SEP
05
2011

Canning 101

I’m not going to say that I’m a great at canning. This is only the 3rd time I’ve done it, but as far as I can tell it’s fairly easy as long as you follow directions!

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And as long as you have a helper…

I suggest an adult helper…

One with good stamina for peeling lots of fruit.

If you’re making fruit that is.

 

So what do you need to can? (I got most of my supplies at Wal-m*rt in the canning/kitchen section)

  • A Canner (Basically a big pot with a rack in the bottom to keep the jars from touching the bottom during canning)
  • A Recipe Book, I recommend the Ball Blue Book: Guide to Preserving
  • Some jars, lids, and seals
  • A Canning Set (Yes, you need this, the jars are VERY hot and you’ll use all the tools in the kit)
  • Food Processor, we used a Cuisinart (This is optional depending on what you’re canning)
  • Ingredients based on recipes you choose, you can get pectin and other canning ingredients in the Canning section as well.

Where to start?

I started by gathering some recipes from the Ball Blue Book: Guide to Preserving (I bought mine at Wal-m*rt in the canning/kitchen section, yes, they have one). I HIGHLY recommend this book, it has tons of well tested recipes in it, and as long as you follow the directions exactly you should be all set!  I suggest going through this book first, once you pick your recipes, it will be much easier to go shopping for supplies.

Please Note: If you come away from this post with just 1 thing, let it be to follow the instructions! If not, you could give your family botulism, and I highly doubt they’ll be happy about that.

 

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I also highly recommend having a Food Processor, we used my mom’s Cuisinart. This is critical for any type of fruit sauce or fruit butter. If you have a good blender, that may work, but you’ll need to puree your fruit and things like apples can be kind of hard to do in a blender.

I chose several recipes that looked good and feeling ambitious we tackled several things in one day. Looking back, I’m thinking it may have been better to make one type of thing per day, but you live and learn. Thankfully my mom came up to help, we made:

  • Apple Sauce
  • Apple Pie Filling
  • Apricot Butter
  • Pear Butter
  • Peach Jam

We peeled apples, then some more apples, then some more. And by “we” I mean “my mom”.

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We peeled peaches, then more peaches, then some more. And by “we” I mean mean me.

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We also peeled literally pounds of apricots…and by “we” I mean my mom. They were so tiny, and it took so many to get one batch of apricot butter, but that was my absolute FAVORITE recipe we made that day! It is so yummy, we’ve been putting it on everything!

What’s the Process?

After picking recipes, you’ll want to go shopping. We gathered all the required fruits for our recipes in one trip. I know it will seem like you are buying a LOT of whatever it is you’re canning, but like I said, follow the recipe. Especially for fruit sauce and butter, it will reduce quite a bit and you’ll end up with much less final product.

As far as the day, I suggest picking a day when you have a good chunk of time to can and like I said, a good helper. It took us all afternoon to make the things that I listed above and we started early! It was definitely easier with 2 people as well. With one peeling and cooking, and the other manning the canner, I think you have 2 full time jobs.

Step By Step:

  • I started off by getting my canner going, it takes awhile to boil all that water, so you’ll want to get it started early. Fill your canner with enough water to cover your largest jar by a few inches, and set your burner to Hi heat. Cover the canner and wait for it to boil. (If you’re using a glass cook top, make sure to read your manufacturers instructions to see if it is okay to can on it, you wouldn’t want to crack your cooktop!)
  • While your canner is heating, you can start working on your recipe. Once you create your recipe following the instructions in your cookbook, you’ll add the mixture to your jars. The recipe should tell you how much headspace to leave (Headspace is the space between the top of your mixture and the top of the jar rim. You’ll use your measuring/bubble removing tool from your kit in this step.) You’ll want to use that same tool, to remove any air bubbles you can see trapped in your jar.
  • Place a lid on the jar, then tighten jar closed with a ring. Now you’re ready to carefully place your sealed jars into the canner. Follow the recipe for how long to leave your jars in the canner.
  • Carefully remove your Jar from the canner and place on a dishtowel to cool.

Here is my canner, and the picture below shows the inside. The rack in the bottom is just there to keep the jars from sitting directly on the bottom of the canner. You can make-shift a canner as long as you have these two items.

