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How to Can Rutabagas

by Rachel Lovejoy

Rutabagas are members of the turnip plant family and are a fall root crop. Larger and firmer than their smaller turnip cousins, rutabagas can be hard to peel and may develop a strong, bitter flavor in storage. Because they are low-acid vegetables, canning rutabagas involves heating them to the boiling point and processing them in a pressure canner, which is the only safe way to destroy any bacteria that may follow them into the jars.

Use one large kettle to boil and sterilize your jars, bands and lids. Fill the pan so that the water completely covers all items and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and keep hot while you proceed with the food preparation.

Peel and cut rutabagas in small cubes measuring no more than 1 inch and place in the second large kettle, being careful to keep all pieces roughly the same size. Cover with water, bring to a boil and cook about 5 minutes.

Use the long-handled tongs to lift the hot jars from the sterilizing kettle and place on a cutting board or towels. Fill the jars with drained rutabaga pieces, packing them down lightly, leaving about 1 inch of space at the top. Use the ladle to fill the jars with the hot cooking liquid, leaving about 1/2 inch of space at the top. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to pints or 1 teaspoon to quarts, or omit if desired.

Run the long knife or spatula between the rutabagas and the inner walls of the jars to remove any air bubbles. Press lightly to eliminate bubbles between the pieces. Remove the lids from the sterilizing kettle and place immediately on the jars. Repeat this step for the bands and screw on just hand-tight.

Place as many jars on the rack as it will hold, allowing for about 1/2 inch of space between them, and lower into the canner. Add 2 to 3 inches of very hot water to the canner unless the instructions you are using advise a different amount, as this will produce enough steam to destroy any bacteria present in the food.

Place the canner on a large stove element and put the lid on securely. Turn the burner heat to the highest setting and wait until the water boils and steam escapes steadily from the open vent pipe. Let the steam escape to exhaust all the air, and after 10 full minutes, place the weighted gauge on the vent pipe, or close the petcock on models equipped with one.

Start watching the canning time when the pressure on the gauge reaches the correct pressure, which is 10 pounds. Process pints for 30 minutes and quarts for 35 minutes. Maintain the 10 pounds of pressure by adjusting the burner heat setting during this time, lowering the heat if the pressure climbs over 10 pounds and raising it if it falls below 10 pounds.

Turn turn the heat off when processing is done and leave the canner on the stove to cool down on its own. Allow the pressure to drop completely to zero (0) before removing the weight, and do so carefully in case any small amount of steam remains. Wait 10 minutes, then remove the lid carefully with the underside facing down to prevent facial burns from the steam.

Remove the jars and place on towels to cool for 12 to 24 hours, listening for the popping sound made by the lids sealing completely. Remove the screw bands, wash the jars and lids and store in a cool, dark, dry place.

Items you will need
  • 2 large cooking kettles
  • Sharp knife or vegetable peeler
  • Cutting board
  • Water
  • Slotted spoon or straining spoon
  • Long-handled tongs
  • Kitchen towels
  • Salt
  • Spreading knife or spatula
  • Ladle
  • Quart or pint canning jars
  • Canning bands
  • New canning lids
  • Pressure canner
  • Jar lifter

Tips

  • All pressure canners are equipped with a pressure-release valve that looks like a small pipe built into the lid. Depending upon the age and type of pressure canner you are using, it may be equipped with either a petcock, a lever that opens and closes the valve, or a weighted gauge, shaped like a metal disk with a small handle on top, that you place over the open valve once the canner has built up the correct amount of pressure. The petcock control continues to open and close as necessary to release pressure, while the weighted gauge jiggles as it releases excess steam.
  • Assemble all the equipment you need in the order you will use it before you begin processing the rutabagas. This saves time and energy; canning can be a very physical and time-consuming task if you're not organized.

Warnings

  • Be sure to use brand new never-before-used canning lids, as used lids won't form the proper airtight seal during processing and will allow bacteria to enter the jars and contaminate the rutabagas.
  • Other than a strong, unpleasant odor when opening a jar of spoiled produce or the obvious presence of mold, there is no way to detect the presence of disease-causing organisms in canned foods. Even boiling the food doesn't guarantee safety. If in doubt, throw it out!
  • All the jars of rutabagas may not seal properly while they cool on the counter. This may have to do with defective seals around the lids, tiny nicks along the top rim of the jars or too much air inside the jars. Once sufficiently cooled, store these jars in the refrigerator and use within two days.

About the Author

Rachel Lovejoy has been writing professionally since 1990 and currently writes a weekly column entitled "From the Urban Wilderness" for the Journal Tribune in Biddeford, Maine, as well as short novellas for Amazon Kindle. Lovejoy graduated from the University of Southern Maine in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

Photo Credits

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