I know a lot of people have thought about home canning and most are kind of overwhelmed by the thought and what it requires. Canning sounds difficult if you have never done it, especially if you don’t have any experience with canning or know anyone that does. It is an intimidating process until you get started and then it becomes easier and easier!
In this article, I am going to break down the basics of canning and what you need to can.
Two Basics Ways to Can – Pressure Can or Water Bath
There are two basic methods of canning, pressure canning and water bath canning.
Pressure canning is the method of preserving low-acid foods. Low-acid foods include vegetables, meats, fish, and poultry. Pressurized steam creates the needed temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit or higher which will destroy the bacterial spores naturally present in these foods.
Generally, there were two general types of pressure canners- dial gauge and weighted gauge. Dial gauge canners require manual adjustment of the heat source to maintain pressure. However, the weighted gauge pressure canners hold the pressure themselves. The latter type doesn’t require you to continuously keep an eye on it.
The difference is the way they measure pressure. One uses a dial gauge, while the other uses weights to measure the amount of pressure buildup. When you’ve reached the desired pressure, you adjust the heat to either maintain the dial in the correct position or keep the weights at a moderate jiggle.
Recently Electric Pressure Canners have been developed and have gained popularity. I have the NESCO Electric canner and love it. See my post about how to use the NESCO electric canner. I explain the steps in detail. It is very easy to use, basically put the jars in the canner and press the buttons.
Water bath canning
Water bath canning is a method of food preservation for high acid foods. This method uses boiling water to create an environment within glass jars that prevents harmful bacteria from growing on the food.
The canning pot shown below is a typical pot used for water bath canning. The canning rack is used with the canner to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot and also to assist in adding and removing the jars from the boiling water.
I have a glass top stove, so did not want to risk water bath canning on the stove as it could break the glass. If you have a glass-top stove and want to use it, research it and see what the risks are. I know many that use their glass top stoves for canning. It is important to check with the manufacture regarding canning on your glass top. One risk is that the pot with the water and contents could be too heavy. I used to use my gas grill burner outside with a regular canning pot. About 3 years ago, I purchased a Ball electric water bath canner. I love it. It works great and has a spout that you can use to empty the water into your sink. It holds 9 pints or 7 quarts.
Decide what you’re most likely to can. Will you do mostly tomatoes, salsas, tomato sauces, pickles, fruits, and jellies/jams? Then you would want to start with water bath canning. It is typical to start with a water bath canner and can salsa and pickles from your garden. That is how I got started canning.
If you plan to can low acid foods such as meats, including roast, chicken, turkey; soups and stews; and low acid vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, dry beans, green beans, carrots, and mushrooms, you will need a pressure canner.
Other Equipment Needed for Canning
There are certain items you need for canning. The most important are the jars. Canning jars or mason jars come in many sizes from 4 oz jars, 8 oz (half pint), 16 oz (pint jars), 24 oz, and 32 oz (quart jars). Pint and quart jars are the most common sizes used. These jars also come in regular mouth jars and wide mouth jars. I like wide mouth sizes for canning pickles and for canning meat. I use the regular mouth size for liquids, such as salsa, broth, and sauces.
The canning jar lids and bands are very important. It is important to buy quality lids. I usually only buy the Ball lids.
The lids are thin metal flat lids with a rubber seal around the outside of the lid that goes on top of the jar. The rubber seal is what seals the jar once they are canned. The metal lids are used one time. The jar bands are ring-shaped and screws the canning lid in place. The jar bands can be reused
When you buy new jars, they usually come with canning lids and bands, but if you reuse the jars, which you continue to can, you will, you will need to buy new lids. You will end up having plenty of jar bands to reuse over and over.
An absolute necessity for canning is the jar lifter. It is used to lift the jars into and out of the boiling water, especially lifting out the boiling hot jars.
Another piece of canning equipment is the debubbler or bubble popper shown below, It is used to get air bubbles out of the jars before putting them into the canner. It also has measurements at the tip which can be used to measure headspace. Other items can be used to get air bubbles out of a jar such as a wooden chopstick or any other long thin utensil.
A funnel makes it easier to get liquids or other items into a jar without spilling or getting all over the mouth of the jar.
A stainless steel stock pot is a piece of cooking equipment that is useful in canning for mixing up certain recipes, such as salsas, salsas, pie fillings, pickling brine, etc.
Basic Instructions to Begin Canning
Find a Recipe
To begin canning, the best way to start is to look up recipes for items that you want to can in canning books or on the internet.
Prepare your recipe or the product you want to can.
Prepare Your Jars
You don’t need to sterilize jars if you are using a pressure canner or processing in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes or longer as they will get sterilized during the canning process. You also do not need to heat or boil the lids. Just make sure everything is clean and rinsed off.
To can, use clean jars and place the item you want to can in the jars. Use a canning funnel to get the product in the jars without it spilling over the sides of the jar.
Fill the Jars
When you fill the jars, do not fill to the very top. Make sure you leave the proper “head space”. The head space will be called out in your recipe and can be from 1/4 inch to 1 inch. If you do not leave the proper head space it may interfere with the jar sealing properly.
Wipe off the rim of the jar and place the flat lids on top of the jar and then screw the jar band on. Screw the band on finger tight. A way to determine if the lid is fingertip tight is to place the band on the jar, turn it just until you feel resistance, then turn the band one-quarter turn more.
The Canning Process
If water batch canning, place the jars into the pot of heated water using a jar lifter. The water needs to be at least an inch over the tops of the jars. Cover the pot and turn the heat up and heat the water to a full roiling boil. Start the processing time after the water reaches a boil.
For a pressure canner, place the jars into the canner and follow the instructions for what type of pressure canner that you are using. Process the correct processing time.
The processing time is the amount of time you need to boil or pressurize jars of food to ensure bacteria is killed and food can safely be stored. It is different for each item that you can and can be found in the recipe. Some processing times are basic, such as for pressure canning meats, the processing time is 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts. Processing times need to be adjusted for higher altitudes.
When the processing time is complete transfer the jars to a jars to a towel-lined area and let them sit undisturbed for 24 hours.
Get started and Enjoy Your Canning Journey!
There are so many benefits to canning, and once you get started it will become much easier and you will not want to stop! It is healthier, saves money and allows you to have an abundance of shelf stable food at your fingertips!
For my canning recipes and other favorite great recipes, plus posts about other homestead-type activities, such as gardening and raising chickens, go to my website at www.HawkPointHomestead.com. For updates, please follow my Facebook page at Hawk Point Hobby Homestead.
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