Basics Of Canning Your Food At Home
You can do some canning and save money, as well as ensure you’re eating as organically as possible. Here are some insights to help you make the best of home canning, maximizing the whole process, from producing the food that goes in, to preserving it while it’s there, to rendering it as tasty as possible when it comes out.
1. What is it?
Canning is quite simply a way of putting food into jars so that it can be stored on shelves or in cupboards for a long time to come, just as any store-bought jar sauce is fine in your cupboard and doesn’t need to be refrigerated until it has been opened. You put hot substances such as jams, sauces, etc. into heated jars, then hot lids are affixed before they are again submerged into hot water. After a certain amount of time the food will become processed (food processor) and the jars, when taken out, will be in a completely sealed condition. It is ideal for things like tomatoes, peppers, fruits, and jams; it takes a few hours but you’ll have enough for a whole year so will save time and money in the long-run.
2. What do I need?
You’ll need a canning pot. They are commonly black enamel pots with white flecks on them, fairly large in size, typically with some sort of wire racking within, designed to keep the jars’ bottoms off the base of the pot. You’ll need a mid-sized saucepan in which to place 4-8 rings and lids in water, simmering not boiling, and a regular stove pot in which to cook the peppers, fruits, tomatoes, or whatever else it is you want to ‘can’. You will of course require some canning jars replete with the requisite rings. Each time you ‘can’ you’ll need some brand-new canning lids. You’ll also need some sort of rubberized tongs in order to lift the hot jars into and out of the pot or ‘water-bath’. It might sound like a hassle but think how much time and money you’ll save at the grocery store; think of the look on the faces of those who will receive some of your lovely jars at Thanksgiving of Christmas.
3. What do I do?
The canning pot (the ‘water-bath’, the one with the rack) should be prepared to take the jars, which should fit snugly in. Each jar should be filled with hot water, then brought to the boil. In your smaller saucepan place the same number of lids and rings, gently simmering. Now, in the third pot gently boil your peppers, fruit, or whatever, until they’re tender; then, drain the water out. Return to your original, large canning pot and with the rubberized tongs carefully remove each canning jar, pouring the hot water back into the water-bath. Place each pot on a tea towel.
Add the relevant foodstuffs, be it fruit or veg; perhaps some unsweetened apple juice for fruit, citric acid for veg, so that each jar is full. Next, remove the hot rings and lids and place them around each jar in turn, returning the sealed jars one by one into the large black canning pot, submerging them in water, boiling for around a half-hour. After that amount of time, gently remove each jar with your rubberized tongs and space on a tea-towel, maybe with another tea-towel on top to slow down the cooling process. Leave untouched for 24 hours.
The next day you can pick up each jar by its metal lid and it should be completely sealed! If for some reason it isn’t, don’t worry; there was perhaps a bit of sauce residue that prevented it from being completely suctioned on. Make sure you refrigerate that one and consume within a week. Your last job is to label each jar with the date you ‘canned’ it, then store in a cool dark place, as you would with any similar store-bought product like jam or pasta sauce.
4. Is a food steamer of any use?
A food steamer is a useful appliance in its own right, but it is not the same as a steam-pressure canner which is essentially an all-in-one appliance that allows you to ‘can’ food at an even hotter temperature than regular canning in a ‘water-bath’ approach, outlined above. It is especially useful for vegetables and various meats and doesn’t require any sort of pickling process, involving citric acid. It is different from a regular food steamer due to its locking mechanism which captures steam within, in order to create significantly higher levels of pressure. Steam pressure canners will operate at a higher temperature and at an accelerated rate of cooking.
Overall, canning is something you can try. You can enjoy the improved, completely organic taste, the longevity of the food you’re canning with a can opener, and the fact that such jars can make wonderful gifts. Go on, you know you can!