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Canning Basics

Just some notes on canning basics, since I'm starting to fill in canning recipes.

You can buy new jars as needed, you can buy jars at thrift stores or go through grandmas garage and collect her old ones. All you really need to know is; are there any cracks? Is the rim chipped or intact? I have jars that are probably 50 years old and they work fine. Just inspect them before each use and throw away cracked or chipped ones.

Jars should be washed, very clean. Some say you have to boil them but I don't. A good run through the dishwasher or some hot soapy water and a good rinse will be just fine. This is a good case of cleanliness is next to Godliness, or in this case health, however don't get paranoid just get clean. Soap and water and a little elbow grease covers a whole host of problems.

Jar rings can be used over and over as long as they are in good shape, lids have to be replaced every time you can something new in the jar. Hardware stores are actually one of the best places to find these things as well as other canning supplies.

Cold Packing refers to usually a large blue pot with a lid in which you can fit 7 quart jars. You cover the jars to at least an inch over the top of the jars with cool water and then bring the whole pot to a boil. Lower heat to a steady boil and continue to process as recipe calls for. But a general rule of thumb is at least 20 minutes.

Steam canning refers to a steam canner, easily available at most hardware stores. It is made out of aluminum and has 3 parts. 1 part is the bottom, it is smaller and should be filled with water up to the fill line. 2nd part is the tray part the jars will sit on, it will hold up to 7 quarts. 3rd part is the lid which will cover the jars. The best things about steam canning is that is uses less water, it's less clean-up, and it's faster because you don't have to heat up so much water for every batch. It works every bit as well as cold packing and the processing times are the same.

Then there is pressure cooking. This requires a pressure cooker, they come in all kinds of sizes. The current trend is to pressure cook everything, but it's really not needed. Meats absolutely must be processed in a pressure cooker but fruits and veggies do very well in cold packing or steam canning with few if any issues.

Most canners will come with really good instructions and some recipes. All recipes from grandmas and moms can be converted to current trends.

Some other handy things to know; jars are removed from a canner very hot, so use a handy tool available in the canning section of your hardware store to lift them out and then I have a large bath towel on the counter to place the jars on, it protects the counter from heat.

As jars cool you should hear a distinct pop as the lid seals. After jars have cooled completely test the seal by pressing firmly on the center of the lid. If there is no pop or movement the lid has sealed. If the lid pops or moves up and down you do not have a good seal, this leaves you with a couple choices. If you have 1 or 2 that don't seal you can just place them in the fridge to be used soon. There's nothing wrong with the food it just wont store on your shelf. OR you can place a fresh lid on the jar making sure the rim is very clean and process again. What you choose to do may depend on how much time you have or how many jars didn't seal. However you should also take into account what you have in the jars; will processing again over cook the food or make it mushy?

Also when the jars are cooling but still quite warm I use a grease pencil from the hardware store to write on the lid what is in the jar and the year it was canned. This is important in helping you to rotate your food and to identify things that may look very similiar. It's just a handy thing to do.