So you want to start canning, and you’re not sure where to begin. I have a few simple suggestions to get you on the road to canning like a pro! Canning is one of those timeless vintage skills that many, in not most of us, have lost. Most of us probably grew up with a can opener and metal cans from the store. But if you were lucky you learned the artful skill of food canning from home.
If you have a garden you know the lovely abundance of harvesting. But sometimes we can’t even eat all that our garden can produce – that’s a blessing when you know how to can! Canning is a terrific way to save some of your harvest for later that year…or even longer. Cans of your home grown and homemade items are great gifts too. My family and friends LOVED getting fresh jalapeno jelly straight from my garden.
Start Canning: How does it work?
If you’re a real newbie, like I was, you might be wondering what the heck canning is exactly. Canning is really just science – hear is my Alton Brown impression…. Canning is a tool to preserve food that suspends time inside a little jar. Through proper canning food does not come in contact with destructive enzymes, oxygen and it prevents microorganisms from growing.
But canning safely requires the right equipment and knowledge.
Start Canning: The Tools of the Trade
There are 2 safe canning methods used today – water bath canning and pressure canning. Which you’ll use will depend on the type of food you are canning; but we’ll go more into that in sec.
- Water Bath Canner with Rack – start with 1 but you may consider having a couple if you want to do huge batches.
- Pressure Canner – get the best one you can afford, you’ll be glad you did!
I would recommend starting with water bath canning if you’ve never canned anything. It is just easier and success will make you feel better about canning more in the future.
- Jars – I use Ball and Kerr and you’ll need different sizes based on the foods you’re canning. As long as the rims are free from nicks and cracks you can reuse the jars over and over again. You can purchase wide and mouth and I do mostly wide mouth jars because I can get my hand in there to clean; but that is just my preference.
- Lids – You will need NEW lids EVERY TIME you can. Again, do not attempt to use old lids. You can get little boxes of lids on their own, like these. Just make sure to get the right size for your jars.
- Accessories – Canning Kit with all your tools is a real asset to make your experience easier. A jar lifter, is a must!
Education and Recipes
Books – There is only one book you’re really going to need and that is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Not only does this after more recipes in it than you can imagine, it is a guide and a learning tool as well. Seriously, if you have this book you won’t really need another one.
DVDs – I can recommend both of these dvds to help you with your canning education. I love that I can pause, rewind and review things over and over. I learn much faster through visual learning verses reading instructions. If you’re like that you’ll love these tutorials.
Start Canning: Water Bath or Pressure Canning
Water bath canning is going to be your canning method for high acid foods where pressure canning will be used for low acid foods. The Ball book makes this simple by dividing the recipes between the two methods – you don’t have to try figuring it out yourself.
In water bath canning the presence of acid prevents the growth of toxic bacteria. In pressure canning it is the high temps that will kill toxic bacteria.
I cannot stress enough the importance of using the method that is appropriate for your foods!
Start Canning: WARNING
I would be doing you a great disservice if I didn’t talk about botulism. Canning done right is a great way to make lovely homemade gifts, preserve the harvest and continue a vintage skill that could die away. But done wrong and you literally could kill someone. Botulism is caused by a little germ that get can cause serious illness and even death. That is why safe canning practices are so important.
I recommend reading the CDC’s article on Home Canning and Botulism for more information. But please don’t let fear keep you from canning.
Canning is one of my favorite homesteading skills. I love to look at my rack of lovingly grown and canned veggies, jellies, beans, etc. I know you’re going to love it too!