Monday, July 2, 2012

Start Canning at Home

In step with the local food movement, home canning has experienced a popularity surge in America. As recent as 5 years ago, many Americans dismissed canning as a relic of the past, but today it is a thriving pastime and home canning enthusiasts can be found in urban, suburban and rural communities alike. Folks can for all sorts of reasons, including canning for profit, canning for food storage, canning to preserve a bountiful backyard harvest, canning to save money, and canning for pleasure. There are even canning communities who swap their recipes and wares, making canning both practical and social.

If you are interested in trying your hand at canning, chances are you already have a lot of the necessary equipment in your kitchen. Some of these tools will vary depending on what you are canning, but to help you get started, here is a quick list of the most popular home canning equipment you might need:

The Basics: Most Kitchens Have These Essentials

  • Large stock pot (MUST be deeper than the jars you plan to fill)
  • Tongs
  • Vegetable brush
  • A chopstick and/or spatula
  • Knife / knives
  • Kitchen funnel (there are also special, inexpensive canning funnels available that make things a bit easier)
  • Cutting board
  • Peeler
  • Large saucepan
  • Spoons
  • Ladle
  • Measuring cups
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Strainer
  • Jelly thermometer
  • Timer
  • Lots of kitchen towels or rags

Specialty Items: You Probably Don’t Have These on Hand

  • Jars with replacement rubber rings
  • Jar lifter (safely lifts jars from boiling water)
  • Reusable canning jar lids
  • Jar canner and rack
  • Water bath canner – these are good for high acidity canning such as jams, fruit chutney and tomatoes based recipes
  • Pressure canner – these are good for low acidity foods, such as pickles, corn and green beans

A good home canning student also arms themselves with a solid “how to” and canning recipe book. My Patriot Supply recommends The Art of Canning DVD from the Homestead Blessings series and The BIg Book of Preserving the Harvest by Carol W Costenbader.

A couple helpful tips to get you started:

  • Canned foods make great gifts so start canning today for an inexpensive holiday season!
  • Keep jars warm until you fill them to avoid cracking.
  • Keep the lid on your water bath while working up to a boil; the room with be so much more comfortable and the water won’t evaporate.
  • Remove air bubbles with a chopstick in the center, and a spatula or knife around the can’s edges.
  • After capping the jar, ensure the “dimple” on the lid is concave.
  • Take the rings off the jars after they have cooled to prevent rusting.
  • You can reuse jars and lids as long as they are in perfect condition; less than perfect jars may lead to spoiled food.
  • Avoid “antique” jars as they will be imperfect and will likely break or spoil the food.
  • Always keep extra lids on hand as they seem to be the first canning supplies to wear out.

While it may seem a bit overwhelming at first, home canning is an engaging activity that is both practical and fun. Whether you are looking to store food for emergencies or sell preserves at a local farmer’s market, home canning is a skill that every family can embrace.

31 comments:

  1. I have been canning all kinds of things for years, a skill learnt from my grandmother who used to bake everything from scratch and sent us kids out to pick blackberries, strawberries, mushrooms and anything else in season at the time. Once they are canned I keep them in a storage space under the stairs where it’s cool and dark, labels are attached with a list of the ingredients and the date it was made. Many get given as presents and they are always appreciated.

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