If you got your garden started off right, you may be harvesting lots of produce about this time. (If you live in the north country, like me, you’re still waiting on most things.) No garden yet? Sometimes it’s still less expensive to purchase a large quantity of produce from a local farmer, especially if it’s organic, and can your own.
Do the math: after I canned tomatoes for the first time last year, I figured I saved 50 cents for my six hours of work and was totally frustrated. Now that I read more about the BPA in the linings of tomato cans, however, I’m glad I did it. Not all rewards for labor are monetary, as those of us who cook from scratch mostly for nutrition’s sake understand.
Hopefully your garden is producing lots of produce for you to enjoy. In addition to enjoying your produce fresh, you can also can your produce so that you can enjoy it year round. There are two types of canning. For canned goods that are acidic, you can use a boiling water bath to can. Acidic items include your tomato products, pickles, some fruit jams and some applesauces.
For all other produce, it must be canned using a pressure canner. It is very important to use a pressure canner for all other items canned so that all of the bacteria can be killed, and your produce is safe to eat.
Type Of Canner I Recommend
The only type of canner that I personally use is an All-American Pressure Canner. I have young children, and safety is very important to me. All American Canners have safety features that other canners do not have. They are also really easy to use. For a video about how to can using an All American Canner, you can go here.
How To Can: The Basics
Here are a few instructions that should be helpful as you begin canning, but it is really easier to “see” how to can, so make sure to watch my video about how to can as well.
- Sterilize your jars and rings. We sterilize our jars and rings just by running them through the dishwasher.
- Fill each jar with the food that you wish to can. A canning funnel is helpful here to avoid getting the jar rims messy.
- Fill the jars with liquid within one inch of the top if needed. (This would not be needed for soups or jams.)
- Vegetables will need 1 tsp. of salt added to the top of the jar. (You can use canning salt or table salt. Canning salt will help to maintain the color.)
- Place the lids into a pot with water on the stove. You want to warm the lids, but not actually boil them.
- Make sure that the top of each jar is clean so that it will seal. (Wipe with a clean cloth.)
- Remove all air bubbles from the jar by running a plastic stick down the side of each jar.
- Add a ring and the lid to each of the jars. You want to twist the lids on, but not too tight. Basically twist the lid until it is closed and then twist it an extra half turn.
- Place the jars into the canner. The canner needs to be full. If you do not have enough jars full of food to fill the canner, you can use empty jars to finish filling the canner.
- Place the lid on the canner.
- Turn the heat on and wait until there is steam coming out of the vent on the top of the canner.
- Add the weight to the vent and allow the pressure to rise to the number of pounds that are needed.
- Once that pound of pressure is reached, you can set your timer for the amount of time needed to can the items.
- When the time is up, turn off the heat on your stove, and wait until the pressure reaches zero.
- Once the canner has zero pounds of pressure and has started to cool, you can remove the lid and then remove the jars, usually using jar lifters as part of a canning kit.
- Place the jars onto hot pads, and as they continue cooling they will seal. You will hear a popping sound as each jar seals. There will be a dip in the lid showing that the jar has sealed.
- If you have a jar that has not sealed, you will need to reprocess that jar in the canner to make it seal, or place the jar in the refrigerator and go ahead and eat that food.
- Label each of the jar’s lids with what you canned and the date.
How To Save Money Through Canning
Canners do cost money up front. However, I was able to quickly recoup my costs through using my canner year round to can produce, soups, pizza sauce, meats and any other canned items that I would have otherwise had to buy. (If you want to go cheap just to see if you can handle canning, tomato products are a pretty popular item to can, and for under $20 you can have a Water-Bath Canner to test your wings. That, so far, is all I have. – Katie)
Watch for ways to save money on jars when you decide to can. Each year there are coupons that you will find for jars. However, the best way to save money on jars is if you can buy them used. Every time that I go to a yard sale, I look for canning jars. Also, we have gone to estate sales and have been able to buy many jars. You can also look on Craigslist to see if anyone is selling or giving away jars.
Classico pasta sauce jars can be reused as canning jars. Anytime that there is a great sale on Classico sauces with coupons, I make sure to buy them so that I have the jars. I have gotten quite a few for only $.10-$.20 through those sales. Also, let your friends and family know that you can. They may have jars laying around from crafts or gifts.
What Can You Can?
You can really can just about anything. Anytime that I make soups or stews, I make a large amount, and can the rest of the soups for quick meals on the go so that we don’t have to eat out. You can also can most of the produce from your garden. If you are interested in a few of my favorite canning recipes, you can find recipes for the following:
- Pizza sauce (This is my favorite pizza sauce recipe by far! I could eat it by the spoonful.)
- Chili/Taco Soup
- Split Pea Soup (This is my kids’ favorite soup by far.)
- Cinnamon Apples
Resources I Recommend
If you are planning to begin canning, I would recommend buying the Ball Blue Canning Book (or maybe the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving? – Katie). This book will tell you how to can specific items. Also, there are recipes and instructions about how to can. For a list of additional items that can make canning easier, you can check out my post here.
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