How to Can Basics
One of our favorite country time activities is canning the fruits of our summer’s labor in the garden. Although, I can’t really say it’s a “labor” to pick sweet & tasty vine-ripened tomatoes, to me it’s a joy. Nothing beats the taste of pasta sauce made with a variety of homegrown Heirloom tomatoes! The same can be said for homemade pickles, jams and salsa…try it, you’ll Love It!
Beginners should start with high acid foods that can be safely canned by using the easy boiling water bath method of canning.
This is a basic way to preserve food at the temperature of boiling water, 212ºF, using inexpensive equipment. Tomatoes and most fruits are high acid foods. (Pickled vegetables also use the boiling water method) All foods contain enzymes and can harbor molds and yeasts, all of which will cause food to spoil. All of these can be inactivated or killed by the heat of the boiling water bath canning method.
Two other terms used in canning should be explained. They refer to putting food in the jars as an early step in canning.
- Raw Pack or Cold Pack: These terms refer to putting uncooked food into a jar to which a hot liquid is added.
- Hot Pack: This refers to putting into jars for food that has been cooked to a degree. Hot pack sometimes requires less processing time, since the food already is partially cooked.
Boiling water bath canning can be easy, here’s the basic supplies you’ll need …..
Canning jars -There are specially made jars and lids designed for canning. The jars can be reused for many years. Canning jars come in various sizes. Pint and quart sizes are usually used for fruit, applesauce, tomatoes, pickles, etc. Smaller 8 oz. jars are perfect for jams, jellies and relishes. Both pint size and quart size jars are available in regular or wide mouth styles. The wide mouth style is best for pickles and larger pieces of fruit such as peach or pear halves. Jars and lids are usually sold together in boxes of 12.
Two-piece lids -Today’s jar lids consist of a small cap that seals to the jar rim and a screw cap that holds the cap in place. Replacement lids are sold in most grocery stores, department or hardware stores, kitchen shops, farm centers, etc. Lids can be purchased in packages that include both rims/bands and sealing caps, or you can buy boxes of just caps. Sealing caps should not be re-used. Since the jars and rims/bands are reusable canning is very economical once you have acquired your supplies.
Tip: Our family is big on recycling and we save glass spaghetti sauce and pickle jars to reuse these for our own canned tomato sauce and pickles. They have sealed just fine after processing and if you wash and sterilize them first there shouldn’t be any problems with spoilage. Check to be sure they have sealed properly after the jars have cooled. The jars will usually make a popping sound after canning as the jars seal themselves.
A large covered water bath canner -A canner must be deep enough to completely immerse the jars with 1 to 2 inches of water covering the top of the lids. Most have a rack to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot. You can improvise by using any large stockpot with a wire cooling rack placed in the bottom. Our family now uses a steamer canner since it only uses a small amount of water which speeds up the canning process because you don’t have to wait for all that water to come to a boil. This makes it easier to learn how to can.
Jar Lifter -A handy tool for removing freshly processed jars from the boiling water. Like a wide tongs.
Wide mouth canning funnel -Used to fill the jars…especially useful for jars with regular size tops.
A non-metallic spatula -Or a long plastic knife to run through the jars to release trapped air bubbles.
You’ll also need clean paper towel to wipe the rims before placing the caps on the jars and a heavy dish towel or absorbent mat to sit the hot jars on after they’re removed from the canner.
1 -Have all your equipment ready to use -Wash jars and lids with hot, soapy water. Thoroughly rinse and air dry. Check glass jar rims for minute chips as these will not seal. Rinse caps with hot water before use.
2 -Fruit and vegetables should be washed, peeled and prepared according to your recipes for jam, jelly, preserves, pickles, salsa, etc.. Prepare jams and jellies according to the directions for the brand of pectin.
3 – Pack prepared food into hot jars, leaving a head space….usually 1/2″ to 1″ below the top of the jar rim or the amount stated in the recipe you followed.
4 – Carefully run a non-metallic spatula or knife down through the ingredients to release any trapped air.
5 – Wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth 0r paper towel to remove all traces of food on the rims.
6 – Place a cap on each jar, making sure it’s centered and seated with the rubber edge over the rim.
7 – Screw the lid band onto the jar, but do not over tighten.
8 – Fill the canner with hot water – the amount depends on the size of the jars you are using.
9 – Place the jars on the rack in the canner or stock pot, adding water if necessary to cover the jars 1-2”. Note: If using a steam canner the jars set on a rack over about an inch or two of water which saves time.
10 – Cover with lid and bring the water to a full rolling boil. Continue to boil for time stated in your recipe.
11 – Turn off heat; carefully lift the lid away from you to prevent a steam burn. Using a jar tongs, remove jars from water. Place jars on a dish towel or absorbent mat. Allow to cool. Remove bands and wash jars.
12 -Check seals. Lids should be lowered in the middle and not move up or down when you press lightly.
13 – Label and date jars, then store them in a dark, cool, dry area, where there’s no danger of freezing.
Look for my upcoming post with some “how to can” favorite recipes.