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Canning Basics


(adapted from All American Cookers)

Why is Canning Worthwhile?

Although canning is a great way to preserve food, to many folks it has a much greater significance than just food preservation. For some of us canning is a family affair: it is a tradition that is shared and passed down from generation to generation. It is a unique opportunity to spend time and bond with family, share family recipes (and stories), laugh, learn, and play. So, while it is true that canning will offer you an opportunity to preserve your food, canning also offers you the opportunity to create memories that you will cherish for many years to come.  

In addition, canning is an excellent way to save money by buying food in bulk and storing it for later use. When you purchase your produce during peak season, you can get the best pricing while also getting the best produce available. (Remember produce prices are at their lowest during peak seaon, when produce is plentiful.) Canning will save you 50% of the cost of buying commercially prepared food. Once you have properly canned your produce, you can enjoy it year round. Another added benefit of canning is that is puts you in charge of your health. You control exactly what goes into your recipes. With canned food, there are not artificial preservatives unless you decide to add them. You control the amount of sodium (salt), as well as every other ingredient that goes into your food. So go ahead and get the most out of your canning experience. Canology's commitment to you, our valued customer, is to provide the products, information, and value that will assist you in that regard. 


Getting Started With Canning

Regardless of what food items you intend to can, you are going to need the right canning equipment and good recipes. Before using any canning recipe check to make sure the recipe is based on the 2009 canning recipe guidelines. These newly revised guidelines ensure that your canned foods are safe.  When it comes to canning equipment, keep a few points in mind. One, canning equipment is just like all other types of equipment in that the equipment's job is to make your task easier. So you want to use only high quality canning equipment. If you select the right equipment, most of it will last your entire life and you will end up passing it along to your children and grandchildren. But be sure to consult with the directions that came with your specific canner before starting the canning process. 

The first piece of equpment you will need is a canner.  Depending on the types of foods you intend to can, you will need either a water bath canner (less expensive) or a pressure canner. If you intend to can only high acid foods such as jams, jellies, pickles, and applesauce, you can get by with a water bath canner. Our advice, though, is to always buy a pressure canner, if you can afford the extra expense. A pressure canner will not only allow you to can low acid foods such as meats and vegetables, it will also allow you to pressure cook your foods every day. Pressure cooking will allow your foods to cook up to 70% faster than ordinary stove top cooking. But if you decide to purchase a water bath canner, we recommend Canology's Economy Canning Kit, which will get you off to a great start.  With the Economy Kit, we've put together everything you need to start canning immediately.  The Economy Kit includes the Ball Water Bath Canner and a 7 piece canning tool set - all at one specially discouted price.     

On the other hand, if you intend to can low-acid foods (meats, seafood, poultry, dairy, and all vegetables except tomatoes) you will absolutely require a pressure canner.  Pressure canners create the high canning temperatures required to kill microorganisms that exist in low acid foods.  There is one consideration you should be mindful of when selecting a pressure canner: the type of stove or heating source you will be using.  Certain pressure canners because of their design including size, weight, and the shape of their bottom) are not recommended for glass top stoves.  For instance, the manufacturer advises not to use the All American Pressure Canners for glass top stoves.  Presto pressure canners, though, can be used with glass top stoves.  

If you are buying a pressure canner (our recommendation for most folks), then we suggest you buy the All American Pressure Canner, the absolute best canner available.  Canology's All American Canning Kit includes the All American 925 Pressure Canner, a 7 piece canning utensil set, and a jar opener. If you want to compromise on cost without sacrificing on having a pressure canner, we recommend the Canology Starter Canning Kit, which features the 23 quart Presto Pressure Canner and a 7 piece caning utensil set. 


Foods are classified as either high acid or low acid foods, each of which requires a different canning method. Acid foods, which include most fruits, tomatoes acified with bottled lemon juice or citric acid, pickles, relishes, chutneys, jams, jellies and preserves, may be safely processed in a hot water bath. On the other hand, low acid foods, such as meats, poultry, seafood, milk and vegetables, must be processed in a pressure canner. To be clear about food acidity - food acidity is measured by the food's "pH." The lower the pH, the more acidic the food. Low acid foods, those having a pH higher than 4.6, are not acidic enough to block the growth of bacteria. For your own safety, do not experiment and try to can low acid foods in a bath canner or cook food for less than the recommended time or temperature.

Home canning must be done with care to protect the quality and safety of the food. Low acid foods must always be processed under pressure to prevent spoilage or food poisoning. The bacteria which cause botulism, a severe and potentionally fatal form of food poisoning, are not killed by using a hot water bath canning process. Low-acid foods must be processed under pressure at a temperature between 240 to 250 degress Farenheit (115.5 degrees Celsius) for the full recommened period of time. 

  

Water Bath Canning

Below are the steps required for water bath canning, which is used only for high acid foods:

1. Select the appropriate canning supplies. Be very selective about the canning supplies and equipment you use. The right canning supplies will serve you well for many years to come. Inferior canning supplies will only serve up an immediate pain in the neck.

 

2. Carefully select the foods you intend to can. Above we advised to be careful about your canning supply selection. That advice goes double for chosing the foods you want to can. Just as you would not store worthless property in a safe, there is no point in canning inferior food. You only want to can the best of the best fruits and vegetables: fresh, firm produce that is completely free of deformities: no cracks, growths or spots.

