Intro to Canning and Food Preservation

22 Jul

Back in the days of my great grandparents, they canned because they had to. It was the easiest way to preserve their crops and be able to enjoy them well into the leaner months of winter. My gram will tell me stories of how an upset tummy would be cured by drinking some of the canned sauerkraut juice. Or how they would bottle root beer and they could hear the caps popping off some of the overfilled bottles in the middle of the night.

Today I can because it’s my choice. Sure, I can go to the grocery store and buy a jar of tomato sauce. But instead I choose to use a jar of my canned whole tomatoes from my garden harvest the previous summer. It’s simple and quick and the best sauce ever, seeds and all.

The first thing I ever ‘canned’ in a mason jar was White Zinfandel Jelly. It was easy and delicious. But all I did was make the jelly, put it in jelly jars, and put them in the fridge.

In winter of 2009 I decided to give water bath canning a try and made my first batch of strawberry jam. I was hooked. Since then I have canned tomatoes (whole and crushed), hot pepper rings, apple pie jam, applesauce, apple pie filling, zucchini pickles, pickled carrot sticks, pesto and pickled eggs.

Canning and food preservation is not hard, but it does require time and an investment in the beginning. When I canned tomatoes, I did them in 7 quart jar batches – because this is all that my canning pot could safely fit, and because they take up to 90 minutes in the water batch canner to be safely canned.

A great way to test out canning with minimal investment is to purchase a Ball Canning Discovery kit. It’s pricing varies – I’ve seen it for $10.49 – 14.00 – but it’s a very small investment and let’s you get a taste of canning without having to make a large purchase.

The following is a description from the Ball Fresh Preserving website:

image from fresh preserving store - click to take you direct to store.

Ball® Canning Discovery™ Kit

The Ball® Canning Discovery™ Kit provides an easy and affordable way to start canning in just three simple steps. This kit is designed to demystify the home canning process and make fresh preserving accessible, for even the most novice canner. Whether a person has limited kitchen space or looks to preserve a handful of fresh produce from the farmer’s market, the kit offers a beginner’s approach to small-batch canning.

They have recipes and tools so no one ever has to feel like they are lost.

Water bath canning is by far the cheapest and fastest way to can foods. Basically: you heat the food to be canned following the recipe provided in the book. Put hot food in the sterilized mason jars, seal, and add to water bath for allotted time. If you try the discovery kit and decide you are hooked like I was, I’d recommend purchasing this:

my canning bible! click photo to go to amazon to read more.

It gives you all the possible details you can think of. Low acid food, such as green beans, require pressure canning. This is something I have not yet tried. I have a large pressure canner, but I haven’t taken the plunge yet. For the most part I purchased that so that the husband could can deer meat. And I’m not gonna lie – i’m intimidated by the thing! I have a mental horror show of the pressure canner exploding and there being beans, glass, and molten hot steam all over my kitchen. Eek. So for now I stick to the water bath! And green beans can easily be blanched and frozen for later consumption. I will be doing the blanch/freeze method with the corn we are growing in our garden this year as well. A very simple process to preserve your summer garden (or farmers market) goodness well into the winter months.

The other items you will need for canning that are the basics:

canning pot – they come in various sizes, I have one that can hold 7 quart sized jars at a time for maximum canning potential.

Canning jars – get a variety of sizes. Wide mouth jars are good for freezing items directly in. The box will say “freezer safe” on it so make sure if you want to freeze you only purchase freezer safe jars. I find the wide mouth jars are also easier to fill, especially if you are doing pickle spears or eggs. I also save the large pickle jars. These are great for making a big batch of anything you are pickling using the refrigerator method.

Funnel, jar lifter, lid lifter – I purchased a kit that had all of these things for around $10 so it was cheaper than purchasing everything separately

Canning book – like the one posted above. They are great to get a variety of canning safe recipes. Always make sure to follow the directions!

If you have canning questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll help you as much as I can. This is something I truly love and I’m adding more things to my canning/freezing/food preservation list!

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with ball canning and the views expressed here are my own. The above is my opinion of a hobby and craft that I hold near and dear to my heart.


2 Responses to “Intro to Canning and Food Preservation”

  1. Nora July 22, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    Sundays are buttermilk biscuit day here. After tasting “Uncle Greg’s Jam” on these tender babies, there’s no going back. It’s like going back to Spam after an 18-oz bone-in Delmonico!

  2. Jenny August 13, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

    Thanks for the Canning recommendations. Off to amazon to look for the discovery kit. I have tomatoes and want to make salsa.

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