Monday, May 25, 2009

Canned Banana?

When the idea of getting a canner really looked like it was going to happen, we sat down and made a list of all the things we wanted to can so that we could get an idea of how much space would be necessary and what all we would need to acquire for the canning. One of the things on that list was bananas. So I hit the internet and began looking for how you go about canning bananas. There is very little out there. In fact there was so little that I had to call my local agricultural extension to ask questions about why different agricultural extensions claimed different things. According to the lady who called me back, the funding for testing the canning of bananas isn't as important and spending the funding to can something more "normal." As such different university extension programs might have different ideas about the safest way to can the product. Well, that made some sense. She referred me to the University of Georgia. This is apparently the mecca for anyone interested in home preservation.

As far as I now know, there are two ways to can bananas: puree and chunked. The only thing that everyone seemed to agree with is that you cannot process bananas with water bath canning. A pressure cooker is necessary because they have virtually no acidity.

Chunked
The University of Minnesota recommends cubing and canning just like you would pumpkin. This is due to their belief that straight pureed banana is too thick to insure the center of the jar has reached the appropriate temperature. So you cut it into one inch chunks, boil it in water for 2 minutes and place into cans covered in the cooking liquid. Provide 1 inch of head space and process for 55 minutes at 11 PSI.

Puree
I went with the Univeristy of Georgia's recommendations for fruit puree. Fruit puree was chosen mainly because I am only canning the bananas to use in banana bread. This way, if the processing isn't 100 percent effective I am then going to recook the bananas in the bread at 350 degrees for quite some time. Also if the bananas are already pureed it saves a step later. Due to the amount of discrepancy I wouldn't use this canned banana in baby food or another product you would eat raw right out of the can like, say, applesauce.

Lastly, there are some things that this version of fruit puree won't work for. As stated on the UGA canning website:

Important: These recommendations should not be used with figs, tomatoes, cantaloupe and other melons, papaya, ripe mango or coconut. There are no home canning recommendations available for purees of these products.

After all that, I was feeling fairly confident of the process necessary to can the bananas. Now I just needed to acquire them. Though we don't get a lot of our groceries from Save-A-Lot, they consistently have the lowest price on certain items. Bananas at .33 cents a pound is one of those things. Even more amazing, they sell their bruised or over-ripe bananas for .19 cents a pound! Twenty pounds of bananas later, I was headed home for a day of pureeing.

To make fruit puree for canning, you don't just mash up the fruit. That makes a substance which is way too gooey and dense. Secondly, you cannot water bath can bananas, so you have to have a pressure canner. Lastly, it also helps if you have a compost bin. After peeling that many bananas, I had quite a mound of waste which gladly filled up the compost bin with much helpful potassium!
Now that they were peeled, I broke the bananas into pieces and placed them in a medium sized stock pot along with the designated amount of water. This water is used to not only help in softening the fruit, but also to keep the sugar within it from burning to the bottom. For each quart of fruit, add 1 cup of water. I overshot this when I guesstimated and added eight cups (it should have been 6). It worked out fine, only I had quite a bit of runny banana glop left over when I strained the bananas out. Place the bananas on the stove and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. I will warn you, the smell of cooking bananas is kinda nauseating. I don't know what there is about it, but definitely not a cozy, warm banana bread smell that I was hoping for. I decided to open up all the windows and doors hoping to flush it out as fast as possible. When the fruit starts to soften up and get all smudgy you can start to chop up any of the larger peices with a slotted spoon to speed the process or just wait another five minutes or so for it to all fall apart by itself. Using a slotted spoon I scooped the mushy banana goo out and into pint jars. Some people may opt to processe the goo in a blender, food mill, or food processer to make it nice and smooth. Twenty pounds (actually, I think it was 21 pounds) filled a dozen pint jars almost exactly. After filling I used a butter knife to remove bubbles, wiped the rims and placed them into the canner. Process for eight minutes at six PSI.

