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