Welcome to the Wonderful World of Home Canning! What you Need to Know
I purchased an All American Pressure Canner Cooker and all I can say is what a fantastic piece of kitchen equipment it is. It’s not my first pressure canner but it is certainly the best one I have ever owned.
So I thought that it might be a nice idea to give you some ideas so that you can see how easy it is to can produce at home and how it will save you money.
Canning is both a treasured American tradition and an excellent way to share your best homemade goodies with family and loved ones. It’s a popular method for preserving foods, particularly fruit and vegetables. It allows you to take advantage of the bountiful crops you experience in spring and summer from your home garden, and save them for the colder months when supply is considerably diminished.
- Just think about the delicious fruit and vegetable that you can have out of season.
- And all those tasty sauces and different varieties of jam just waiting to be opened.
- Home-canned vegetables are as good as store-bought canned veges, and it’s even better when you have grown the produce yourself or bought them fresh from a local farmer.
- Canned foods have a substantial advantage over frozen in that, after your initial outlay, they require no expensive equipment to keep them—just a shelf in a cool, dark, dry place.
If you are a first-time canner you might feel frustrated while you’re getting the hang of it, but as you gain experience, you’ll find yourself doing it with confidence and skill.
You will find few sights more pleasing than the rows of sauces, jams, vegetables, and other foodstuffs that you’ve produced!
Firstly – A Little History
- Early in the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the 19th century, the French government offered a large cash prize to anyone who could invent an affordable way to preserve large amounts of food.
- In 1809, Nicolas Appert rose to the challenge after noticing that food cooking inside a properly sealed jar didn’t spoil.
- As a professional confectioner and brewer, he devised a way to seal food inside glass jars with near-perfect consistency.
Home canning emerged as an industry with the Mason jar, patented in 1858. Ever since then it’s been an American folkway to home can pickles, preserves, and other delicious foodstuffs for stocking pantries and sharing garden produce with family, friends, and neighbors
Good planning is the secret to satisfying canning. Be prepared with all the utensils, ingredients, and information you’ll need before starting. Begin by allowing yourself more than enough time, so you don’t run the risk of cutting corners on processing times should any step go longer than expected.
Use the following equipment, making sure that everything is clean:
- Jars – Most processing times specify using pint or quart jars. Both are available with either a wide or regular mouth. Wide mouths are easier to fill, but cost slightly more than regular jars.
- Two-part jar lids—a screw band and a one-use lid (Screwbands can be stored in a dry place and used again next year. Don’t reuse the domed lids, however, as the rubber inside is only good for one sealing.)
- An inexpensive jar lifter for removing hot jars from a pressure canner
- Hot pads
- Canning funnel
- Cutting boards
- For boiling-water bath canning, a deep kettle with a lid and rack
- A teapot or heatproof jug for adding hot water as necessary
- If pressure canning, a pressure canner and rack
Follow the Basic Rules
There are tricks and tips you need to know about home canning which can save you a lot of time and effort and will save you from the risks of losing your valuable preserves through spoilage.
One of the major causes of concern in any food preservation technique is to ensure that the integrity of the food is maintained for as long as possible in the safest possible way.
Although you need to be careful and follow some basic safety rules, the actual process of home canning is quite straightforward. As you are going to be heat processing all food, it is important to make sure that the correct heating standards are maintained.
Here are Some Basic Steps:
- All food should be placed in jars that have airtight seals, preferably two-piece metal lids.
- Choose an appropriate canner such as the highly recommended All American Pressure Canner Cooker, to heat the jars to the temperature stipulated in the recipe.
- Choose the correct size jar appropriate to the food you are processing, and be careful to maintain space inside the jar appropriate to the expected expansion rate.
- Make sure that the heat is maintained for the period of time specified in the recipe. This will ensure that no bacteria or other microorganisms and enzymes will spoil your food.
- Allow the jars to cool slowly. This will allow the lids to form a strong vacuum seal.
The principle behind this process is that the contents will expand as the jar is heated. This causes pressure changes to take place inside the jars so that air is expelled from them. As the jars cool, the difference in outside and inside pressures causes the lid to clamp down tightly to form a vacuum seal.
Preparing Food and Jars for Canning
- Clean the food. If needed, cut it into uniform pieces.
- For raw-pack processing, set prepared food aside.
- For hot-pack processing, place food in a large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer 2 to 5 minutes.
- Sterilize clean jars by filling them with hot (not boiling) water and lowering them onto a rack in a water-filled pot.
- Make sure there’s at least one inch of water above the rims. Bring water to a boil and keep it there for ten minutes.
- Keep jars consistently hot throughout the process.
- Remove a jar, empty it, and fill it immediately with food.
- If using the raw-pack method, pack it tightly.
- If using the hot pack method, fill the warm jar loosely.
- Add very hot water, syrup, or juice, according to the recipe, until it covers the food. Allow proper headroom.
- Remove air bubbles by inserting a non-metallic utensil and firmly pressing the food.
- Carefully wipe the jar rim with a clean towel to allow for a good seal.
- Apply the lid and secure it with the screw-ring.
- Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 until all jars are filled.
- Reserve water used to sterilize the jars for the canning process.
