Canning is swiftly regaining popularity among home gardeners and those who wish to feed their families preservative free, fresh foods all year long.
The sheer number of canning supplies available can be overwhelming to a beginner, and many are not essential to safe canning, but may make the job a bit easier. I hope this guide will help take some of the confusion out of purchasing supplies!
Water Bath (Boiling Water) Canner: A water bath canner is a large, covered stockpot fitted with a wire rack to keep the jars from touching the edges. You may use a large, covered stockpot, or purchase a Graniteware water bath canner with rack (around $30 in stores). This is used to can high acid foods, such as tomatoes, pickles, and fruits.
Pressure Canner: A pressure canner is a heavy gauge, stainless, locking pot that is fitted with a pressure gauge. These retail for $70-$200, but are often handed down from generation to generation. Many that are still in use are 50 years old. You can have them tested at many hardware stores. There are two types, one is fitted with a dial gauge, the other is a weighted gauge (only shows 5, 10, and 15 psi). If you have a dial gauge canner, it must be tested annually to ensure accuracy.
Jars: You can only use jars that are approved for canning, such as Mason, Ball, Kerr, and Golden Harvest. New jars will cost between $7 and $15 per dozen, depending on size and brand. Jars can be used for many, many years, so go ahead and use those family heirlooms! You should never use non-approved jars, such as those that held store bought mayonnaise, etc. Check your jars before each use for chips, scratches, or residue buildup. If there are chips or scratches, do not use for canning. If there is residue buildup, soak in a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water, then wipe with a soft cloth.
Lids and Rings: These are often referred to as two piece caps. The lid is the flat lid that sits on top of a jar. The ring screws onto the top and holds the flat lid in place. You may reuse rings until they are damaged or corroded, but lids must be replaced with every use. The food grade sealing compound that lines the edges is not safe for multiple uses.
Jar Lifter: A jar lifter is essentially a pair of tongs that are molded to pick up a jar. These are not essential, but very helpful, especially because they are under $5 at most stores and will last for years to come.
Wide Plastic Funnel: This funnel sits in the top of a jar and allows you to pour your prepared recipe in without mess. This isn’t required, but will help prevent messes and burns, and are priced under $2 in most stores.
Bubble Remover and Head Space Tool: This small tool is a 6” piece of flat plastic, but is well worth it’s $1 price tag. You will use one end to run around the inside of your jars to remove air bubbles and the other end measures headspace (each recipe requires a different height of space at the top).
Magnetic Lid Lifter: This tool is used to lift the lids from a pot of simmering water. It’s non essential, but make the job much easier. It is priced at $1 in many stores.
Pectin: Pectin is a substance used to thicken jams and jellies. It comes in many brands and variations, such as classic, instant, and freezer.
Clear Jel: This is a thickening compound used for pie fillings. It cannot be substituted for Pectin.
Citric Acid: Citric Acid prevents fruits from darkening. Lemon juice is an acceptable substitute.
These are the most common supplies used in canning. There are many others, but they are not necessary for the average home canner.