The How To’s of Traditional Canning

Canning is a safe and economical way to preserve food at home. It can save you half the cost of buying store bought. The basic steps of canning are simple. There are two methods of canning. One is the boiling-water bath. This method utilizes high-acid foods which are all fruits, pickles, sauerkraut and chutneys. Once the jars are filled they are submerged in a large kettle or pot of boiling water. The main purpose of boiling-water bath processing is to heat the food to the correct temperature long enough to destroy bacteria. Basically, this temperature should be 212 degrees.

To can any food or fruit, first check the jars for any cracks or nicks. There should be no imperfections in the jar. The jars should be hot before you fill them. The best way to do this is to place them in a pot of heated water, or they can even be run through a dishwasher and left inside on a heated dry cycle to keep them hot enough until ready to use. Wash and rinse the jar lids in a smaller saucepan of water that has been brought to a simmer. Leave them submerged until they are ready for use. Now prepare the food for the jar. Take the hot jar out of the heated water with tongs. Pour what heated water is in the jar back into the pot. Fill the jar. It is important at this stage to keep the jar rim clean. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, pack the jar with the prepared food item. Avoid packing too tightly. Spices can now be added along with any liquids. Before putting on the lid, wipe the rim and the jar lid. This is an important step because the lid won’t seal properly unless these portions of the jar are clean and dry. Put the lid on the jar and then screw the band over the lid. Tighten the lid carefully. Try not to tighten the lid too tightly because if any air is trapped it will make the lids buckle upward as they are processed in the water. If they are too loose, they won’t hold the lids down on the jars at all. Lower the jars carefully into you kettle or pot slowly making sure the jars are covered with at least 1 inch of water. If there is not enough water in your pot adding some simmering water at this point is okay, but do not pour it directly on the jars as they could crack. Place the lid on the kettle or pot and bring the water to a full boil. Keep the water at a steady, gentle boil. When ready to take the jar out of the pot a good can lifter is recommended. Place on a dry towel or wooden board and allow to cool untouched for about 12-24 hours. When they are cool, remove the screw bands checking each jar to make sure they have a good seal. If the lid does not give at all, a good seal has been achieved. Label and date each jar and store is a cool, dry, dark place.

The other method for canning is pressure canning. This type of canning uses jars filled with low-acid foods. Low-acid foods include vegetables, meats, seafood, and poultry. The same methods apply with pressure canning as water-bath canning. When using a pressure canner, the temperature should be about 240 degrees so that any bacteria will be destroyed during the heating and cooking process. When placing the lid on the canner make sure the lid is fastened securely. There should be no steam escaping from around the lid or the food will not be processed correctly. When cooking is completed carefully remove the pressure canner from the heat source. Importantly, allow it to rest undisturbed until the pressure has return to zero before opening to remove the jars.