This is just a portion of the 200 or so cans of jam, relish, salsa tomatoes, pickles & such we put away last year. It has been so wonderful to have all these items on hand that plus we know exactly what went into them. Do you know how hard it is to find jam without HFC in it?! And we've all been reading about the danger of eating tomatoes in metal cans, I haven't had to buy one can of tomatoes since last summer & have plenty to last until we can this year's batch.
We also had fun with making labels for our jars to turn them into pretty gifts.
So many of you have commented to me that you'd love to do some canning but are intimidated by the process. Well, I'm here to tell you if I can do it so can you! We only do hot water bath canning (pressure cookers still scare me) which is really as easy as boiling water & making sure to keep things hot & clean. Hot water canning is good for jams, jellies, pickles, salsas, relishes, salsas, sauces & condiments that have some acid content to them. This is not the method for canning things like your fresh beans from the garden, that is where the pressure cooker comes in.
The initial investment for supplies is really not that much. I thought today I'd give you a little guide to the equipment you need & what we use plus some other tips.
The biggest piece of equipment you need is a large pot to boil the jars in. We use this Granite Ware 21-1/2-Quart Steel/Porcelain Canner. It's under $20 on Amazon & comes with a jar rack. Ok, we've never used the rack because it only works with the really large jars & we mainly use the 8-ounce jars. I like this big pot because I can usually fit a whole batch of jam in it instead of having to process multiple batches. I've also used my regular dutch oven for small batches & 4-ounce jars, just make sure it's tall enough so you can have water 1-inch above the top of the jars.
This Jar Liftercosts about $5 & makes it so easy to lift jars from the boiling water. It gives you a surprisingly firm grasp. I've heard of people using silicone gloves to pull out the jars but I prefer to keep my hands out of boiling water even in gloves, I've had water get in my dish glove cuffs too many times.
A Magnetic Lid Lifter makes getting the lids of the jars out of the water super easy too. I used to use tongs but found it hard to get a grip on a single lid. I actually bought a little magnetic tool like this for a couple bucks at the hardware store, there they say it is for picking up loose screws & such.
A Canning Funnelmakes it easy & keeps things cleaner when you are spooning your preserves into your cans. The size of the neck is made to exactly fit the opening on the canning jars. This will run you about $5 - $6.
Of course, you also need canning jars, lids & neckbands. We use the jars in 3 sizes. The 1/2 pint size is the one we use the most, its your jam jar size. We use it for jams, relishes, salsas & pickles peppers. The 4-ounce jars we use for things like mustard, pepper jelly & port wine jelly. The largest jar we use is the pint size which is good for tomatoes & pickles (I also like to store my dried beans in this size jar). The jars & neckbands are reusable year to year. You do need to buy need lids as they are not reusable but are quite cheap.
The rest of the items needed you probably already have around the kitchen; a cooling rack, dish towels, a ladle & a strainer. Sure there are other things you can get like special tools to measure the headspace (yeah, I can eye 1/4-inch, thank you) or to get the air bubbles out (I just use a clean knife or spoon) but really, the items above are what we've found we truly use. I've given Amazon links to everything but we picked most of ours at the local Ace Hardware. We've also noticed Target has started to carry some canning supplies as well as most larger grocery stores.
Finally, I'd like to suggest books about preserving....
If you only get one book get theBall Complete Book of Home Preservation. Really it's our canning bible & seems to have recipes for everything as well as lots of step-by-step instructions & tips.
Since we don't always want a large batch of something for the two of us The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preservinghas come in really handy. I also find it contains a good variation on the recipes from the Ball book.
If you don't want to invest in a book right away or can't find one of these at your local library, we've found that the package of pectin contains basic directions for making fruit jams.
Now that you've got your supplies search click the "preserving" label in our left sidebar for some recipes to get you started. We'll also we share some new things we're canning this summer starting with homemade mustard.
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