Basics of Canning
*Written by Ruth O’Neil
Canning is a great way to preserve food for later use. While cans of food are quickly and easily purchased at the local grocery store, home canned foods taste better and do not contain many of the harmful preservatives found in commercially canned food. For people who like to garden and grow their own vegetables, canning is definitely something worth learning to do.
There are two types of canners. One is a water bath canner and the other is a pressure canner. A water bath canner is a large pot with a loose fitting lid that is suitable for processing any foods that are high in acid. Tomatoes, peaches, pears, apples, jams, and jellies are all perfect for using a water bath canner. A pressure canner is a must for canning low acid foods. Low acid foods include both green and dried beans, corn, potatoes, soups, and meat. It is the pressure that builds up that allows foods to reach a temperature that is high enough to kill bacteria and prevent spoilage. When using a pressure canner make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions that came with it. Not following the instructions can lead to lids that don't seal or food that spoils.
Other tools you will need include a jar lifter, wide funnel, canning jars with lids and bands, towels, pot holders, and a timer. Timing is extremely important in canning and you must follow the times listed for each recipe exactly. Foods not processed properly can lead to botulism, which is a serious disease and could lead to death. Upon opening a jar of home canned food, if it smells bad or off in any way, throw it away and don't eat it, just to be on the safe side.
Some natural preservatives that you will need for different recipes are salt, lemon juice, sugar, and vinegar.
When canning any food, make sure to follow a recipe. Not all recipes are appropriate for canning. For example, if you want to can some beef stew, your canning recipe will not include flour or other thickener, which is inappropriate for canning. You can thicken your stew after opening your canned jar while heating before eating. Also, for jams and jellies, the amount of sugar may seem like a lot, but it is necessary for preservation. Look for a recipe that is specific to low sugar or sugar substitutes if you desire.
After following all recipe and canning directions you should hear a very distinctive pop as the jars cool letting you know that your jars sealed properly.