Garden Canning Series – Canning 101

036 For those who have never canned their own produce before, it can feel daunting. But with the proper direction, it can be surprisingly easy!   Canning is pretty simple, as long as you keep it simple!

When you are choosing foods to preserve, it helps to know what foods can be canned in a water bath, and what foods need to be canned in a pressure canner. I stick to foods that can be preserved in a simple water bath, which helps to keep my kitchen clutter free.

Water bath canning is the easiest and best method for beginning canners. What you need to start are glass jars, a large stock pot, a heavy duty oven mitt and a good pair of tongs (these are worth the investment to get the large canning tongs, which can be found at most places that sell canning jars). A canning funnel is also helpful.

Foods that can be canned using the water bath method are foods that are highly acidic, such as fruits, tomatoes, any type of pickled vegetable including relish, jams, jellies, and other fruit preserves. Tomatoes are highly acidic, but when canning tomatoes you’ll want to add a small amount of vinegar, lemon juice or citric acid can help to ensure that bacteria will not develop.

In the coming days, we will feature some great canning recipes.   Here are some basic directions that you can use for reference on those canning recipes!

1.   Sterilization. One of the most important steps in canning, is to sterilize your jars before adding any food to them. Doing this is simple and it can be done prior to starting your canning recipe. Simply take your large stock pot and fill with water. Add jars and lids to the stock pot and bring to a boil for at least 10 minutes. Also be sure to inspect your jars, and do not use any with knicks or cracks, as those can result in improper sealing! Remove jars from the boiling water with tongs, and allow to air dry.

2. Fill Your Jars. There are two methods for filling your jars; raw packing and hot packing.     Raw packing is when you pack uncooked fruits or veggies into the jar and hot packing is when you pack pre-cooked, hot foods into the jars. When using the raw packing method, you want to pack the produce into the jar tightly as it will shrink during the canning process as the contents heat up. In the hot packing method, shrinkage has already occurred, therefore, you want to pack produce into the jar loosely. You always want to allow about a half inch of   empty space at the top of your jar. Once you have packed the jar, wipe the rims with a clean cloth and screw on the lids, loosely but securely. Do not close too tightly or the air will not be able to escape and vacuum seal the jar.

3. Seal Jars. Fill your stock pot three fourths of the way full with water and begin to warm. Add filled jars before you bring the water to a boil, to ensure that the glass jars do not break, due to the extreme change in temperatures. Once you have added the jars, add enough water to cover the jars with at least one inch of water covering the jars. Once the water has come to a boil, being your timer and time according the recipe that you are using. Most recipes call for the jars to remain in the water bath for between 10 -20 minutes.

4. Pop. Remove your jars from the water bath using tongs and the oven mitt. The jars will be slippery and very hot, so be sure not to touch the jars with your bare hands! Do not tighten the lids, the lids will tighten on their own, and while they are cooling you will begin to hear them pop.  After 2 hours, check each jar to be sure that they have sealed. To do this, push down on the middle of the lid. If the jars are sealed properly, there will be no give  in the lids. If they did not seal properly, the lids will give when you push down on them. If this happens, you can add them back into the water bath, and redo the process. Allow jars to rest for 12 – 14 hours, before packing them away into the cupboard for storage!
Canning can be easy. It is somewhat time consuming, but I find that it is always worth the effort!

Other canning resources:
http://www.canningpantry.com
http://www.homecanning.com/

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