When it comes to long-term food storage, canning is at the top of the list. Canning preserves flavor and color of fresh food. Depending on what is canned and how it is processed to can, food will remain fresh from 18 months to years. However, knowing where to start can be difficult. That’s why I bring to you canning for beginners!
Canning For Beginners
From preserving a bountiful garden harvest to making the most of the sales to stock your pantry for winter, canning a is a great way to have better quality food than you would find at the local supermarket.
Canning is the process of heating food hot enough to kill off microorganisms that cause food to rot or mold. This allows the food to remain safe to eat for years. As the jar is heated, the air inside is released, creating a vacuum that seals the jars and locks out new bacteria.
To help preserve the food, you use acid, salt, or sugar in a variety of combinations to create an environment in which natural rotting is slowed down.
Choosing what to can
The question isn’t necessarily what can you, uh, can, but what do you want to can? For beginners, fruit jams and jellies, pickles, and other vegetables are great to start with. When picking produce to can, you want to choose the best quality so you have a fresh and great tasting final product.
All produce should be at its peak of freshness, crisp and colorful. Learn how to pick the best vegetables and print your own copy of the vegetable buying guide. Fruits should always be plump and juicy.
The best way to get started canning is to make sure you have the right equipment. I talk in detail about what products I love to use and recommend for canning in an older post I wrote. Let’s take a moment and talk briefly about some of the items I suggest.
You can dive in with an inexpensive all-in-one water bath canning kit. Water bath canning has limitations, but you have the advantage of its easy learning curve making it perfect for beginners. Water bath canning kits come with a large enough pot to place jars for sterilizing and sealing as well as all of the basic tools you need to can easily and safely.
These tools usually include funnels, can lifters, lid grabbers, and tongs. If you don’t have a basket for the jars to keep them from touching the bottom you can use a tea towel. While water bath canning is the easiest for beginners, some families will find it prudent to skip to a pressure canner to allow them to can what they need to from corn to soup stock.
If you are buying a toolkit, look for one with:
- A wide mouth canning funnel
- jar lifter
- jar wrench
- bubble popper/air pocket measuring tool
- magnetic lid lifter
- and a good pair of tongs
Prepworks by Progressive Canning Funnel for Regular and Wide Mouth JarsBall Secure-Grip Jar Lifter (by Jarden Home Brands)StarPack Basics Range Silicone Kitchen Tongs 2 Pack (9-Inch & 12-Inch) in FDA Grade, Bonus 101 Cooking Tips (Gray Black)
Sterilizing your canning jars
Sterilizing jars is vital to killing off microorganisms that will spoil your food. ALWAYS sterilize jars before use. Boiling the jars and leaving them hot when you pour hot food into the jars helps keep them from bursting as well. If you will be processing many jars at once, bring a large stock post separate from your canning pot to a boil to sterilize jars even while some are processing. You can not skip the sterilizing step.
What to do if the jars do not seal?
The sound of jars sealing on the counter with a loud ping is so satisfying. Sadly sometimes jars do not seal. As a beginner, you will see this often while you are learning. Errors happen but all is not lost. When a jar fails to seal, you have two options. You can reprocess in your canner again within the first 24 hours, or you can opt to put the jar in the refrigerator and use over the next few days.
How to store home canned foods
One rookie mistake many beginners make is not properly storing jars. Many assume you must leave the rings on. This is a bad idea because the rings keep the lid in place. Should the seal on the lid break, the lid could reseal after bacteria have had a chance to get into the jar allowing it to grow and make your food unsafe to eat.
Another big storage mistake is stacking the jars. Stacking jars create the same effect as leaving the rings on. You want the lids to be capable of sliding out-of-place so they can not reseal again without you knowing the seal had broken. Never store filled canning jars on their side. This allows liquid to touch the canning lid and create rust that will contaminate your food. If a jar is stored on its side and the seal breaks, you can find yourself in a sticky situation as the lid slips off and the contents spill out over your storage area.
How to get the best results while canning
Canning recipes can be frustrating because sometimes they don’t work out the same for you as they did for the person that made them first. It is generally better to boil or leave in the pressure canner longer than to pull it early and risk bacteria.
To help prevent bursting, allow the jars cool in the pot a bit before removing and never place on a cold surface right after pulling from the canner or the jars could break. Remove trapped air inside with a bubble popper or by gently shaking the jar to move air bubbles to the top.
I will be sharing more canning tips to get everyone ready for canning season! So don’t miss out, click here to subscribe to the website.