Canning: How It's Done

My canning classes have finally begun! I'm so excited to learn more about this time-honored way of preserving nature's bounty. Here we are at our first class...

Because the Ball company sponsored the canning series that I'm taking at The Kitchen Workshop, I decided to use their exact instructions for canning.

Here's how canning is done...

1. Prepare your gear
  • You will need a 21-quart waterbath canner with a canning rack (Ball sells them, but I got my kit at Walmart). Here's the big canner pot we used in class...
  • You will also need Ball glass preserving jars with lids and bands (again, Ball sells these on their website, but I got some at Wegman's and Walmart)
  • You need common kitchen utensils and produce/ingredients specific to your recipe.
  • Wash the jars, lids, and band in hot, soapy water. Rinse well.
  • Keep jars warm until ready to use, in order to minimize risk of breakage when filling with hot food. You can heat them in a pot of simmering water, or in a heated dishwasher.
  • Fill canner pot half full with enough water to cover jars with at least 1 inch of water. Heat to a simmer. Place lid on canner and keep rack to the side until ready to use. Here's what the rack looks like when it's submerged under water.

2. Select your recipe
  • Select your recipe and read the directions thoroughly. This is not the time to experiment. Even a slight change can throw off the balance of a recipe, turning bliss to blah.
  • Prepare recipe of your choice
  • Fill each jar with prepared food. Follow canning recipe for correct fill-level. Each jar needs space between the food and the rim (headspace) to allow for food expansion.

  • Remove air bubbles by sliding a small non-metallic spatula inside the jar, gently pressing food against the opposite side of the jar. Air bubbles inside the jar can impact canning effectiveness.
  • Wipe any food from the rims of the jars. Center new lid on the jar, then twist on the band until "fingertip tight". Ensure bands are NOT over-tight -- air inside the jars must be able to escape during canning.
3. Preserve your food
  • Place filled jars into canning rack, then lower into simmering water, ensuring jars are covered by 1 inch of water. Cover with lid and heat to a steady boil (this is called "processing"). Boil jars for the time specified in the recipe, adjusting for altitude (see below).

  • Turn off the heat and let jars stand in water for 5 minutes. Remove jars from water and cool upright on wire rack or towel on countertop for 12 hours.
  • After removing jars from the canning rack, do not re-tighten or over tighten bands that may have come loose during canning, so as not to interfere with the sealing process.
4. Congratulations! You just canned! Press on center of cooled lid. If jar is sealed, the lid will NOT flex up or down. (If your jars did not seal, see item 6 in the tip section below) Store sealed jars in pantry for up to 1 year (I'm pretty sure you can keep them longer than this). Jars may be stored without bands, or you may clean underside of bands to ensure no moisture is trapped during storage. Enjoy your homemade food or give it as a gift!

Here are some basic tips for canning...

1. Use recipes that have been formulated for canning (there are tons of recipes on the Ball website and there are tons of books and websites out there with canning recipes). The reason for this is because there needs to be certain ratios of acid and other components in order to can properly. I'm sure you could use non-canning recipes if they have the right ingredients, but I always use canning recipes just to be safe.

2. "Headspace" is the fancy canning word for space you leave at the top of the jar when you fill it. Always measure from the top of the jar rim down to the top of the food.

3. Some tools that are really helpful when canning are a funnel, jar and lid lifter, and bubble remover. The funnel helps to fill the jar without a mess. The jar lifter helps lift the jars out of the hot water safely. The lid lifter is made using a magnet and helps remove the lids from the simmering water. The bubble remover is long and thing and used to release air bubbles and measure headspace with ease. Ball sells a kit of these things, but other kits can be found at various stores that sell kitchen supplies.

4. When recipes say "Adjust for altitude" is means that altitude can affect canning recipes, just like it does when you bake. Recipes are typically written for altitudes up to 1,000 feet above sea level. If your altitude is 1,001-3,000 feet, increase processing time by 5 minutes. If your altitude is 3,001-6,000 feet, increase processing time by 10 minutes. If your altitude is 6,001-8,000, increase processing time by 15 minutes. If your altitude is 8,001-10,000, increase your processing time by 20 minutes.

5. Foods like meat, poultry, vegetables, chili and fish are low-acid foods. They must be processed using the Pressure Canning method and cannot be safely preserved using the Waterbath Canning method I've outlined above. For more info on Pressure Canning, go here.

6. If the lid flexes after you've processed, the jar did not seal properly. You may refrigerate for immediate use. Or for directions on how to safely re-process the jar, go here.

7. Jars and bands can be reused. The lids cannot be reused for processing.

8. Additional FAQs and answers can be found on the Ball website.

Now that you know the ins and outs of canning, stay tuned for delicious recipes that we will be making in class. I will share them all!

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to need to come over for a canning day. It seems overwhelming but I want to learn how :)