One odd thing I will let you know is that bananas turn pink when they are canned. I have no idea why, but almost thirty pints of bananas later, they are all pink. The first batch were canned in apple juice instead of water and I figured that was why. Um...no. The second round were canned in just plain old tap water and they are just as pink. It honestly kinda creeps me out! But, when I think back to The Spicy Barracudas baby food, most all the banana items were an odd sort of off-pink color. So many canned banana questions, so little time!

In reality it took much, much longer just to find out how I was supposed to can the bananas than it did to actually do the canning. I find this rather ironic, and a little silly. By the end of the whole research process it was no longer about just canning bananas for me. It became necessary for my stubborn self to know just why on earth this had to be so complicated! The results were well worth it, however, when there is chocolate banana bread on the line. With the thirty pints we now have an entire years worth of bananas and all for under 15 dollars!

Chocolate Banana Bread

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
2 large (3 medium) eggs
1 pint mashed banana (2 cups)
2/3 cup Dutch process unsweetened cocoa
1 Tblspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans

Directions
Grease muffin tins and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, sugar, eggs, and banana till combined. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and cocoa. Add the flour mixture to the banana goo in thirds, mixing thoroughly in between each addition. Fold in pecans. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. To make as bread, bake in 9x5 loaf pan for 60-75 minutes.

11 thoughts:

Moonwaves said...

Interesting. I don't have a pressure canner yet but plan to in the future. I don't buy bananas often because of the distances involved in getting them but since our fair trade shop started doing them, I started to get them every once in a while (I also discovered how easy and delicious banana bread is). At 50c (that's euro cent, which is about 72 US cents) per banana they are not cheap though. But since I tried freezing some mashed up bananas recently and realised how disgusting they look when defrosted I went off the idea of trying to freeze more. Have never heard anyone talking about canning them before.

Anonymous said...

What about adding a banana or two to a batch of applesauce, would it still not be acidic enough to use a waterbath canner?

Granola Girl said...

Anonymous - If I were going to do this, the best thing I could recommend would be to make up a batch of the recipe (or trial) you were going to can and then do a litmus paper test. Litmus paper is designed to tell you the pH content of whatever liquid it is placed in. The paper is harmless and just a tiny little strip. You put the strip in and it changes color (think high school chemistry class). The color is compared to the chart that comes with the litmus paper and it tells you the pH of the liquid. You can purchase Litmus paper via the Internet for pretty darn cheap, though I don't know of any specific "real world" stores which carry it.

For canning you want a pH of 4.6 or lower to ensure proper acidity. If you are close to that (say 4.3) you could most likely safely can the foods in a pressure canner. To be completely safe, I'd shoot for 4.6 acidity.

This will work on most any recipe you have, not just bananas.

Cynthia Hancox said...

The reason the canned bananas turn pink is most likely the same reason quinces turn pink when canned in a pressure canner - they are both high in phenolic compounds (colorless antioxidants), some of which cooking (especially prolonged or under pressure) turns into anthocyanin pigments (responsible for the natural red, blue and purple colors of many fruits and veges).

Anonymous said...

dont forget to smoke all the banana peels afterwards! LOL

Julie D. said...

The University of Minnesota does not recommend canning bananas in chunks. The banana mentioned there is a variety of squash, banana squash.

Julie D. said...

Also the University of Georgia says specifically no banana puree.
http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/fruit_puree.html

Lisa said...

How did this store? Also....I would think this would be excellent to use in smoothies, without having to make frequent trips to the store for fresh nanners! :D

Anonymous said...

You said you felt safe using the banana puree as long as you cooked it later in something like banana bread. I'm assuming this is out of a concern for potential bacteria that could cause botulism. The cooking process will indeed kill the bacteria, however it will do nothing to get rid of the toxin that the bacteria has given off in your canned food that ultimately leads to botulism poisoning.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!!!

Anonymous said...

yeah, the canning is increasingly effective if the pH is kept lowered and in check for the same reason cited above. However, the anthocyanins will indeed be active and will potentially turn it pink during heating or blanching. Adding ascorbic or malic acid (present in apples in plenty especially the green ones) might help.

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