Additional Tips for Successful Canning
- Add butter to jelly, jam, and preserves to prevent foam from forming during the cooking process. If you leave the butter out, skim off the foam before ladling the cooked food into jars.
- Measure all the sugar into a bowl before beginning the recipe. Many canning recipes call for a large volume of sugar to be added when a mixture is already boiling; measuring ahead simplifies this step and prevents mistakes.
- Use a ruler to measure volume. Some recipes call for a mixture to be reduced by a certain amount. To ascertain this easily, insert a clean, wood ruler into the pan before cooking and measure how far up the mixture comes.
- Then cook as directed until it has reduced by the percentage specified. For example, if uncooked mixture measures 4 inches in pan and recipe says to reduce by half, cook it down to 2 inches.
- Do not double the recipes. If you want to make more, cook successive batches.
Boiling Water Bath Canning
- A boiling water bath is the cheapest and easiest method of canning for preserving high-acid foods. This includes all fruits, all pickles, and those vegetables to which vinegar has been added, raising the acidity to a sufficient level.
- Lower your packed and prepared jars into simmering water with a jar lifter. The jars should stand on a rack placed at the bottom of the pot. Note that cold jars should be put into water that is warm but not yet hot; they will crack if exposed to a sudden change in temperature.
- Add enough water to cover the jars by 2 or 3 inches. Put on the pot lid, bring the water to a roiling boil, and then begin counting the processing time.
- When the recommended time is up, remove the pot from the heat and take out the jars with a lifter.
- Leave the jars to sit until they have cooled thoroughly, then test the seal. Do this by pressing hard on the center of each lid. If the lid does not move downward or give, your seal is complete. (Any unsealed goods can be refrigerated and eaten within a day or two.)
- Store the jars in a cool, dry, dark place for no more than a year.
Never taste even a bit of canned food that you suspect may be spoiled. Examine jars carefully to detect signs of spoilage, which may include:
- Mold on the outside of the jar
- Food leakage
- Mold inside the lid
- Darkly discolored food
- Food that appears shriveled, spongy, slimy, or cloudy
- Liquid that seems to bubble
- An off odor
- Contents that shoot out of the jar when opened
What to do if Food has Spoiled
If you think that any of your unopened food has spoiled, detoxify the food and the jars before disposing of them.
- Do this by placing the unopened jar in a pot of boiling water for 30 minutes.
- If the jar has been opened, empty the contents into a saucepan, thin them with water, and boil for 30 minutes. Boil the empty jar in water separately, then recycle—do not reuse!
Finally, remember to wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water immediately after handling any spoiled food or contaminated item.
We suggest starting your home canning adventure with some basic fruit preserves—they’re some of the easiest, least technical, and most popular canned goods. Your early success will inspire you to keep learning!
- 5 cups crushed ripe strawberries
- 4 cups sugar
- Place strawberries and sugar in a heavy saucepan and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until thickened, about 15 minutes.
- Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and seal.
- Makes 3 ½ cups.
Options: Add ¼ cup of lemon juice or your favorite liqueur, 2 teaspoons lemon or orange zest, or ¼ cup minced mint or tarragon.
- 2 lemons
- 3 cups water
- 3 pounds cooking apples (about 12 medium)
- 6 cups sugar
- Cut lemons in two and slice thinly, removing pits.
- Soak in water overnight.
- Cook over moderate heat until peel is tender, about ten minutes. Peel and core apples, then cut into thin slices.
- Combine apples, sugar, and lemons with their liquid. Bring to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat and cook until thick, about thirty minutes.
- Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and seal.
- Makes 4 16-ounce jars
- 4 pounds grapes
- 7 cups sugar
- 3 ounces of liquid pectin
- Sort, wash and stem ripe grapes.
- Crush them in a pot or kettle
- Add ½ cup of water, and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for about ten minutes.
- Turn into a damp jelly bag and drain well; do not squeeze.
- Hold the juice overnight in a cool place, then strain through 2 thicknesses of damp cheesecloth to remove the crystals that form.
- Measure four cups of juice into a large kettle, add the sugar and mix well.
- Bring quickly to a full boil that cannot be stirred down.
- Add the pouch of pectin, bring again to a full rolling boil and boil hard for one minute.
- Remove from heat, quickly skim off the foam, and pour the jelly into hot ½ pint jars, leaving ¼ inch of headroom. Cap with a screw band lid.
- Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath, then cool upright and naturally.
Orange Spice Marmalade
- 8 oranges
- 2 lemons
- Water as needed
- 9 cups sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- Cut lemons and oranges in half lengthwise, then into thin slices, removing pits as you go.
- Measure and add 1 ½ cups water for each cup of fruit.
- Soak overnight.
- In the morning, bring fruit, spices, sugar, and water to a boil and cook for 20 minutes.
- Ladle the marmalade into hot, sterilized jars and seal.
- Makes about 6 cups.
The All American Pressure Canner
It is vital to have a good quality canner such as the All American Pressure Canner, that will maintain temperatures and will heat the contents at a consistent temperature, whilst at the same time ensuring that the vacuum sealing method outlined above can take place as efficiently as possible.
High acid foods and low acid foods require different processes, however, and for these, you will need either a boiling water canner or a pressure canner respectively.
The bottom line is that you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and make sure that the equipment is clean and properly assembled before use.