning method that is to be followed may be, there are a number of utensils and containers that go to make up the general equipment that is required. Familiarity with such an equipment is extremely necessary for correct results in canning, and for this reason the general equipment is discussed here in detail. The special equipment needed for each of the canning methods, however, is not taken up until the method is considered. In giving this general equipment, mention is made of some utensils that are convenient but not absolutely necessary.

Any unnecessary, but convenient, part of a canning equipment should therefore be chosen with a view to its labor-saving qualities and its expense. A device that will make the keeping of canned foods more certain and prevent loss may be a valuable purchase; still, that which makes for greater convenience, but not absolute saving, need not be considered a necessity.

17. VESSELS FOR CANNING.--The pots, kettles, and pans in ordinary use in the kitchen for cooking purposes are usually satisfactory for the canning of foods. Those made of tin or iron, however, are not so good as enameled ones or those made of other metals, such as aluminum.

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Woman's Institute Library of Cookery Volume V Part 8 summary

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