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Once your jars are done processing in the water, you can use the tool to remove the jars and set them on a dishtowel on your counter to cool. They are VERY hot at this point, so you want to be careful not to burn yourself.

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As the jars cool, you should hear light popping noises as they seal. I suggest removing the ring holding on the lid at this point. It is possible to break your seal if you tighten the lid, so I think it’s just best to remove the ring that way you won’t be tempted to tighten it. I store mine without the rings on, then when we go to use our jars, I’ll grab a ring and use that so I can open and close the jar easily, make sure to store any unused jars in the refrigerator once opened.

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Here is the fruit of our labor…and by “our” I mostly mean my mom’s ;o). We immediately grabbed some crackers, cream cheese and that wonderful apricot butter I told you about! It made for a great snack and all were satisfied. A friend said they put their apple pie filling on pancakes instead of syrup, we’ll have to try that next.

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So that’s it! Canning is pretty easy, it just takes a little work. We tackled fruit on this day, our next adventure will be pickles. I hear they take less time though as you don’t have to cook, peel, or puree anything. We shall see….we shall see…

Have some tips to add? Feel free to leave a comment, I’d love to hear them…I’m by no means an expert in this area!

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Comments

  1. My mom canned when I was a kid, I really want to get into at some point. And I agree that apricots are a pitb! lol I bought some for baby food once, and man….it was very tedious!

  2. I leave the rings on my canned goods overnight/24 hours until they’re fully sealed. *Then* I’ll take them off, wash off the jars (I have a tendency to can in rotation – enough tuna one year to last the next three, enough jam to last the next few years, etc. so I’m not always doing a bazillion different things *each* year).

    And yes, it is a bit more difficult when you have kids underfoot and not much adult help. ;)

  3. Good job hun… in New Zealand we call it “bottling” or “preserving” ..not “canning”… you don’t use cans so why is it “canning”?

  4. Jennifer Bailey says:

    Just did a double batch of pears yesterday with my mother in law. First time ever…was great!

  5. If you ever get the chance, look into getting So Easy to Preserve. I reviewed it on my blog here: http://www.mountaineercountrywv.com/2011/06/so-easy-to-preserve.html . I have the Ball book also, but the So Easy to Preserve book is so much more extensive and thorough. Absolutely everything is in it. It’s put out by the U. of Georgia Co-operative Extension office and talks about all kinds of preserving including freezing and drying.

    It also explains what is dangerous to can, like pumpkin butter. (You don’t ever want to can pumpkin butter or buy it at local festival….commercial canning ONLY.)

  6. What a productive day, congratulations! Thank you for sharing and encouraging through your posts. Have you used the Ball white plastic storage lids? If not I recommend them, it is so much easier and cleaner (I think) to use those on what is open in the fridge. They come in regular and wide mouth and should be available in the same section at WM.

  7. That looks so yummy! I just made pickles for the first time time yesterday; unfortunately, I wasn’t able to heat process them because I realized too late that my jars were too big and the stores were closed so I couldn’t get new ones. But the ease of it increased my confidence enough that I think (time-willing) that I’ll finally try salsa this year (I still have tomatoes frozen from LAST year’s garden)

  8. Erica,
    Great job on canning and encouraging others to try it. It is so rewarding. A couple of tips for you and your readers: peel your peaches and apricots easily by dropping them for around 60 seconds into boiling water, then place them in cold water to cool, the skins will slip right off if they are fresh enough; I also sterilize my jars and heat them right before filling them. You can do this by washing them in your dishwasher so they are hot when you fill them or drop them in your canner’s boiling water just before filling them. Lastly, when making applesauce, if you have a wonderful tool called a Victorio strainer, you can simply core your apples, slice them, place them in a large pot to cook them down a little, then send them through the Victorio strainer. The applesauce is pressed out through a grinder of sorts and your skins and seeds are pushed out the end. You can then can or freeze. We love to freeze applesauce as it tastes so good when it is still a little frozen ;)

    • The boiling water tip also works very well for tomatoes. I do that when I make and can salsa.

    • Yeah, we did the boil then cold water thing, definitely helped, but peeling the apricots was still tricky! :o) Maybe I didn’t do it long enough?

      Love the frozen apple sauce idea, will try that!

