For Mr. G and I, canning saves money in that we can grow our little garden and “put up” what we grow, or we can buy bushels of fruits and vegetables at our local farmers market, and we can purchase meats and other food when it’s on sale and can it up, putting a nice cushion between us and rising food prices. But so much more than the savings, we know what’s in our canned food, and we know what’s NOT in it. And if the power goes out at our house during a storm or other emergency, we have food on the shelves. It’s a comforting feeling.
Beginning canners often feel overwhelmed by all the information thrown at them all at once. My advice… start simply before you dive in to canning. It’s not nearly as expensive or as complicated as some folks think... if you can cook, you certainly can can. The first thing a beginner needs to do is buy a good canning book… The Ball Blue Book is excellent for beginners and advanced canners alike. It is a magazine sized booklet that contains all the basic information needed, as well as an abundance of recipes to choose from, it’s inexpensive (less than $10) and available wherever canning supplies are sold. There is an abundance of information on the internet, but be very careful, especially as a beginner, to use safe, up-to-date information and instruction. Some good, reliable sites include the
for Home Food Preservation, http://nchfp.uga.edu/
as well as the USDA http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome National Center
Beginning canning equipment necessary:
- Waterbath canner or large stockpot with a rack (cost, approx. $30, less if you choose to start out using a stockpot instead of a dedicated canner)
- Canning jars, lids, and bands (about $10 a dozen, unless you can find a freebie or deal on used jars)… Jars and bands may be used over and over, but always use new lids (the flat part of the lid… cost, approx. $2 dozen)
- Good canning book (Ball Blue Book is $6-$8 and readily available wherever canning supplies are sold)
- Dishtowels, dish cloths, pot holders, large saucepans, measuring cups and spoons, timer/clock (most folks who cook, have these items on hand already)
Equipment that is good to have:
- Jar lifter
- Magnetic lid wand
- Plastic knife or other non-reactive tool for removing air bubbles
- Large mouth canning funnel
(a kit containing all of the above can be purchased where canning supplies are sold for less than $20)
The biggest expenses a new canner faces are canning jars, lids, and the canner itself. There are always sales going on for jars (always use canning jars, Ball, Kerr, Golden Harvest, etc. as these are strong glass jars made especially for canning… steer clear of old mayonnaise jars, pasta jars, etc.), sometimes you can find free or almost free jars on Craigslist, Freecycle, or in your grandmother’s basement.
Foods for canning can be divided into two groups… high acid foods and low acid foods. High acid foods include tomatoes, jams and jellies, pickles and relishes, and most fruits. These foods may be canned in a boiling water bath (hot water bath, water bath) and are great for beginning canners… To can high acid foods you may choose to purchase a water bath canner, but all that is really needed is a pot big enough to fit your jars to be canned and to cover them with an inch or two of water… and a rack of some kind in the bottom of the pot for even boiling around the jars… a rack comes with a typical water bath canner set… but if you use a large stock pot, you can make your own rack by twist-tying canning jar bands (the band part, not the flat lid part) together to fit the bottom of the pot.
Good beginner recipes include jam, relish, tomatoes, or single fruits…
Applesauce is a great place to start… all you need are apples and some sugar…
My applesauce instructions can be found at… http://canninggranny.blogspot.com/2011/09/canning-applesauce.html
But basically you peel and core the apples
Put them in a large stainless steel saucepan with just enough water to keep them from sticking.
Simmer the apples gently until they are softened.
Then using a food mill or food processor, mash/blend the cooked apples until desired consistency. Add sugar to taste (I add ¼ cup per pound of apples), simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved and sauce is heated through.
Meantime, heat your jars (I usually make applesauce in pint jars) in boiling water to sterilize them. Simmer the lids (the flat part) to sterilize them and to soften the rubber seal.
Fill the hot jars with hot applesauce leaving a half inch space between the top of the applesauce and the rim of the jar (this is called headspace). A wide mouth canning funnel is handy to have for this step.
Check the jar of applesauce for any air bubbles (air pockets that might be trapped in the sauce) and remove these by using a plastic knife and inserting it between the inside of the jar and the ingredients.
Use a damp, clean cloth and wipe the rims of each jar, carefully removing any food particles that might cause the jars to not seal.
Tighten the lids onto the jar to fingertip tightness (not too tight, just until you can’t unscrew the lid with your fingertips). A magnetic lid wand is nice to have for removing lids from boiling water, if you don’t have one, tongs may be used.
Put the closed jars into the waterbath canner/stockpot filling it with water to cover the jars with an inch or two of water over the top of the jars. Process… bring the water to boiling over medium high heat, then reduce the heat and boil gently (begin timing when the water reaches boiling) for 20 minutes. After processing, turn the heat off from under the canner and let the jars sit for about five minutes before removing from the canner. Using a jar lifter, remove the jars and set them on a folded dish towel on the counter to cool and seal. A seal is achieved when the top of the flat part of the canning lid is concave… you will usually hear a
when a jar seals… this is music to a canner’s ears!
A few more recipes that would be great for beginners…
- Easy Jalapeno Jam… http://canninggranny.blogspot.com/2011/10/easy-jalapeno-jam.html
Once you have high acid foods and water bath canning under your belt, you may want to graduate to canning low acid foods… these include most vegetables, meats, soups and stews and must be canned using a pressure canner (canner, not cooker, there IS a difference)… A pressure canner will be an expense, but this one time investment will expand your canning greatly. A pressure canner will cost from $60-$70 for an inexpensive canner (Presto is a good, inexpensive brand) to $200-$400 for the top of the line All American model (fantastic canner, but pricey… it will last several lifetimes).
Pressure canning… that’s a story for another day…
|All American Pressure Canner|
|Presto Pressure Canner|