Here are a few truths that most experienced canners won't share with you. You need to know them so that you're fully prepared for the task that you're about to undertake.
Now, all the things I don't know about canning could fill an ocean, but I have learned a few tricks along the way that may prove helpful to you.
If you have any questions, shoot me an email.
Truth 1: Canning is hard, hard work. You will be tired at the end of it. Truth 2: You must wear tennis shoes while doing it. Don't do this barefoot or in flip flops. Your back will thank you (and me) for taking this advice. Truth 3: The first, second, and heck even the third time you can, you'll probably hate it. I sure did. Truth 4: Always follow guidelines from official sources like the book that comes with your canner. This blog is not considered an official source. But I've yet to kill anyone, so there's that. Truth 5: In the end, it's worth it. I don't like doing it while I'm canning, but I like the results.
Equipment needed (and some that is great to have)
The best equipment a first time canner can have is a friend who is an experienced canner who has all the stuff. If you can't find someone like that, you'll need the following items. You can buy them new online, or in most smaller hardware stores. You can also find many of these items at Goodwill, garage, and estate sales. If you have a grandparent or other older adult who used to can, but no longer does, they would be a goldmine of stuff.
A canner (duh). There are two main kinds of canners - a water bath canner and a pressure canner. The water bath canner is great for fruits and high acid foods. Basically, you're just going to boil the hell out of whatever is in the jars. A pressure canner is the only safe way to can most vegetables, meat, and soups. If you're new to canning and want to find out if you like it, you can use almost any huge pot with a lid. I canned with a water bath canner for over 5 years, and it served me well. I now use a pressure canner because the stove at our rental can't accommodate a water bath canner, and I have reached the point where I was ready to start canning stocks and veggies.
Something to keep the jars off of the bottom of the pan. If you purchase your canner new, you can use the wire rack that comes in your kit, or try a DIY rack that works wonderfully.
Jar lifter. Cause you probably don't feel like reaching in to boiling water to lift jars out...and might I recommend you use these properly, unlike me. Word to the wise - the rubber part is the part that you put around the jars. I can't tell you how stupid I thought these things were when trying to lift jars by the part that rolls. Doh.
A "good to have" item is a jar funnel, and alid lifter. These are worth their weight in gold. If you buy a kit new, make sure they come with these items; most do.
If you can like me, you'll need a ton of bowls, and towels.
Canning jars (duh). You'll want jars specifically for canning. Do NOT use old spaghetti sauce or pickle jars from the grocery store. These are not safe for canning. Canning jars come in wide mouth or regular mouth. I dislike regular mouth jars for anything other than applesauce or soups. Wide mouth are more expensive though, as are their lids and rings. If buying jars new, they'll come with lids and rings. If acquiring old jars, you'll need to purchase lids and rings as well.
The first time I canned, I did jam. Jams are easy, but I won't recommend it as your first project. They require pectin, sugar, and are a bit more work than something simple like applesauce. Applesauce - or applesquish in our house - is quite simple, and doesn't require any special ingredients.
Step 1: Clean your jars, lids, and rings. I'm a lazy canner, and put my jars in the dishwasher to clean and sanitize them. Keep the door closed until ready to use them as it keeps them hot.
Step 2: You need to keep your lids and rings hot and sanitized. I have enough going on with my stove while canning - I don't need to take up a whole burner with a pot of lids. I keep them in my small crockpot set to high with enough water to keep them covered.
Peel and core your apples, and cut in to chunks. Put in hot water until the apples are easy to pierce with a knife. Usually less than 5 minutes.
Mush your apples. You can peel, core, and mush by hand, but if I had to, I wouldn't can applesauce. It's too time consuming. I received a foodmillfor Christmas years ago, and it works fantastic!
It removes the peels, seeds, and sauces the apples all in one step. You put the apples in top
and sauce comes out 1 side
and the peels and seeds come out the other side.
If the sauce is a little watery, I put my metal sieve over a bowl. Dump the sauce in the sieve and the extra liquid drips down in to the bowl. If you have enough of this, you can make a few jars of apple juice!
I keep my applesauce in my big 7 quart crockpot set to high so that it stays hot until I have enough to fill a full batch a jars.
Fill your jars. I use the jar funnel so that the sauce gets in the jars and not ON the jars. Fill the jars and leave 1/2 inch of headspace. Headspace is a canning term that determines how much space is left between the top of the food and the top of the jar.
Use a clean rag, and wipe off any sauce that got on the rim of the jars. Food on the rim can prevent the lid from becoming fully sealed which can lead to spoilage.
Use your lid lifter and put a clean and hot lid on the jar. Then put the ring on, and tighten.
Put jars in to the canner.
If using a water bath canner, you'll want to fill it about 2/3 full of water and start the boiling process around step 3. When it reaches a boil, you'd put the jars in the rack and lower slowly in to the water. Put the lid on and process pints and quarts for 20 minutes. Then you'd lift the jars out and put on a towel to cool.
Since I now use a pressure canner, my process is a little different. The pressure canner scared the poop out of me, but I've only used it twice now, and feel very comfortable with its safety.
For a pressure canner, put the jars on top of the little jar shelf, and pour 3 quarts of boiling water in the canner. Add 2 tblsp of white vinegar to prevent a white coating from covering your jars. Put the lid on, and turn your burner on to medium high or high. Once you see steam coming out of the little steam chimney (NOT the official name...), set your timer for 10 minutes.
Once the 10 minutes is up, put the cap on the steam chimney (again, not the real names) and watch the gauge until it hits 6 pounds of pressure (below 2,000 square feet). A tip is to turn your heat down when the gauge starts climbing, and then watch the gauge until it maintains the 6 pounds of pressure. When it hits 6 pounds of pressure, set your timer for 10 minutes. The canner is now "officially" processing your applesauce.
After 10 minutes, use your Hulk muscles and lift the canner off of the burner to cool down. Your canner is fully depressurized when this thing
drops down and looks like this
When that thingy is down, remove the cap on the steam chimney and wait 10 minutes before opening the lid. Remove jars with the lid lifter and set to cool on a towel.
Whether you're using a pressure canner, or a water bath canner, you'll soon start hearing "pops" after removing the jars from the canner. The popping is your way to know that the lids are sealed and the food is safe. Unsealed lid
and after the pop
See how the center of this lid is concave?
Allow the jars to fully cool before storing. I usually leave mine sitting out overnight.
Clean up. My least favorite step. Sigh.
Enjoying the effort. My absolute favorite step.
Questions? Shoot me an email by using the contact me button on the upper right side of the column. Or leave a comment and I'll respond as soon as I can. Ha ha, get it? As soon as I can.