It’s getting to be about that time of year again. The fruits and vegetables in the garden are growing faster than we can eat them, and we need to come up with ways to store our produce before it begins to spoil. One of the most popular methods of storing fruits and vegetables from the garden is canning.
If you are anything like me, the idea of canning can seem a bit daunting at first, but don’t worry. Canning is a rather simple and effective way to preserve our home grown produce.
The first step in the process is to decide what method of canning you will be using: boiling water canning or pressure canning.
Boiling water canning is a very good way to get started because it requires little to no special equipment beyond a large pot and the canning jars themselves. However, it can limit your choices as to what you are able to can. This method works best for foods that are higher in acidic content such as jams, jellies, and fruit. It also works well for tomatoes and can work with less acidic vegetables, such as squash or green beans, with the addition of citric acid, lemon juice, or vinegar.
If you are using the boiling water method, you will need something in the bottom of the pot to keep the jars from resting on the surface of the hot pot. A canning rack is the best choice for this because it also allows you to be able to easily lower and lift the cans in and out of the boiling water. If you do not have a canning rack, then you can place a layer of extra canning rings in the bottom of the pot and use a jar lifter – similar to large kitchen tongs – to pull them out of the water.
Pressure canning allows you to be able to can meats and most vegetables without the addition of extra acidic content. If you decide to do pressure canning, you will need to do some research and purchase a pressure canner that will work for you. Some of the older pressure canners have been known to have safety problems, so it is best to purchase a new one rather than use a hand-me-down.
No matter which method you decide to use, make sure you stick to the recipes and preparation instructions. Unlike many other food preparation methods, canning can be very unforgiving, and a slight change can significantly change the results and the length of time the canned goods will remain preserved.For example, if there is too much air or the cans are not sealed properly, the food could begin to ferment and cause the lids to pop open, allowing bacteria to grow.
Some items of equipment that will aid in the canning process, no matter what method you are using, are:
- A canning funnel
- Kitchen tongs
- Jar lifter
- Magnetic lid lifter
- A bubble removing tool
- Labels for noting the batch and date of canning
Good luck getting started, and happy canning!