      • I know this might be a little late–but I didn’t peel my apricots and my jam turned out great! My MIL told me that their skins are as tough as a peach so I tried it that way! Also, if you get more apples, apple butter in your crockpot makes your whole house smell yummy and it is delicious! I agree with the strainer suggestion. I didn’t realize that my great v-shaped strainer had a name! But it makes applesauce so easy! Good work!

        • Julie, your v-shaped strainer is different. The Victorio strainer is also called a Roma saucemaker or food mill. It is even easier to use because it eliminates the seeds and skins for you. You can do tomatoes and other fruits in it.

  9. We did one year of canning from our garden before we moved. While it was a lot of work I think it was well worth it! We are looking forward to planting a garden at our new house and starting again.

    By the way I wanted to let you know that I linked you from our blog! We just recently switched over to homeschooling and totally used your schoolroom as a guide!

  10. Wowee! Great job canning all that in one day! I’be been canning for a few years but have only tried a few things. (Apple butter, sliced peaches and peach, strawberry, blueberry and blackberry jams.) When doing apple butter, I use an apple peeler/corer/slicer that I got as a gift. It clamps onto a stand or directly onto your countertop. You place your apple in, turn the handle and it peels, cores, and slices in one step. Mine is Pampered Chef brand but I’ve seen other (much less expensive) styles at Wmart. It’s been a lifesaver! I also cook the apples down in my CrockPot and then puree down to “butter” texture with a hand blender (also called stick or immersion blender). These tools are not necessary but if you make very many batches of apple butter like I do, they are absolutely invaluable. Thanks for all of your informative posts. Happy canning!

  11. I would suggest a Victorio Food Strainer. It saves so much time. You can use it to make applesauce without peeling or coring the apples (it does this for you). Works great for other fruit and vegetables as well. My husband and I did 40 gallons of tomatoes for tomato sauce in just a couple of hours.

  12. I make alot of jams. In mid-summer we go and pick wild blue berries and I squish them and make jam. I go to Sam’s club and buy apricots by the box for less than I can get them at the regular grocery store. I have a friend with apple trees and we go there to pick apples, but if I need to buy apples, I go to the farmers market and buy seconds. They are cheaper and I just cut any bad spots off of them. I do the same with tomatoes if I need to make salsa.

  13. Thank you so much for this! You make it sound less scary. I can’t wait to give this a try.

  14. Oh wow! It all looks so yummy! I will definitely be canning soon. I LOVE apple butter.

  15. WOW! what a tutorial! thanks! i will be looking to get some canning done as well, but this will be my first time! i am nervous about it, which is why it hasn’t happened until now…lol…botulism just stands out in my head…so silly i know!

    :)
    jen

  16. Pickles are so labor NOT-intensive you’ll feel like it’s a relaxing visit instead of a work session. In your post you said to take the hot jars from the canner and put them on a towel on the COUNTER. I just want people to know this is important. I put my jars on a towel on my table and now I have a bunch of rings. UGH. This is the link to my canning this year: http://benzabulletin.blogspot.com/2011/08/canningpalooza.html
    We are going to do peaches this week!

  17. the hardest part of pickles is waiting for them to pickle. I’ve been doing small batches with the ball flex batch products. One weekend did some strawberry jam, another some blueberry and then recently pickles. I think i’m up to three batches of pickles, 2 canned and one just refrigator ones to keep people out of the canned ones. I did a batch of banana peppers and hoping to do some apple stuff. Just gotta go picking first with the family.

  18. You should invest in a Roma Food Mill. You don’t have to peel your apples for applesauce or your peaches or pears or your tomatoes for tomato sauce. It is so easy with this mill! Just my two cents . . .

  19. Tiffany Johnson says:

    I don’t know if you have one or not, but Pampered Chef makes and awesome apple peeler/slicer. I have one and it makes peeling a breeze and the kids love to help. It peels and slices them all in one step.

  20. I have done canning a couple of times and just wanted to mention the inversion method of canning. It is super easy and doesn’t require any tools or big pots.
    Instead of the traditional boiling of the jars. You make whatever you are making. I have done this with jams and syrups. You fill your jars with the scaldingly hot item your are canning. Then you turn them upside down for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, turn the jar over. Within 24hrs the jar will have self sealed from the heat(and usually tons faster than that). I am not sure I am describing it well, but it works and is easy and less intimidating than the whole boiling, etc. If you google for “inversion method canning” you can see how to do it in more detail.

