Know How To Start Canning

I can vividly remember standing in my kitchen, staring at the overwhelming mound of produce I had just harvested from my garden. I had worked so hard to grow it that I was bound and determined not to let any go to waste. I desperately wanted to try my hand at canning. I began reading and my head started to spin. Sanitizing? Temperatures? Head space? Food spoilage? Shattering jars ? I hadn’t the faintest clue what any of it meant, but I decided to at least give it a try. What I quickly realized was that it was far less complicated then it actually was. All to say, if you are like I was and feel overwhelmed with trying to can, don’t be. You will find your groove and you’ll be a pro in no time! Most warnings are included in anything you will read as a precaution. As long as you follow your recipe, you should have no issues! 

Note: There are two types of canning methods; pressure canning and the water bath method that we will be talking about . Acidic foods like jams, jellies, tomatoes, pickles and relishes can be safely canned by the water bath method which is essentially processing your canned foods in boiling water for a specific amount of time. Pressure canning heats your jars under steam pressure, which allows it to reach much higher temperatures. Foods with lower acidity like vegetables and meat requires a pressure canner. Follow what your recipe calls for. 

Tip: Choose one recipe to tackle at a time. Having too many things going on at once will become overwhelming until you get the hang of it. Great beginner recipes that I would recommend are things like jams and jellies, diced tomatoes and relishes! Choose recipes that are reputable and proven to have safe canning practices. 

Tools you will need with any recipe: 
  • Glass preserving jars with bands and new lids. Ensure there’s no cracks or chips on the rims to prevent a proper seal. 
  • Large saucepot with a lid and rack that fits inside for waterbath canning. 
  • Headspace tool, wide mouth canning funnel, and jar lifter (usually sold as a kit) 
  • Common kitchen tools for preparing your recipe 
  • Your produce from your own garden, farmers market or local farms are a great way to ensure freshness. Wash your produce. 
Tip: Choose a recipe and stick to it, even if recipes really aren’t your thing, canning is not the time to experiment. Recipes are developed to achieve specific PH levels for specific foods of various acidity to prevent spoilage and botulism.. So as not to overwhelm you or deter you from canning, I will spare you the scientific jargon. Just stick to the recipe exactly and you should have no issues! 

How to can using the water bath method. 
1. Wash and Sanitize your jars and lids. When I am in full blown canning season what I like to do, is wash a big batch of jars and lids in hot soapy water. I’ll let them air dry then place them into the oven on a clean cookie sheet @200F for at least 20 mins to sanitize. The lids go into a hot pot to boil on the oven for 10 minutes so that the rubber seals will correctly adhere to to the jar. If you have a dishwasher, you can utilize the sanitize setting or you can also boil them as well. I will leave my jars in the oven until I am about to fill them so they remain warm . Always remember that hot liquids go into hot jars to prevent shattering. 

2. Prep your canner. For a water bath, set the rack on the bottom of the pot. Fill it about halfway with water and keep it at a simmer, covered, until you place the jars inside.

3. Prepare the food to be canned according to the recipe. 

4. Fill jars with prepared food. Use oven mitts or jar lifter to handle hot jars. Use the funnel to pour food (or boiling liquid) into jars to prevent splashing, leaving the amount of headspace called for in the recipe. Use a long, skinny tool, such as a wooden skewer, or a rubber spatula to remove any air bubbles by sliding the tool between the jar and the food. Wipe the rims of the jars clean with a clean damp cloth. Centre the lid on the jar, then screw the band on over the lid until it is finger-tight 

5. Processing. Make sure the water will fully cover the top of the jars by about 1 inch. Let the water come to a roiling boil and lower each jar into the rack. Cover the pot and set your timer according to your recipe. 

6. Final Steps. Once your timer goes off, carefully pick up each jar and remove them from the water bath. Set them aside where they will be undisturbed for at least an hour. As the jars cool, the lids will suck inwards and you may hear a satisfying “pop” sound. If a jar doesn’t seal, just put it in the fridge and eat within a couple weeks. Or you can use a different lid and try processing in the water bath again . 

7. Storage. Store your jars in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Typically your jars will have a shelf life of a year but if anything looks or smells off, discard.