How To Get Started With Canning

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It seems like the art of food preservation is enjoying a resurgence! With recent food shortages, people are realizing the importance of having a good stockpile of food at home. One of the most cost-efficient ways to build a stockpile is to can your own produce, sauces, jams, and jellies. Canning is a method of food preservation that can seem intimidating but really isn’t all that hard.

The most basic piece of information that you need is that there are two types of canning:

  1. Water bath canning is used for foods that are high in acids. Because of the high acid content, these foods will naturally inhibit the growth of bacteria that can make us sick. Highly acidic foods include most fruits, many kinds of salsa, and some kinds of vinegar and condiments.
  2. All other foods must be canned with the pressure canning method. Pressure canning uses not only hot water but also pressure, in order to create a vacuum in the canning jar. This vacuum makes it impossible for bacteria to grow.

You will need some basic supplies to get started canning. I’ve put together a list, together with my recommendations for the best purchase options for those supplies. If you’re canning your own garden bounty, you’ll want to order your supplies soon to make sure they are available when you need them.

Ultimate Canning For Beginners Kit

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Ball Canning Back to Basics: A Foolproof Guide to Canning Jams, Jellies, Pickles and More –  Ball is the gold standard when it comes to canning. Their books and guides have been in home canners’ kitchens for decades now. This guide will help you to be able to make the decision about whether a food can be safely water bath canned, or not. While new guides do come out, you should not have to replace this book for at least five years.

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving – Not only is this a comprehensive guide book for canning, but there are also more than 400 recipes included. If you’ve got memories of your grandmother’s spaghetti sauce or pickles, chances are, the recipe came from Ball, and you may find it here. While Ball occasionally updates their books to reflect the latest scientific principals related to canning, this book should not need to be replaced.

A Variety of Canning Jars – You’re going to need jars. Lots and lots of them. Buying jars will probably be your largest expenditure when it comes to canning. You’ll need a few cases each of quarts, pints, and half-pints. You will want to scour Craigslist and your local swap groups on Facebook to find used jars, but there will probably be times when you still need to buy new jars due to breakage. There are a variety of different brands of jars now. As with books, Ball remains the standard.

Rings and Lids – While your purchase of new jars came with rings and lids, you’ll need more. Rings are re-usable from season to season, but the flat lids are not. Make sure you pay attention to whether your jars are wide mouth or regular mouth, and buy the appropriate-sized rings and lids. Generally, rings and lids are purchased together, while lids can be purchased separately. You’ll need new rings occasionally, and new lids every season.

Canning Funnel – When you’re working with chunky food, regular funnels just won’t do the job. A canning funnel will help you get the food neatly into your jars! This tool should last indefinitely.

Lifter – Once your jars are processed, you’ll want to lift them out of the hot water. However, they’ll be too hot to touch. Because they are sitting in water, using a towel or gloves is not the best option. The canning lifter takes the worry out of getting your jars out of hot water. You should only rarely need to replace this tool.

Food Processor – A food processor is essential if you’re planning to can in large batches. It will help you with slicing, dicing, and mashing a lot of the food you will be dealing with. This food processor from Hamilton Beach is a good starter model. It has the functionality you’ll need without a huge investment. You may need to replace your food processor in four-to-six years.

Manual Food Processor – For some foods, like tomatoes, where you want to remove the peel before planning, a manual food processor is a better choice. Because you first cook, then peel tomatoes, you need to have a more gentle touch. It’s less messy than a juicer and gives you the option for chunkier blends for something like pasta sauce, or a smoother blend for something like applesauce. This tool should last a decade.

Food Mill – It’s possible that you may need a food mill. This is a tool that comes in handy if you’re making baby food or fruit sauces on a regular basis. You may never need to replace your food mill.

Water Bath Canner – If you’re planning on canning jams, jellies, or pickles, a water bath canner is essential. This water bath canner is inexpensive, and perfect for stovetop canning. A good water bath canner may never need to be replaced.

Pressure Canner – Pressure canners currently on the market run the gamut from the most basic to top of the line. For a beginning canner, a model like this Presto Pressure Canner is your best bet. It’s the most expensive piece of canning equipment that you’ll invest in, and this model isn’t too high-end. It has consistently high ratings on Amazon, which is an important consideration. A good pressure canner may last your lifetime, although you may need to replace your seals and gauges.

If you’re thinking that canning seems like a sizeable investment, the truth is, you’re right. Between buying canners and jars and food processors, you will find that you need to make a sizeable upfront investment. But given the life of most of your canning tools, your need for replacement parts will be close to nil. It is possible to buy second-hand canners, but be prepared to get the gauges tested and replace the seals. There are also canning supply kits on the markets that get you many of the basics for a cheaper price. You may still want to upgrade to better versions of these starter tools if you find you enjoy canning and wish to continue doing it.

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