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I am going to be trying my hand at canning this coming year. I am a bit leery of it. I remember my Mamaw and Mom doing the canning, and being very particular about how it was done. I just would like some hints, words of wisdom, easier things to start out with.
I bought a Ball Canning Book off Amazon. Seems to have a lot of fruit recipes. More interested in canning vegetables. Especially tomaotes and green beans.
Thanks to you all.
First you will want to get yourself a copy of the Ball Blue Book of canning. It is the canning "bible". Tomatoes are probably the easiest thing to start with, as well as pickles, and peaches. Jams are not hard either, you just have to follow the recipe carefully. Your folks were so particular about it because it really is a particular thing...it has to be done right to be safe to consume. That, and you don't want to break any jars, ha. But really, it is not hard...just follow the directions to a T. High acid foods are waterbathed. Low acid foods like meats and your green beans require a pressure canner. Start with the waterbath canner/high acid foods and once you've got the procedures down well, then move on to the pressure canner which is a little more complicated. I was given my pressure canner and let it sit in my basement for over a year before I touched it because I was afraid of it...but that was silly; it is nothing to fear...just follow the directions and keep and eye on it (don't run off and get distracted) and you'll be a-ok.
Also, check with your local ag. extension agency and see if they offer any classes in canning (mine does) or talk to someone knowledgable there. On any given day, they can give you advice, test your pressure canner for you and they have informative pamphlets, etc.
ETA: Second pass, I see you already have the BBB...I am up late with a sick baby and am goofy. Mine has a whole section on low-acid foods (pressure canning). Doesn't yours?
Last edited by journey11 (01/06/2013 3:21 am)
Ball makes more than one canning book. DebFred, whatís the title on yours?
Iíll repeat some things Journey said just to try to be clear. There are two kinds of canning, Water Bath and Pressure Canning. The big difference is that the botulism bugs cannot live in certain high acid or high sugar foods so you donít have to get them too hot which often helps with consistency, like with pickles. You have to get the foods that botulism can grow in up to about 240 degrees Fahrenheit. The only way you can do that is to cook them under pressure. How long you cook them under pressure depends on their density. Different densities heat up at different rates.
I recently looked this up. There are about 25 cases of food born botulism in the US every year, with maybe 2 people that get it dying. The cause of most of those cases is poor home canning techniques. Thatís why Journey emphasized following the recipes pretty closely. If you think of how many people in this country can at home, and you have to assume that some donít follow the recommended techniques, thatís really not many people. Iím not giving these numbers to frighten you away. Iím giving them to show how safe it really is if you follow the recipes.
I recommend you get a canner that can do both water bath and pressure canning. When you water bath the water needs to cover the jars by an inch or two. That limits your capacity. With pressure canning, you mainly have to make sure it has enough water to not cook dry. You have three choices for jar size, quart, pint and half-pint. My canner can water bath 7 quarts, 9 pints, and a bunch of half-pints. In pressure canning it can handle 7 quarts, 18 pints, and a whole lot of half-pints. Iíve only maxed the floor space out with half-pints once and canít remember how many it took. My brother has one that will only handle 4 pints pressure canning. Canning green beans takes him a while. Do watch the capacity of what you get.
There is just me and my wife so most of my vegetable canning is in pints, though I put soup and dill pickles in quarts. Pints and quarts come in regular and wide mouth. Those wide mouths are really nice for pickles and things that are in big chunks.
Other than a good book, Iíll recommend a few accessories. Youíll find a couple of small towels to set things on and a couple of trivets come in real handy. You need a timer. Hopefully you have those.
Youíll need a jar lifter. The kind Iím talking about is that red thing in this photo.
Youíll need a funnel and a ladle like these. I donít like this ladle. The top is too heavy so it tends to fall out of bowls and such. I like it being big and plastic and easy to pour with.
Youíll need something to get rid of air bubbles. Use plastic, not metal. You donít want to take a chance on scratching a jar. I use a chop stick for quarts but find a simple plastic knife like you use for picnics to work really great. One problem with the chopstick is that it is pretty thick when you try to get it in a jar of chunky things. That plastic knife is thin enough to get around the outside of the jar pretty easily. One problem with the plastic knife is that it is not long enough to reach the bottom of the quart jar.
The only other thing I can think of that you need is the most expensive after the canner itself. You need a good stainless steel stock pot. You donít want aluminum because acidic foods will absorb the metal. I got a 12 quart one that works real well with the capacity of my canner when pressure canning pints. It has marks in it to show how much you have in it. That comes in real handy when you are deciding how many jars, lids, and rings to prepare.
Itís an investment but I find it real nice to be able to preserve things that I grew and wonít go bad if you lose power to your freezer. Canned foods are more convenient than frozen foods too. There are a lot of little tricks and such we use to make things easier but Iíve already written too much. Weíll probably mention a lot of those during canning season so pay attention. And never be afraid of asking questions.
Hope this helps some.
Great advice so far. This is the one thing I recommend getting. http://www.walmart.com/ip/Ball-Canning-Utensil-Kit/16213247 I used the Wally World link because I saw it there the other day. We have this exact kit and its really helpful.
It comes with the funnel that Ridgerunner has pictured as well as the tongs pictured above. There is a funny looking spatula with what appears to be terraced edged on one side. That's a head space measuring tool. It comes in handy. I used it ALL the time when I first started now I can pretty much eyeball what a certain level is. I still use it when we do decorative jars or oddly shaped jars just to be 100% sure. There is also what looks like a probe with a magnet on the end. You use that to pick up the hot lids. We use a small sauce pot with water on the stove to warm them up. Another tool I wouldn't be without.
