In an early blog I spoke of the need for all non pressure canned recipes to have a final acidity (pH) below 4.6. I further mentioned that in the interest of safety 4.2 is my maximum. At 4.2 nothing tastes like battery acid, consider fruits like strawberries way down at pH 3. The traditional methods of lowering pH are with vinegar and citric acid. Both of these have a place in canning. They are strong agents and require little to do a lot of lowering. On the other hand both add a distinctive flavor to a finished product. When using vinegars I like cider over white for added health benefits of the former but it does add an additional flavor and is sweeter, a decision that must be made. I always have a jar of citric acid ready when all else fails but I do not like to use it unless I have to. If a product is as liquid as I want it to be, and by adding more vinegar or whatever is going to make it more so, then out comes the citric acid. Even in big 12 qt. runs I add the crystals in 1/4 teaspoon increments for too much puts a bite in the finished product.
There are other effective agents. Lemon juice is a strong one. In my vegatable soups I do not want the flavor of vinegar and I do not want the bite of pure citric acid so I use lemon juice. Grapefruit and Orange juice, although not as strong an acid as lemon work well for other recipes. The key to remember is all fruits are acidic and will function as acidifying agents-some more effectively than others.
I really enjoy using Balsamic Vinegar in recipes I create and in fact my new canning book due out in February has an onion jam recipe using Balsamic Vinegar that I make over and over because I cannot make enough to keep my pantry stocked. Another agent I have begun to use is wine, not cooking wine but inexpensive reds and whites. They add a most sophisticated touch to many canning recipes where vinegars, juices, or pure acid just miss the mark.
If creating a recipe-remember one must ALWAYS meet the safe pH criteria and test pH both before canning and 24 hours after-the agents one can use are limited only by one’s imagination. Fresh apple juice in the fall and peach juice in the early summer are just two off the wall acidifying agents ready to follow the home canner on a journey into new recipes.