Stop Throwing Away So Much Food - Beginners Guide to Canning Food
Phew! Gardening is hard work, but the reward of your hard-working green thumb can be gratifying!
Learning how to preserve your own food at home is empowering and the perfect way to prevent food waste. These preserving tips are great for those fruits and veggies you may have forgotten about in the back of the fridge! Let's face it, we all work hard, lets pat ourselves on the back for taking a step into the gardening experience!
These expert tips will help you create shelf-stable food to stock your pantry with these two preserving methods. Learn which one you should be using for different kinds of foods.
These helpful and valuable tips come from Angi Schneider, author and creator of the blog SchneiderPeeps where she shares tips on gardening, real food cooking, preserving food, herbalism, and more.
Canning is a great skill to have and is probably the most versatile of all the preservations methods. Canning allows you to take that summer glut of cucumbers and green beans and turn them into a variety of pickles and relishes! Got more of a sweet tooth? You can use the fruit that has been foraged, harvested from your own garden, or purchased at the market and create tasty jams, jellies, and butters.
You can even fill your pantry with shelf-stable jars of plain meat, hearty soups, and meals in jars. The possibilities of canning are endless!
There are two main types of canning methods: Hot water bath canning and pressure canning.
Hot Water Bath Canning
Hot water bath canning is a method of preserving highly acidic fruits and vegetables. This is the method for making jams, jellies and sauces.
Water bath canning is when filled jars are put into a large pot of water and the water completely covers the jars by at least one inch. The water is then brought to a boil and the jars are boiled for the recommended processing time. The internal temperature of the jars will be 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the boiling point of water.
C. Botulinum spores cannot survive in high acid environments; therefore, water bath processing is used for high acid foods.
High acid foods are defined as those that are 4.6 and below on the pH scale. This includes:
● Most fruits (apples, pears, peaches, berries, citrus, etc.) ● Pickled vegetables ● Most BBQ sauces and salsas
There are some fruits that are on the 4.6 line and those need to have additional acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice added to them to ensure they are safe for water bath canning. Those fruits are: ● Dates ● Melons ● Persimmons ● Papaya ● Pineapple ● Tomatoes
Click here for a Hot Water Bath Kit. You'll get everything you need to make your first batch of jam, like strawberry or apple jelly!
Pressure canning is another canning method that is not as safe as the hot water bath method. It is highly recommended to learn how to pressure can first before diving in.
Pressure canning is done in a large specialty pot that can be pressurized. Instead of filling the canner full of water like a water bath canner, a pressure canner has just a few inches of water in it. The lid for the pot locks in place and creates a seal. When the water is heated, the steam builds up pressure, and the internal temperature rises above the boiling point of water. This is important because C. botulinum spores can only be killed when heated to 240 degrees F, which is what a pressure canner is designed to do.
C. botulinum thrives in a low-acid, moist environment - the exact environment created when we can low-acid foods. This is why it’s so important to use a pressure canner for low-acid foods and follow current guidelines. When you do, you can confidently can low-acid foods at home, which include:
● Vegetables (corn, carrots, green beans, etc.) ● Legumes (dried beans, lentils, peanuts) ● Meat (beef, lamb, pork) ● Poultry (chicken, turkey) ● Seafood (fish, oysters, clams, shrimp) ● Wild Game (venison, elk, hog, duck, etc.)
Preparing to Can
1. Always start with an approved recipe
and guidelines for whatever food you are going to can. There are guidelines for modifying approved recipes that you can use to experiment with flavors, but it’s important to always start with understanding the guidelines for the preserved food.
2. Prepare tools
Gather your canning tools and recipe ingredients. Wash the canner and rack in hot, soapy water. Add water to the canner and put the canner on the stove over medium heat. Fill a water bath canner 2/3 with water and use 3 quarts of water in a pressure canner. The water does not need to boil, just under boiling is ideal.
3.Clean tools and jars are extremely important for canning.
Wash the jars and lids in hot, soapy water. After washing, the jars need to stay hot to avoid thermal shock. A good place to put them while you work on the recipe is in the canner that’s being heated on the stove. The lids do not need to be kept hot, so set them aside until they’re needed.
4. Make your recipe
Follow the recipe to make the jar contents. When the recipe is complete, remove the jars from the canner and place them on a towel on the counter near the stove.
5. Fill jars
Carefully ladle the contents into the jars and leave the recommended amount of headspace. Use a bubble removal tool to remove any bubbles and recheck the headspace.
6. Wipe and add lids
Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp cloth. Add the lids and bands to the jars. The bands should be put on finger tight - like you would put a lid on a mayonnaise jar.
Then do the following:
For Hot Water Bath Canning:
Using canning tongs, lower each jar into the water bath canner. Once all the jars are in the canner, the water should cover them by at least 1 inch. If it doesn’t, add more water to the canner.
Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, set a time for the correct processing time. When the timer goes off, turn the heat off from under the canner, and let the contents rest for 5 minutes.
For Pressure Canning:
These are general pressure canning instructions, be sure to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions that came with your canner for specifics for that canner. Using canning tongs, lower each jar into the pressure canner. Lock the lid in place and turn the heat up to high.
Let the canner vent for 10 minutes. Then, place the proper weight according to the recipe and adjusted for altitude on the canner.
Set a timer for the processing times according to the recipe. When the processing time is complete, turn the heat off and let the canner depressurize naturally. Depending on the canner, this can take an hour or longer.
Using the tongs, remove the jars from the canner and set them on a towel on the counter where they will not be disturbed. There is no need to cover them with a towel, clean them, tighten the bands, turn them upside down, or touch them in any way for the next 12-24 hours.
Lastly, check seals, label and store your delicious achievements in the pantry!