Home canning is a fun and healthy way to preserve the summer harvest. Although canning was first discovered in the 1700’s, it wasn’t made popular until the late 1850’s when John Mason invented a jar with a screw top lid. Interest steadily grew until the 1950’s, when supermarkets became widespread.
In recent years, canning has started making a comeback. Gardening is fast becoming a popular hobby, and farmer’s markets are plentiful. Families are more mindful about the chemicals in food and preservation, and home canning makes it simple to know exactly what your family is eating.
Home canning can seem overwhelming to a beginner, but there are recipes and techniques for all skill levels. You won’t need many supplies and they are very inexpensive.
- Large Stock Pot or Water Bath Canner with Rack (water bath canning only)
- Pressure Canner (only for low acid foods)
- Jar Lifter
- Plastic or Rubber Spatula
- Plenty of clean towels
TYPES OF CANNING
Water bath canning, sometimes called boiling water canning, is the easiest and least time consuming method. This method applies to high acid foods, such as fruit, tomato based, and pickled recipes.
A pressure canner is used to can low acid foods, such as corn, green beans, and soups. It maintains a higher internal temperature which is required to destroy the bacteria that more acidic fruits and vegetables destroy on their own.
SELECTING A RECIPE FOR CANNING
Before beginning, you should select a recipe from a trusted canning source, such as the Ball Canning Book or Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving. These recipes are subject to strict safety testing.
When making your selection, consider skill level, seasonal produce, and additional ingredients. Although jams and jellies are relatively easy to make, they are much more expensive and delicate than pickles or salsa.
PREPARING YOUR EQUIPMENT FOR CANNING
Once you’ve selected a recipe, you will need to prepare your equipment. A water bath canner should be inspected thoroughly for corrosion, dents, and pinholes. Any of these can affect the distribution of heat, resulting in an unsafe can.
Wash the rings and lids with warm soapy water. Allow the rings to dry thoroughly and place the lids in a pot of simmering water. They must maintain a temperature of 180°F. Although you can reuse rings until they begin to rust, you should never reuse the lid. The food safe compound seal is only good for one use.
Inspect your jars thoroughly for any cracks, chips, or scrapes. Wash with warm soapy water and rinse. If there is a film or residue on the jars, soak them in a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water. Wash with a soft cloth and rinse. Place in a pot of simmering water for no less than 10 minutes. Jars must be hot when filled. You can also skip the handwashing and run them through the dishwasher. As soon as it’s finished, you can begin removing the jars one by one to fill (keep it closed between fillings to keep the jars warm).
KEEPING CANNING SAFE
If possible, always use a funnel to fill your jars. You can pick up a canning funnel for less than $2 in stores and it will help prevent burns and messes. This also keeps food from the rims of the jars, which will result in a bad seal. If you spill food on the edge, wipe the edges with a warm, damp towel.
You may be lucky enough to have had a pressure canner gifted to you or handed down from a family member or friend. Before using, take the canner to a hardware store and have it tested. The seals can deteriorate over time and the pressure gauge can malfunction, so annual testing is recommended.
Canning should never be feared. If you follow the proper techniques and keep your equipment clean, you will provide your family with healthy, fresh produce for years to come.