Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Canning: Part 1 - Introduction

A few introductory tips on canning are necessary before you get started on this great adventure:

1) First, you need to know that home canning requires exactness or it could prove very dangerous to whomever eats the home-canned product. Be sure to follow recipes exactly or only change ingredients or quantities that are specifically mentioned as safe to alter. Never change processing times or weights or the results could prove hazardous to your health or the health of your loved ones.

2) These really aren't my recipes - You should never use a recipe for canning unless it has been tested by people who know what they are doing (a.k.a. ball blue book, your local extension service, etc). All of the basic measurements should come from them. You can usually add spices to the basic recipes, but again never change the main ingredients or processing times/pressures.

3) Canning times and pressure weights are based on elevation where you live. Make sure you google your town and find out what elevation you're at and follow the recipe accordingly.

4) For safety, canning lids should not be reused, but jars and bands are safe to reuse as long as they are still in good condition (with not cracks or chips in the jars).

5) If you follow the recipes exactly according and adjust times/pressure to your own elevation, home canning is very safe, and a great way to preserve your home grown produce. Canning can save money and is a great way to be frugal and prepare for the future.

There are two main types of canning: Water Bath Canning and Pressure Canning. Here are some basic instructions for each type:

Water Bath Canning
Water bath canning is the easier of the two types of canning and is generally used for high acid foods (foods with a pH of 4.6 or lower). Foods that are safe for water bath canning include most types of fruits, jams, jellies, fermented foods, and foods that have vinegar added to lower the pH such as tomatoes.

Typically jars are packed either hot or cold as specified in the recipe. Both methods require that the water in the canner be heated ahead of time and the jars be warm themselves. Hot pack typically refers to packing the hot jars with hot food and placing them in the hot canner. Cold pack refers to packing the hot jars with cold or blanched food, filling with hot liquid and placing them in the hot canner. The water in the boiling water canner must completely cover the jars and caps by 1 to 2 inches.

Once the canner is full, place the lid on it and heat on high until water starts boiling rapidly. Once this happens, heat can be turned down to medium high and the time for processing begins (making sure to use the appropriate processing time for your current elevation). Once the processing time is complete, turn off the stove and remove the canner lid. Allow the jars to sit in the water bath for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Once the 5 minutes are up, remove the jars from the water bath canner and placed on a dish towel or rack (away from any cool draft) to cool completely. Jars should not be disturbed for 12-24 hours after removing from the canner in order to allow the lids to properly seal.

After 12-24 hours undisturbed, the jar lids can be tested by pushing a finger directly in the center of the lid. If the lid moves slightly, it is not sealed. If it remains firm, it is sealed. Unsealed jars can be reprocessed (using the same method listed above - make sure to reheat contents separate for hot pack recipes) or refrigerated and eaten within a short period of time.

Pressure Canning
Pressure canning is necessary to use for low acid foods (foods with a pH above 4.6). These foods include vegetables, meats and seafoods. Also foods such as soups, stews, and sauces that have a combination of high and low acid foods also generally need to be canned using a pressure canner.

Pressure canning can be done with either a dial gauge or weighted gauge pressure canner. Pressure canners should be checked and tested often to ensure seals are safe and gauges are accurate before using them to can.

Jars should be packed the same way as specified in the water bath canning section except only 2 to 3 inches of heated water is needed in the canner. Usually the hot pack method of packing jars is preferred with pressure canned foods.

Once the canner is full, lock the lid in pace. Leave weight off vent pipe (for weighted gauge pressure canner) or open petcock (for dial gauge pressure canner). Adjust the heat to medium-high until steam flows evenly from the vent pipe or petcock. Exhaust steam from the canner for 10 minutes. Then place the weight specified in the recipe on the vent pipe or close petcock (making sure to use the appropriate pressure weight for your current elevation). The canner should pressurize in about 5 minutes.

After gauge indicates recommended pounds of pressure have been reached, adjust the heat to maintain the pressure for the entire processing time. After the time is complete, turn off the heat. Allow the canner to cool naturally without adjusting pressure gauge at all. Once canner has depressurized, unlock lid and lift it off the canner base. Let the canner cool for 10 minutes before removing jars. Once the time is up, remove the jars from the canner and placed on a dish towel or rack (away from any cool draft) to cool completely. Jars should not be disturbed for 12-24 hours in order to allow the lids to properly seal. Test for sealed jars the same way as listed under the water bath canning instructions. Reprocess unsealed jars according to pressure canning processing method list above.

So that's it! If you made it this far, you are a champ. So go get canning!

Here's a couple of great sites with recipes:



And here's some of my favorite recipes that I've shared on this blog. Enjoy!

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