So, you’re interested in canning? Maybe you got a little overzealous in planting your pandemic garden and have way too many cucumbers to eat? Or maybe you have big dreams of taking the family apple picking in the fall and want to be prepared to can applesauce, apple butter, and apple pie filling? Whatever the reason, you’ve come to the right place!
Basic Canning Overview
I started canning as a hobby about 10 years ago. I had always wanted to learn, and when I moved in with my then-boyfriend (now husband), we started a little garden in our backyard. I had dreams of canning fresh salsa and green beans. I quickly realized that I had nowhere near enough tomato, pepper, or cilantro plants in my little garden to create more than one jar of salsa. But, from that first batch of homegrown goodness, my interest in canning was sealed.
To begin canning, you’ll want first to purchase some equipment. Now, there is a ton of different equipment out there. Lots of gadgets, jars, lids, bands, brands, and all of that. I’ve tried a lot of them, but what I have found over the years is that usually, the good old simple stuff works the best. The canner I use now is the same one I started with over 10 years ago—the Presto Pressure Canner and Cooker. You can use this for both boiling water canning and pressure canning. Boiling water canning is used for high-acid foods, while pressure canning is used for low-acid foods.
Next up are the jars. This is very important. You must use jars that are made specifically for canning. Do not ever re-use purchased food jars like jelly or jam jars, even if they look the same as a canning jar. You also want to purchase the right size jar for the recipe that you’re canning. If you’re canning spaghetti sauce, you may want to can it in quart jars. If you’re canning green beans, you probably want to use a pint jar. Either way, ensure you purchase the correct jars, lids, and bands before you begin.
My personal favorite brand of canning equipment is Ball. Tried and true, Ball glass canning jars have been around since the 1800s. Newell Brands is now the producer of Ball, and they produce everything you need to can fresh foods, minus the food. I have tried using various other glass jars over the years, but none hold up as well as my Ball jars have. And always, always, always (I can’t stress this enough), always sterilize your canning jars, lids, and bands before you put any food inside them!
Gadgets. There are tons of recipe or food-specific gadgets out there to help with canning. You’ll begin to pick those up over the years as you find what you like to can. But, to begin with, you definitely want to purchase a starter kit. Again, I prefer Ball, but there are several different companies and price points that you can choose from. Regardless of the kit you decide on. You’ll want to make sure it has these 4 items:
- Jar Lifter – You’ll need this to move the jars in and out of the canner safely.
- Wide Mouth Funnel – This will be super helpful when ladling hot foods into the jars.
- Bubble Remover – This looks like a little plastic spatula, but it’s used to remove bubbles from the jars, giving you more space for food.
- Magnetic Lid Lifter – You’ll need this to get the lids and bands out of the water after you’ve sterilized them.
Lastly, you’ll want a good canning book to reference. My favorite is the Better Homes and Gardens, You Can Can – A Guide to Canning, Preserving, and Pickling.
Every single time I can, I pull this book out. It does a great job of explaining the canning processes while providing some fantastic basic canning recipes. Whichever book or recipe you choose, make sure it’s fairly modern (like within the last 20 years). Safety guidelines for canning and processing times can and do change. You want to make sure you’re following all the safety guidelines for the foods you’re canning. You’re trying to preserve your healthy foods for future use, not make yourself and others sick by eating them.
Ok, you’ve got your canner, canning supplies, and recipe. You’re ready to get started! You may be a little nervous if you’ve never done this before or if it’s been a while since you’ve canned. No worries! I’m here to walk you through every step (while providing some pretty amazing recipes that I’ve concocted over the years too).
Let’s get started!