Now that you know some of the basics of canning, it’s time to get started. Deciding what to preserve and when are really important. Make a list and check when each item will come into season in your area. It is so much easier to spread your canning out over time instead of buying everything at once and not leaving the kitchen for a month. When you want to begin a canning session, you should have everything you need clean and available. Double check before starting, because you don’t want to be in the middle of filling your jars and realize that you forgot to buy mustard seeds for your pickles.
Below is a list of my favorite canning tips. They have simplified canning for me and prevented a few mistakes along the way.
Canning tips and tricks
- Never set jars directly on the bottom of the canner; they will burst. Always use the wire rack that comes with the canner.
- Make all preserves, jams and jellies in small batches. This will ensure proper jelling. If you double or triple a recipe it just doesn’t work.
- Most new varieties of tomatoes are not as high in acid as older varieties. To continue to use a water bath canner you must add an acid. I use lemon juice. Add 2 TBS per quart jar or 2 tsp. per pint jar. Just put the lemon juice in the bottom of the jar prior to filling. This amount doesn’t affect the taste but if you are concerned you could always add a tsp. of sugar to compensate.
- Processing time starts when the canner has returned to boiling after adding the jars
- Clear Jel® is the only thickener (i.e. pie filling) considered safe by the USDA for canning. Do not use flour, cornstarch, rice or pasta.
- To prevent darkening of peeled or cut fruit use commercial ascorbic acid (“Fruit-Fresh”). Follow the directions on the package and prepare a bowl of cool water with the ascorbic acid added, then simply put your fruit into the water as you peel or cut it.
- Any jar that fails to seal can be reprocessed in a clean jar with a new lid.
- After processing tomatoes through a food strainer or sieve, pour off the water that collects on top. This will help keep the bright red color of the tomato and cut cooking times in half when making salsa or catsup.
- Use soft or filtered water to pack vegetables. This will prevent cloudiness in the jar when storing.
- To remove hard water from jars, soak them overnight in a solution of 1 gallon water and 1 cup white vinegar.
- Jars should always be added or removed from your canner one at a time. Never lift them out using the internal rack. It is only designed to keep them off the bottom of the pan and prevent them from bumping into each other during processing.
- Do not make modifications to recipes, especially in a water bath canner. This can lead to spoiling and bacteria growth. Canning recipes are very specific and tested to ensure the safety of the food for storage.
- Adding “pickling lime” to your pickling brine keeps pickles crisp in storage.
- Never use any jars larger than 1 quart. Due to the density of the food in such a large jar, home canners can’t reach a high enough temperature to process foods safely.
- Only fill your canner about half full with water. When you begin adding jars the level will rise. I keep a tea kettle with boiling water ready so if the water level is too low I can add enough to cover the jars by about 1 inch. If the level is too high I just use a measuring cup to scoop some water out.
- Use a long handled thin rubber spatula to remove air bubbles from inside the jars after filling. Just run it around the inside edge and through the middle. This makes sure that your jars are filled properly and all of the air can escape during processing.
- Preserve meat! You must use a pressure canner but it is just wonderful. It can be packed with either water or broth. The meat becomes so tender and recipe ready during processing, it is simply amazing!
These helpful hints should get you well on your way to “putting up” your harvest or bulk buys. You will find that it is a little work but nothing beats the feeling of being able to serve your family something that you have canned yourself. Canning will also help bring you one step closer to being self-sufficient and is an excellent way to increase your current food storage.
For more canning tips, information, and recipes, refer to the USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html
We’ll have some recipes posted tomorrow so you can put your new canning skills to use! Good luck!