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Home Canning Basics

Have an abundance of produce at your house?  September is harvest season AND a time to get serious about home canning.

I’m certainly no expert.  My mom has indulged and taught me how to preserve peaches and applesauce.  Every year, I still require a quick lesson refresher course to get me going.

Here’s a round up of some home canning basics to get us all started-

Methods

A popular canning method is the Boiling or Hot Water Canning, where jars of fruits or tomatoes (high-acid foods) are submerged into boiling water.  Pressure Canning is used most often with vegetables or other low-acid foods like chicken or seafood. The retro method of Inversion Canning for jams or jellies is on the USDA’s naughty list. Here’s more info on why you should switch to Boiling Canning.

Equipment

Basically, you’ll need some jars, lids and rings.

Add a big pot for Boiling Canning or a Pressure Cooker, a rack to hold the bottles off the bottom, and some tongs to move the hot bottles.  Don’t forget the wide funnels and scoops to help get the food into the jars without making a mess.  Wondering which jar is best?  Guess what – The same company makes both Ball and Kerr jars (and a couple other brands as well) so pick your favorite word and move on.

  • Canning 101 from Real Simple gives you the list of supplies for either method
  • Ball sells a Canning Discovery Kit  for beginners.  You’ll probably need more than 3 jars though.

Preservable Foods

Take inventory of your garden and your family tastes.  Chances are, if your family doesn’t eat the food now when it’s fresh, they probably won’t eat it later.   Note to self: Review next year’s garden to include favorites.  You can bottle just about anything.  Here are a few of the many items you can preserve-

  • Apple butter, fruit salsa, grape juice, peaches or pie filling
  • Water (for emergency food storage)
  • Fresh rabbit, clams or oysters (yes, really!)
  • Corn, tomatoes, carrots or pumpkin

Recipes

Ann's Canned Peaches

Canning Peaches Tutorial from SimpleBites

Image from Good Life Eats

Restaurant Style Salsa from GoodLifeEats

Image from Adventuress Heart

24 Hour Pickles by Adventuress Heart for those who want pickles without all the work

Tips

Still wondering where to start?

  • Calculate the cost savings for canning using the Utah State University Extension Canning Calculator
  • Plan for your project.  Know how many jars your produce will yield by using the Colorado State Extension Yield Chart.
  • Find your elevation at the US Geological Survey.  Different altitudes mean different boiling points mean different processing times.
  • Ask a friend to help. Many hands make light work.
  • Form a neighborhood cooperative and buy the expensive equipment collectively. Schedule your processing days. Swap your canned produce.
  • Study the authority, The National Center for Home Food Preservation, with recipes and tips by the USDA.
  • Buy food in bulk and preserve to maximize cost savings.
  • Consider alternate preservation methods such as freezing or dehydrating.  These less labor-intensive methods can provide a useful short-term food storage option.
  • Check out www.HomeCanning.com for more recipes and tips from Ball
  • Don’t forget to label your jars with the year and contents.

Have any home canning success tips?  Lessons learned from a flop? A favorite recipe to share?

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