Preserving and Canning at Home (Bottling)
Canning - You Can Do It!
The art of canning is appealing to more and more people these days, and for good reason. It's a way of saving money in tough times, it's a method of making use of excess produce that might otherwise go to waste, and it's a means of controlling and knowing all of the ingredients that are going to end up in those canning jars. Those are great goals, but how do you start? If you have never canned before, what is needed?
If you are reading this, that means you have already taken the first step. You are doing a little research. Not only do you need to know what tools may be required, you will also want to know how to use them. Store-It Foods provides a number of "How To" guides of that sort, and there are plenty more available on-line. We would also recommend the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.
Many refer to this as the "Bible of Canning". It is chock full of lists, guides, suggested procedures and over 450 recipes for preserving homegrown fruits and vegetables. Not only would it be useful for research, but it would be of continuing value once you have actually started to can.
Research is also going to assist you in deciding whether or not you want to start by "dabbling" in canning or by going into it whole-heartedly. If, for instance, you want to begin with a little tentative experimenting to see how you like it, you will probably want to minimize costs by sticking to the basics. A water bath or steam canner, for example is your basic canner.
You can still get good quality in a water bath or steam canner, but you are a little more limited in usage. Such canners are good for high acid foods, which generally equates to foods that are high in Vitamin C, and these include most fruits as well as a few vegetables (tomatoes being a prime example).
The other option would be a pressure canner, of which there are plenty of choices. These are good for both high acid and low acid foods, which means you could can meat, all sorts of vegetables and fruits a-plenty. This is because they can develop the necessary higher temperatures that would be required. Besides being more versatile, they are also more efficient, and, unfortunately, more expensive. Here we are showing the price of one of the smaller All-American models, but all would be more expensive than the simpler, water or steam bath canners. That is why we would recommend them only to someone who has decided to be more of a dedicated canning enthusiast.
At this point you are probably ready to start looking at tools. The right utensils can simplify the process, and make canning both easier and safer.
Don't be surprised if you find you already have many of the items that canning experts deem to be necessary. These would inlude knives and choppers, a cutting board, a colander or two, clean towels, spoons, ladles, measuring cups, hot pads, peelers, and perhaps a set of vegetable brushes.
Some of the more specialized tools (and these you probably would not have) include the following:
- Note: Don't purchase a jar rack until you have checked your canner. Most come with rack included. The exception to this would be if the new canning rack was known to have some more desirable features.
There are, of course, other items that can prove of great use to the person involved with home canning. A kitchen timer is but one example. You'll likely find that the canning recipes which you will be using, because the time varies depending upon what vegetable you are canning, will include insrtuctions pertaining to canning times. A handy little timer could be quite useful in such circumstances.
From time to time you may also be called upon to measure fruit, sugar, and other ingredients. Consequently, besides the usual measuring cups and spoons, a kitchen scale might turn out to be one of those optional canning utensils that is worth considering. In this category you might also place such specialized equipment as apple corers, cherry stoners, special peelers and slicers, sauce makers and steam juicers. All could have a role to play in the canning process. The list could really be quite extensive.
Rather than waste resources, it is good to keep it in mind that you should be getting only what you will be needing. Purchases of these last named items might best be left until later, until such a time as you know you would find them useful. The exception, of course, would be if you already know YOU would find them useful.
Mention has not yet been made of jars, bands, and lids. These, of course, are vital to the canning process. Jars generally come in quart and pint sizes, regular and widemouth openings. Your canning recipes sometimes will make recommendations in this regard. The jars and the bands can be used and reused, as long as they have not been damaged. The lids, however, are designed for one time usage. They CANNOT be reused, at least not safely. Thus, it is they that must be replaced on a regular basis.
As a sidenote, it should be noted that the old style glass top jars, rubber rings, and zinc lids are no longer approved for safe canning.
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Can it, freeze it, freeze dry it, dehydrate it, use it fresh, or purchase already prepared foods for emergencies. At Store-It foods it is our desire to see to it that each food storage choice is a possibility for you.