With prices rising on food and gas, families everywhere are looking for ways to save.
Cooking more at home are great ways to start, and canning is a great ways to store your produce for years, saving you a lot of money in the long run. Canning can seem a daunting process if you’ve never done it before, but it’s simpler than it looks if you have the right equipment and a few quick tips.
Once you have the basic idea down, use these simple tricks to make the job even easier—you’ll be a canning guru before you know it!
10 Tips for Canning and Storing for Beginners
Tip #1: Start with the right equipment. If you’re going to start with hot water bath canning (one of the easiest methods), you’ll need a water bath cooking pot with a rack, mason jars, lids and rings, tongs, a jar lifter, a magnetic lid wand, and a funnel. You can find a comprehensive list here.
Tip #2: Do not use overripe fruit. Canning doesn’t do anything to improve the quality of food you use, so if you start with over, or under-ripe fruit, you’ll end up with low-quality canning that will only get worse the longer it sits in storage.
Tip #3: Do not add butter or fat. Unless the recipe specifically calls for one of these additives, leave it out. Butter and fat don’t store very well, and they will lower the quality of the food, making it more susceptible to spoiling.
Tip #4: Use “ClearJel” to thicken recipes. If your jelly, jam, salsa, or whatever you’re making is turning out too thin, don’t try to thicken it with starches or flour. Likewise, leave rice, barely, and pasta out of recipes like canned soups or sauces. Items like flours or grains absorb the liquid, and make the food heat slower, which could result in under-processing and unsafe food products. If you need to thicken up a thin recipe, use a safe product like “ClearJel” starch that has been tested in USDA food labs, and has proven safe for canning use.
Tip #5: Keep fruit fresh with lemon juice. If you’re preparing a big batch of apples or peaches for a day of canning, prevent them from darkening due to air exposure with a little lemon juice. Mix up a solution of ¾ cups lemon juice with 1 gallon of water—the acidity in the lemon juice will preserve the fruit until you’re ready to put it into jars. Make sure you drain the fruit well before you start canning!
Other substances that will stop fruit from darkening include commercial ascorbic acid mixtures (available in most grocery stores) or a solution of 1 teaspoon of powdered vitamin C in one gallon water. Lemon juice is easiest to find, but all are viable options.
Tip #6: Clean hard water with vinegar. If you have some old canning jars in storage, pull them out and clean off hard water or film by soaking them in a solution of 1 cup of vinegar with one gallon of water.
Tip #7: Keep the jars warm. Like with any cooking venture, don’t pour scalding hot liquid or produce into a chilled jar. The temperature shock can break the jars, so keep them warm or at room temperature until you’re ready to fill them with food.
Tip #8: Check for broken seals. 12-24 hours after you’ve finished the canning process, check that the seals are tight by pressing down on the lid with one finger. If it’s sealed correctly, it will be tight and inflexible. If it’s not sealed correctly, it will flex and make a light popping noise.
Tip #9: Refrigerate a jar that refuses to seal. Some jars won’t seal on the first attempt. Reprocess this jar within 24 hours if possible, or just refrigerate it and eat the food within the next few days. You can also store it in the freezer, where it might last for a little longer.
According to Atlas Appliances Ltd, a refrigerator repair in Calgary, many refrigerators have special compartments for canning jars. Bottom freezers also work particularly well for opened canning jars, since they’re less likely to fall out and break or tip over.
Tip #10: Do not re-tighten jar lids. After you pull the cans out of the boiling water, leave the lids alone. If you try to re-tighten them, it may break the seal.
It might take you a few canning seasons to get the process down to an art, but be patient with yourself. With these quick tricks, you’ll be a canning pro in no time.
Guest Post written by Brooke Chaplan. Brooke is a freelance writer and recent graduate of the University of New Mexico. She enjoys hiking, biking, running and blogging about many different subjects including family, home and fitness. Contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan
No More Struggling To Keep Your Home Clean
Subscribe to get your copy of this Weekly Cleaning Schedule Printable.