    • I’ve done the inversion method for both blueberry jam and strawberry, too. Only had a problem with ONE jar-and probably because I didn’t wipe the edges of it before sealing it. I’m new at this. But doing this method has gotten me interested in the other method of canning.
      I like to buy dried beans, cook them and then I want to can them. Cheaper and healthier.

      I also want to make spaghetti sauce and chili and can them but I’ve been told that inversion method is probably not the safest for this.

      In my area of Florida, we are all sand and no matter what we’ve tried, we cannot get more than 1-2 servings yield off of our plants. We’ve brought in manure, we’ve used miracle grow, we’ve tried various potting methods…all same results. I have considered moving to another state just so that we can garden! Sigh…

  21. I was just going to suggest what Gretchen did. I borrow my mom’s food mill, so I just core my apples, quarter them, and then boil ‘em until soft and run them through the food mill for my applesauce.

    My absolute favorite thing I have canned (besides tomatoes from the midwest, which are such a treat and so much better than tomatoes in AZ) is Strawberry Vanilla Jam. It is just like strawberry jam, except as you start to cook your berries, you scrape in a vanilla bean, and then add the pod after you scraped it. Remove the pod before you put into jars, and process like the book tells you. I know one vanilla pod doesn’t seem like much, but it kicks the taste up SO much. I might try balsamic vinegar & strawberry jam next!!

  22. Here is my list for this year so far:

    50 qts. green beans
    36 pts. salsa
    36 qts. peaches
    10 dozen ears of corn in the freezer

    Still to go:

    40-50 qts. applesauce

    I’m not sure if it is actually cheaper to can or not when you have to purchase the food but I know what is in there and feel confident feeding it to my family.

    Great job on everything you canned!

  23. I think canning initimidates people because so many didn’t grow up with family who canned food. I grew up with mom and grandma canning. Anyway, I don’t know if these things have been mentioned I mention them as they are things that people ask about and I have told people when they ask about canning.

    1. Use the dishwasher to sterilize jars if you have one. I don’t, so I was and rinse in as hot of water as I can stand, then drain, and then air dry on clean towels on the counter. with other towels covering them. Upside down.

    2. Make sure you wipe the rims of the jars well, and inspect the rims of the jars before washing. Nothing like filling the jar full of hot tomatoes and then realize there is a small knick in the rim.

    3. In the picture of you lifting out the jars, I didn’t know if you knew that the rack you have the jars in is made to take the handles and put over the sides of the canner and it will lift the rack so that the top half of the jars are out of the water. Once the water in the canner stops boiling, after turning off the hear, and I don’t see bubbles rolling in the jars any more, I put the rack up like that for 10 min or so. This lets the jars cool just a bit, but also allows you to get the jars out of the water without tipping them over like in the picture. You shouldn’t do that if you can help it, though sometimes you can’t.

    4. After you remove the jars, you really shouldn’t disturb them if you can help it for 24 hours. Sometimes jars don’t seal right away. After that, check the seals and take off the rings. Ball makes solid plastic lids to fit the jars, for storage after opening. They are worth the investment, then you can get all the rings put away when canning over and just throw the lid away.

    Anyway, glad to see canning is making somewhat of a comeback,

    KellyH

  24. So you used store bought fruit? I honestly never even considered buying the food to can. I thought it was just like a fresh from the garden thing. That’s something to think about. I haven’t gotten up the nerve to try canning but this year I did freeze 14 gallon bags of pears. It was a lot of work and i’m pretty sure canning is even more work. I may have to go buy some fruit to try it though.

  25. If you have a little extra in the budget and plan to make those goodies again, I’d invest in a Squeezo (a less, more plastic laden one is the Victorio strainer). To make applesauce, I just quarter the apples, steam, dump into the Squeezo, let the kids turn the crank, and repeat. Until my 8-quart pots or 40-quart pot is full enough to mix in fun stuff to can (I’ve done grape-applesauce, raspberry-applesauce, honey-vanilla-applesauce, unsweetened, whatever I’ve felt like).

    Oh whoops, I didn’t realize how old this post was, sorry. I still stand by my love of my Squeezo though, since it makes applesauce, peach or pearsauce, tomato sauce and seedless raspberry jam happen in my house. :D

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