Its a nice little package deal that Ball puts together and a good way for new people to get all the important parts in 1 package. You add a canner or canners and your ready to go.
Id honestly start out with some pickles. Super easy to do, as they are in a vinegar solution already, and your literally just packing the jar with cut up cukes and add the pickling solution put the lids on and can it. We bought some pickling cukes and tomatoes at the grocery store and canned them over the winter to learn the ropes before we starting putting up anything we grew in the garden. If you screw up on grocery store produce who cares? Just dump it on the compost pile and try to learn what you did wrong. Get your confidence that way, and get comfortable doing the actual steps so you get a feel for the process. Plus you can start out with small batches of your produce instead of a glut of veggies out of the garden that you've picked and now is bugging you to get canned. It takes a few times to get a routine down but once you do, you'll be a canning regular just like many of us on here.
I second the notion of starting with some things that can be water bath canned...jams/jellies, or high acid foods. After a few batches of those, you'll get a feel for whether you like it and want to pursue it. You can do this with what you likely already have in your kitchen and without a big investment. After filling your jars according to your recipe, you just need to get them into a pot that's deep enough to cover the jars by an inch or two, like RR said. You don't need anything fancy...just a deep pot with something on the bottom to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot; this will keep them from bouncing around during the boiling process and possibly breaking.
If you decide to pursue it and want to get into the lower acid things like vegetables and meat, I'd recommend getting the largest pressure canner you can afford. It takes a lot longer to process a batch in a pressure canner, so you'll want to do as many in a batch as possible. I'd recommend one with a gauge dial; it's much easier to see the internal pressure. You can't just get it going and walk away...the temp (in mine at least) tends to fluctuate so I have to readjust the heat fairly often.
As RR also said, consider the size of the jars. You'll want things in portions that you can use within one or two meals. Since there's only 2 of us, I use mostly pints...if we need more or have company, it's easy enough to open another jar or two. I always do tomatoes in quarts, if making chili or spaghetti sauce or something I find that's a good size. This was my first season doing meat and potatoes and I definitely learned something....potatoes go in quarts and meat goes in pints! I did some the other way round and find that I need at least 2 pints of potatoes for a meal and a quart of meat is a LOT! LOL. Oh well, live and learn...I'll be changing that around next year
Good luck with your new venture, I think you'll find you really enjoy it. There's a real satisfaction in opening a jar of beans you grew and preserved yourself. You know exactly what went into the food you're eating and it is sooooo much better than anything you can buy!
There is a funny looking spatula with what appears to be terraced edged on one side. That's a head space measuring tool. It comes in handy. I used it ALL the time when I first started now I can pretty much eyeball what a certain level is. I still use it when we do decorative jars or oddly shaped jars just to be 100% sure. .
Good catch. I totally forgot a headspace measuring tool. That's required when you start out but like you I hardly ever use it anymore.
I use one of those 6" plastic rulers but I made a mistake when I got it. I got a dark green one with black markings. It's hard for my old eyes to see the markings. I've been looking for a better one since before school started in August, thinking a back to school sale would have one but have totally struck out. I've tried Walmart, Walgreen, Hobby Lobby, an Micheals without luck.
You mentioned the two veggies that are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Most tomatos are acid, but if the tomatos are anything but the dark red varieties I always add a touch of lemon juice to be sure. Acid foods can be water bathed since botulism cannot grow in an acid atmosphere.
Beans, on the other hand are alkaline so should always be carefully pressure canned, using the manufaturers instructions or those in a reliable canning book to get the pressure and times right.
I always start a big pot of boiling water while I am cooking what I am going to can. I have some flat cake pans that I place the lids and rings in. I fill the pan with boiling water to heat them up, sterilize them and it also softens the rubber sealing part on the lid. It may be silly, but I think it gives a better seal. I also put a pair of tongs in the pan so I can use them to get the lids and rings out of the pan. I put the jars to be filled in the sink and pour them full of boiling water. This sterilizes them and heats up the jar so there is no sudden temperature change. I pour out the boiling water, put the fruit jar funnel in it and fill with what I am canning. Be sure to WIPE the edge of the jar before you put the lid and ring on! If there is a food particle in the edge, it won't properly seal and it will cause spoilage. I hope this helps.
Be proud of yourself for what you are about to do. Nothing can beat the taste of what you have made yourself. The best jams and jellies will come out of your own jars. Home canned vegetable soup never tasted so good! Come back here if you need any more help. Growing the garden is half the work, putting it up to eat later is the other half. Eating the fruits of your labor is pure pleasure!
Last edited by baymule (01/06/2013 6:31 pm)
Congratulations! Canning is such a great thing to do with garden goodies! If you are talking about canning green beans, I would say put your effort into something else. Tomato sauce is super easy, and delicious (just had some for dinner). The canned beans turn out like, well, canned beans. Overcooked, no snap at all. I freeze mine now. Not garden fresh, but worth eating. If you do what the Ball says- you will be fine!
Canning is great! You have been given some excellent advice so far and I don't have anything to add, except that it can be addictive. We can all kinds of things. I have grape vines, peach trees, apple trees and strawberries, so we always have tons of canned jam and jelly. We can carrots and potatoes together. We cut them into big chunks for instant stew veggies during the winter. For green beans, I place a piece of smoked pork in the bottom of the jar (I don't like bacon because of the grease it produces). Then I layer cubed red potatoes and snapped beans into the jar until full. That's like a taste of summer in February We also pickle beets and make a lot of dill spears (my personal favorite). We have canned corn, but found it ruins the flavor and now only blanch and freeze it.
Just start simple. Maybe you could borrow a pressure canner? If not, a water bath canner can do lots of things.