 

3. Prepare Jars and Lids. Visually examine canning jars for deformities.

Discard any jars with nicks, cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges. Canning lids should be free of dents. Make sure bands fit properly. jars and caps in hot, soapy water, then thoroughly rinse. Heat jars in hot water (180 degress Farenheit or 82 degrees Celsius) but do NOT boil. Jars and lids should remain in the simmering water until you are ready to use them.

4. Place your tomatoes into the stockpot. You may use a wire basket like the one shown here. The tomatoes should blanch for approximately 30 to 60 seconds. Remove the tomatoes when their skins show signs of cracking and immediately dip them into cold water.

5. Peel the produce as appropriate. For convenience you may use a skin peeler like the one shown here.

 

Trim away any green areas and cut out core. Cut your tomatoes to a desired size.

6. Remove canning jar from hot water with a jar lifter; set jar on towel. Add 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each pint jar, 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice to each quart jar.

7. Place produce into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Ladle boiling water or cooking liquid over the produce, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt per pint jar or 1 teaspoon salt per quart jar, if desired.

8. Relase air bubbles. Slide a nonmetallic spatula between tomatoes and jar, press back gently on tomatoes to release trapped’ air bubbles. Repeat procedure 2 to 3 times around inside of jar.

9. Clean up. Wipe rim and threads of jar with a dean, damp cloth. Remove lid from hot water using a lid wand. Place lid on jar, centering sealing compound on rim. Screw band down evenly and firmly, just until resistance is met-fingertip tight.

10. Start canning process. As each jar is filled, set it onto the elevated rack in the boiling-water canner. Water in canner should be kept at a simmer (180°F or 82°C). After all jars are filled and placed onto the rack, lower rack into canner. Water must cover the two-piece caps on the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary. Put lid on canner and bring to a boil. Start counting processing time after water comes to a rolling boil. Process pints 40 minutes, quarts 45 minutes, at a gentle but steady boil for altitudes at or below 1,000 feet above sea level. For higher altitude areas, consult your local extension office.

11. When processing time is complete, turn off heat and remove canner lid.

Let canner cool minutes before removing jars. Remove jars from canner and set them upright, 1 to 2 inches apart, on a dry towel to cool. Do not retighten bands. Let jars cool 12 to 24 hours.

12. Confirm proper seal.

After the jars have cooled, confirm the lids have properly sealed by pressing on the center of each lid. If the center does not bulge, remove the band and try to life the lid with your fingertips. If the lid does not bulge and you cannot lift it, it is sealed properly. Congratulations!

Pressure Canning

Below are the steps for pressure canning, which is used for low acid foods:

1. Clean and Inspect Canner. After you have cleaned your canner, carefully inspect the dial gauge for accuracy. The pointer should reflect zero pressure. If not, you should have the gauge inspected by your local county extension office. If you have any other reason to believe the gauge is inaccurate (such as the gague was dropped), take it to the extension office for inspection. Be sure to keep the gauge away from water and other liquids.

 

 

2. Carefully select the foods you intend to can. Above we advised to be careful about your canning supply selection. That advice goes double for chosing the foods you want to can. Just as you would not store worthless property in a safe, there is no point in canning inferior food. You only want to can the best of the best fruits and vegetables: fresh, firm produce that is completely free of deformities – no cracks, growths, or spots.

 

3. Prepare Jars and Lids. Visually examine canning jars for deformities.

Discard any jars with nicks, cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges. Canning lids should be free of dents. Make sure bands fit properly. jars and caps in hot, soapy water, then thoroughly rinse. Heat jars in hot water (180 degress Farenheit or 82 degrees Celsius) but do NOT boil. Jars and lids should remain in the simmering water until you are ready to use them.

4. Prepare the Canner. Center the canner on a heat source, such as a stove or propane burner. Do not start the heat source just yet. Add water to canner. Follow the instructions given in your canner's owner's manual regarding water quantity. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the water to prevent the jars from water staining. Insert the canning rack that came with your canner. (Insertion of the canning rack is required - not optional.) Now that the water and rack have been added to the canner, turn on the heat source to a low setting so that the water will warm - not boil.

 

5. Prepare Food. Carefully clean your food and prepare as required by recipe. Fill the hot canning jars with food and liquid. It is very important to leave adequate headspace in each jar. Vegetables require one full inch of headspace because they will expand during the canning process. Fruits require 1/2 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles using a nonmetallic spatula, wipe sealing edge clean with a moist cloth, and adjust the metal screw bands as stated in the manufacturer's directions.

6. Inspect Vent Pipe. Make sure the vent pipe is open and unobstructed before placing the lid on the canner. If there is an obstruction, use a small brush or pipe cleaner to clear. Place the lid on the canner in accordance with manufactuere instructions.

7. Vent the Canner. Turn up the heat source to a higher setting so that air steam will escape from the canner's vent. Reduce heat a bit and allow steam to escape for apporximately 10 minutes. (Consult manufaturer's instructions regarding more precise heating instructions for your specific canner.)

8. Place the pressure regulator on the vent pipe. Turn up heat level to higher setting and allow canner to heat until the pressure regulator reaches the desired pressure level.

9. The canning process starts when the pressure gauge reaches the desired pressure level. From a food safety standpoint, it is imperative that you maintain the desired pressure level during the entire canning process. You may have to adjust the heat level to maintain pressure level. Monitor your weighted gauge during the process and make sure that it registers the correct pressure levels. 




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