Canning is a great way to preserve food and make it shelf-stable. If you have limited freezer space or are nervous about power outages, you can use canning to help preserve the harvest from your garden. Canning fresh produce is also a way to help build a stockpile to feed your family on a budget. Read on to learn how to start canning your own homegrown foods.
Why Can Your Own Food?
Canning is a rewarding and practical way to store food, especially all the excess food that you grow in your own garden, preventing a lot of food wastage as you can preserve so many different fruits, vegetables, meat and more to enjoy the whole year long. It is also great for those busy nights, saving your time and money. Another reason to can is that it is a very convenient way to store food, able to keep your canned products in the pantry instead of taking up precious freezer space.
There are many terms that are used as part of canning. Here are a few and what they refer too.
The lid is the flat circle part that goes on top of the jar after the rim has been cleaned.
Band or Ring
The band or ring is the round part that is screwed onto the top of the jar after the lid has been placed on. Be careful when tightening the ring as it will affect the lid when canning. Refer to finger tight.
Finger tight is the tightness of screwing on the band or ring by using your hands.
Headspace refers to the amount of empty space or room that has to be left when filling the jar. This is measured from the top of the jar.
Water bathing is the method of canning high acid or high sugar foods such as jams, fruit and pickles. This is when canned jars are boiled in a large stockpot filled with water for a set period of time.
This method of canning is used to preserve low acid foods such as meat and vegetables. You will need a pressure canner that reaches a higher temperature to safely preserve these low acid foods.
The processing time is the amount of time need to boil (water bath) or pressurise (pressure canning) jars of food to ensure that the bacteria is killed and the food can be safely stored.
What you need to start canning your own food
Before you can get started canning you need some basic canning supplies. Canning tools are essential for making canning easier.
The first thing you will need is a canner. You have a few options for this. You can get a pressure canner which takes a little more to learn, though is the best option if you are wishing to can things like meats and low acid vegetables. A water bath canner is the other option. It easy to do, making it perfect for beginners. If neither is available or in your budget, a large stockpot can be used to water bath high acid foods. You can make a canning rack for it by attaching canning rings with string or using a dish towel at the bottom so that your glass jars don’t touch the bottom of the pot.
You will also need a canning set which includes the basics such as a jar lifter, bubble popper, and a canning funnel to make filling jars easier.
Canning jars and lids are the last essential item you will need to start canning your own food. While you will hear a lot of opinions on brands, most brands you find in local stores will work just fine for canning. Avoid buying off-brand lids which often have problems with sealing.
The best projects for learning to can your own food
When you first get started scanning you should start with easier low-risk things that are hard to mess up like jams, jellies, salsa, and pickles. These foods are high in sugar, acid, or both. This allows you to master the skills needed for canning and build confidence in your abilities.
More Preserving and Stockpiling Ideas
- How to Start Building a Stockpile
- Benefits of Stockpiling
- Mulberry Pie Filling
- How to Can Pickles
- Fermented Honey Garlic
- Homemade Fermented Carrots
- Fermented Beets
- Homemade Ginger Kombucha
- How to Make Scrappy Apple Cider Vinegar
- How to Make a Sourdough Starter
Tips to help get started canning
Before canning, you want to clean and sterilise your canning jars. Sterilising your jars allows you to ensure that your jars are not filled with germs that may survive the low process times of common beginner canning recipes.
If you are canning food that is starting at a hot temperature like hot homemade jams and jellies you want to keep your jars hot until you are ready to cook. If you fill a cold jar with hot food or a hot jar with cold food you will cause your jars to break. The basic rule for canning to prevent this issue is to always start with cold jars, cold food, and a cold canner or hot jars, hot food, and a hot canner. Never mix the temperatures to avoid shocks that can crack and break your jars.
Cook your recipe following the canning directions being sure to not change the amounts of sugar or acid in the recipe. Sometimes it may not make sense to add things like lemon juice to your tomatoes but this helps to prevent issues if you happen to get a variety of tomatoes that have a low amount of acid.
Make sure to leave the right amount of headspace in your jars. This is very important. If you look at the end of your bubble proper, you will find a simple stair-like shape that is designed to make it easy to measure the headspace from the top rim of your canning jar.
Wipe the rims of your canning jars clean with a damp paper towel. If you are canning anything that contains oil you can use a bit of vinegar on the paper towel to help get rid of any grease on your canning jar rims. This helps to ensure that you do not have any food or oil on the rims that could create a false or failed seal when canning.
Add your rings and tighten until fingertip tight. Do not over tighten. When your fingers feel resistance while turning back off just a little bit to get the perfect tightness.
Place your canning jars into the canner. If you do not have a rack, make one or use a dish towel. Do not allow your canning jars to directly touch the bottom of your canning pot. This can lead to your jars cracking from the intense heat on the bottom of the pot.
Process for the amount of time that your recipe calls for. If you are using a pressure canner you may need to adjust the weight to fit your altitude. After you have completed your canning times you should turn off your canner and let it sit for a bit before removing the lid and pulling out your jars. This will help reduce issues with siphoning or having the liquids inside your jar start to push out of the jar.
If you have never canned before, here are a couple of great canning books to help you get started on your canning journey.