Welcome to the wonderful art of canning. If you are reading this you are at least considering giving it a try. As a successful canner, I would like to share what I have learned to make the process easier. It is my hope that these tips will save you time and money so that you are able to get started canning your food with confidence!
The Benefits of Canning:
- It Saves You Time. There is nothing nicer than coming home from a hard day at work, taking your children to activities or a vacation and having a nutritious meal ready and waiting on your shelf, all you have to do is open the jar, heat and eat.
- It’s Healthy. Meals, vegetables or what every you decide to can is healthier than a prepackaged product – no chemicals, additives, or too much sodium, only the ingredients you use according to your canning recipe.
- It’s Cost and Time Effective. Often, in 90 minutes, along with the preparation time, you can have 7-quart jars of prepared meals ready to go, it doesn’t get any better than that.
- Endless Possibilities. The menu is up to you, depending on what you and your family enjoys eating. The recipes are endless, main courses, vegetables, meat, fruit, deserts, condiments and more.
The 5 Essentials To Start Canning:
Like everything else, the set up is important and there are definitely items that you will need and preparation that must take place. Here’s the list:
1. Pressure Cooker/Canner
I highly recommend the All American Pressure Cooker/Canner…in fact, this is a picture of mine. In my estimation, this is a top of the line product with solid construction that performs with accuracy. For your own safety and the safety of your canned food, the pressure cooker is not something you want to go cheap on. It comes with easy step-by-step “how to” instructions that are safe and easy to follow.
2. Ball Blue Book of Preserving
In my research and experience, The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving is the Bible of canning. This book has been around for many years and has helped many novice and seasoned canners. The Ball Blue Book has a wonderful variety of recipes and is a great place to get started.
3. Mason Jars
I suggest purchasing Ball canning jars, as they are reasonably priced and of excellent quality. In fact, you can often find them at your local Walmart or hardware store. It is of great importance that the canner use jars that are of good quality so they do not to crack during the intense heat that is required during canning process.
The jars come in a variety of sizes, to get started you will want to purchase a couple dozen each of pint and quart size jars, these sizes are the ones that will be most useful to you. I also suggest getting regular and not wide mouth jars, to get started.
4. Lids, and Rims
The Ball brand lids and rims are dependable and make a good seal on your jars. This is an essential product usually sold anywhere they sell jars, and an important element in the canning process. Without a good seal, your food will become contaminated, not something you want – and all your work will be in vain.
5. Canning Kit
I used the Presto brand but I am sure there are others out there that could do the job. I liked Presto because the price was reasonable, it had quality equipment and it contained everything I needed to get started. Included in the kit was:
- Digital Timer- essential for precise timing of processing your food
- Canning Funnel- also necessary to place the food properly in the jars
- Combination Bubble Remover/Lid lifter – also an essential item
- Jar Lifter- for safely lifting hot jars out of the hot steaming canner
- Kitchen Tongs and jar wrench for convenience
Getting Your Ducks in a Row.
- Use ONLY Canning Recipes! Do not try and just use any recipe, as you will not know about the exact process timing that keeps your food safe to eat later.
- Get it Together Early. Have all the ingredients for your recipe washed and ready to go..before your start.
- Have your Jars Hot! Time the washing of your jars so that they are good and hot during the canning process, so that the lids seal properly. Tip: I leave them in the dishwasher until it is time to start.
- Get a Small Pan Ready! A small pan will be required to simmer the lids and keep them hot during the filling of your jars.
- Have Solid Oven Mitts. Good oven mitts are important for handling these hot items.
- Reread your Recipe. Be sure to reread the recipe you have chosen and the processing time so that you feel secure in what you are about to do.
- Have a Prep Area Cleared Off. Have a nice area to work on, a small table, cutting board, measuring spoons, cups and other utensils needed. A table and safe area to set your jars during the cooling off process is also needed.
Keep In Mind:
1. Safety First!
Safety has to always be of utmost importance in all aspects of the canning process. Follow equipment directions and recipes directions exactly, there is no room for error in food safety or your own personal safety. Doing everything correctly and as recommended is essential for both recipe and processing times – this cannot be stressed enough.
2. Don’t Multitask.
Set aside time when you have nothing else to do and there are no distractions or multitasking. I like to make this my alone time or enjoy it with an adult friend or spouse….definitely not the time to have children around. Depending on the amount of time, you can use this time to get caught up on some reading, as long as you are there monitoring your canner and keeping aware of the time.
3. Do Not Be Afraid!!
Do not let the fear of getting started keep you from enjoying this wonderful art of preserving healthy and convenient food for you and your family.
I spent a whole summer second-guessing myself and worrying when I first started canning. I can even remember being afraid of eating my own canned goods concerned that something would be wrong – but of course, all of my fears were unfounded, and everything was delicious. From that moment on, I was officially hooked on canning!
As long as you are following all of the directions – with your equipment, food processing time, and recipes – there is nothing to fear and everything to gain. Confidence grows as you practice your new skills. I have now preserved meats, sauces, soups, fruits, and vegetables from my garden. There is truly nothing better than opening a jar in the dead of winter to taste your own heritage tomato sauce on pasta, or creating a dessert with your own fresh canned peaches.
Good luck and enjoy!