Canning 101: Home Food Preservation Fresh from the Garden

Canning tomatoes

Canning tomatoes

You planted it, grew it, harvested it, ate your fill and you still have an abundance of fresh garden vegetables. That’s a good thing and canning all that fresh goodness to enjoy later is the next step in becoming self-sufficient and living off the land. Home food preservation is simple and with a few basic items and instructions, you will be able to can any fruit or vegetable you can grow or meat you can hunt.

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A large water bath or pressure canner is a must-have for home canning. The main difference between the two canner types is the time factor – a pressure canner will process the food in less than half the time of a water bath canner. The end result will be the same with either canner type, just go with your personal preference when making the purchase. As a side note – either type of canner is a multi-tasker and can be used as a large stock pot.

Jars, Lids and Rims

Quality glass canning jars that have no chips or cracks in various sizes will ensure your fresh food stays fresh and ready to eat after canning. Quart size jars are the most widely used and wide-mouthed canning jars are the easiest to fill.

Jars and rims can be re-used over and over again, but lids can only be used once.

Before filling jars with fresh food to be processed, always heat the jars, lids and rims by soaking them in very hot (clean) water. The heat sterilizes the equipment, helps ensure a good jar seal and shaves a few minutes off of canning time. Use heated water to sterilize all funnels, tongs, spoons, etc., that you will be using during the canning process, even the tiniest amount of bacteria transmitted from utensil to food can ruin a batch of home-canned food.

Pack the Jars

Pack the hot jars quickly with prepared food. Press the food down gently with a rubber-tipped spatula, pour any liquids into filled jar to within ½ inch of the top (filled jars need ½ inch of head space to allow for expansion) and gently run the rubber-tipped spatula around the inside of the jar to release any air bubbles.

Wipe off the top of the jar’s rim with a clean cloth or paper towel, place a new, hot lid on the jar and secure with a metal band. Don’t over-tighten the band or it may prevent the jar from sealing properly.

Process the Food

Now you are ready to process the food so the jars will seal and food will be preserved. Place enough water in the canner type you have chosen to reach half-way up the jar size you are processing. About one gallon of water reaches half-way up quart size jars in a pressure canner. Place the rack in canner bottom and bring the water to a boil while you are filling the jars.

Place filled jars in the boiling water, allowing a little space between each jar to they don’t bump against each other and break during processing. Place lid on canner and process each fresh food according to recipe directions.

Wait until water stops boiling in a water bath canner or the pressure seal is released in a pressure canner before removing the jars. Use metal tongs to remove the extremely hot jars of food from their water and set on a flat, well padded surface to cool. Within 30 minutes you will begin to hear the coveted popping sound as each jar of food seals. Allow jars to cool to room temperature before relocating. Test each one for a secure seal by gently pressing the tip of your finger in the center of the lid. If it gives and springs back up, the jar is not sealed. Place jar in the refrigerator and eat food within a few days. If the lid does not give or spring back up, the seal is secure and food can be stored indefinitely. Rims can be removed at this time and re-used for the next batch of food to be canned.

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