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Canning food is a process that stops the growth, sterilizing and sealing foods in airtight containers to preserve them for long-term food storage. You lose no nutrients or quality of your fruit, vegetable or meat when canned at their peak of freshness.
Simple Canning Food Guide for Beginners
This is a process that needs to be followed closely in order to store food for long-term without spoiling.
Recommended Canning Sources
A few simple supplies will help you to get started.
What Supplies Do I Need?
- Mason Canning Jars
- Metal Lids and Bands
- Canning Utensils
Using the right type jar is critical. Make sure your jars have the word MASON printed somewhere on them. Ball, Kerr, Golden Harvest are all the same company that makes MASON canning jars.
Years ago, people would often re-use commercial grade glass jars such as mayonnaise, peanut-butter, pickle jars. Unfortunately, these jars are not designed for canning and not safe to be used.
Proper canning jars have gone through a “heat process” in order to be safe for long-term storage and against breaking. The rim on a canning jar is also thicker to provide a good seal area. Commercial jars rims are thin don’t allow enough room for lids to seal properly.
I know what you’re thinking, your grandma used commercial jars so why can’t you? My granny did too.
I’ll be honest, when I first started canning and preserving food, I thought the same way. After attending classes and getting an education on canning and food safety, I’ve changed my mind. You can learn various reasons for proper safety here on this site.
Make Sure You are Using a True Canning Jar
In recent years, Mason jars for “decorative purposes” have begun to show on the market. These jars are not safe for canning food either.
Another good tip is to run your finger around the rim of the jar, if you feel a chip or irregular area in the rim, it is better not to use the jar. Air can escape this crack and cause your canned food to spoil.
Why Can’t I Use One-Part Canning Lids?
Lids can be purchased in a couple different versions. One-piece and two-piece. Only the two-piece has been approved for canning.
I often get the question Q). “Can I use one piece canning lids for canning?” A) No. Once piece lids are not designed nor approved for canning food or long-term food storage. They are more specifically for hot-fill-hold purposes in a very well controlled situation.
One-piece lids don’t allow for air to escape when the jar is under pressure which allows the lid to seal. This can result in the jar not sealing or busting under pressure because air has not been allowed to escape.
Two-part lids with a screw-band and a flat metal lid that contains a sealing compound made into the lid itself. When applying the lid, simply tighten to fingertip tightness so the band fits comfortably on the canning jar.
The only purpose of the band is to hold the lid in placing during the canning process. They may be removed for storage. If the bands are maintained they can be reused, but the flat lid is for a one time use only.
When the screwband is tightened down on the flat lid, it leaves enough “give” for air to escape when in the canning process. After it is removed from the canner, it will seal itself.
Don’t tighten the screw-band when you remove it from the canner, though it’s tempting, this will break the partial seal that began inside the canner. Just allow it to remain loose and the flat lid will “pop” to a good seal.
What Canning Utensils Do I Need?
Canning utensils are extremely helpful in the canning process. There are 3 tools specifically designed for canning food:
These items can be purchased individually or a set.
Jar Funnel – Wide mouth funnel that allows you to easily pour in sugars, liquids, foods, etc into jars with spilling.
Jar Lifter – Handheld lifter with rubber grip to safely grasp and lift hot jars from canner
Bubble Remover/Headspace Tool – Can be used to remove air bubbles from the jar before placing on lid. Also has notches for measuring the amount of space between the food and the lid. This space is important to allow for air pressure to build to cook the food.
What Type of Canner Should I Use?
Actually there are only 2 proven methods for preserving food for long-term storage. They are the Boiling-Water Method and the Pressure Method. The type of canner you should use depends on the pH level in the food you are processing. This is my go to chart when looking up pH in foods.
Water Bath Canners can be purchased pretty much anywhere on the market. This is the one I use. Whichever you choose, it needs to be deep enough to hold your jars and allow 3-4 inches of water above jar tops.
This canner has 3 parts: The base, rack and lid
Base – Needs to be deep enough to allow for 1 inch of water over the lid and then an additional 2 inches for air space. This will help to prevent boil-over.
Rack – Holds jars up off the bottom and side of the canner, as well as keeps them in an upright position when boiling.
Lid – Keeps the water boiling during the whole process.
Foods having very little natural acid, a 4.6 pH level or low can be processed using a water-boiling method. This category contains the following:
- Soft Spreads
- Pickled Foods
Many people fear the pressure canner and they should. It is a powerful tool that is being used to build high “pressure” inside to completely cook the food it contains and to kill off any bacteria that may be on the food. Always follow the manufactures guidelines when using a pressure canner. This is the pressure canner I use.
Pressure canners are safe as long as you follow manufactures guidelines as well as the guidelines/recipe in your recommended canning book.
If you are not comfortable with using a pressure canner, you can check with you local extension office to see if your area may have a public cannery. If so, you can take your food there for canning and trained volunteers are available to help.
The pressure canner has 4 parts to it:
Lid – locks in place or clamps securely onto the base and is fitted with a rubber gasket, safety valve, and vent pipe.
Gauge – This measures the pressure inside the canner. There are 3 types of gauges: 3-piece, 1-piece or dial. It will come with your canner
Base– Holds the jars for processing and is deep enough not to obstruct the lid
Rack – Keeps the jars off the bottom of the base to allow steam to circulate all the way around the jars.
What Foods Need to be Pressure Canned?
A pressure canner is used for foods that are higher in pH and require a temperature higher than 240 degrees to fully cook.
Such foods are:
- vegetables (seed detailed list below)
- Or any recipe that contains these foods such as stews and meat sauces.
The National Center for Home Preservation recommends the following foods be pressured canned:
- Asparagus, Spears or Pieces
- Beans or Peas – Shelled, Dried, All Varieties
- Beans, Baked
- Beans, Dry, With Tomato or Molasses
- Beans, Fresh Lima – Shelled
- Beans, Snap and Italian – Pieces, Green and WAx
- Beets – Whole, Cubed, or Sliced
- Carrots – Sliced or Diced
- Corn – Cream Style
- Corn – Whole Kernel
- Mixed Vegetables
- Mushrooms 0 Whole or Sliced
- Peas, Green or English – Shelled
- Potatoes, Sweet – Pieces or whole
- Potatoes, White – Cubed or Whole
- Pumpkins and Winter Squash – Cubed
- Spinach and Other Greens
- Winter Squash and Pumpkins – Cubed
Pressure Canning Packing Methods
Fill jars with raw food and cover with boiling hot syrup, juice or water. Fruits and vegetables need to be packed tightly into the jar, because they will “shrink” during processing.
A process of heating food in syrup, juice or water before placing into jars. Keep your food near boiling when filling and pack fairly loose into the jar.
How does Altitude Affect My Canning?
Higher altitudes have a lower barometric pressure affecting the temperature at which water boils. What this means is both Water Bath Canning and Pressure Canning must be adjusted in order to get the right temperature. This Altitude Chart will help you to find your altitude.
Depending on your altitude, boiling-water and pressure processing methods need to be adjusted accordingly in order to insure safe canning measures. Additional time or increase in temperature may be necessary.
Canning food and food preservation are a great way to become more self-sufficient. Not only does it save on the grocery bill, it is also more nutritious for your family.
Do you do food canning at your house? If so, what do you store?
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