Canning was once the only way to preserve food in the days before refrigerators. And before grocery stores, it was necessary to preserve food if you wanted to eat and get through the long winter months.
Nowadays, home cooks are rediscovering the joy of canning and preserving. It is most popular to can fruit and vegetables, but it is possible to can different meats and seafood too. Jams, jellies, relishes and chutneys, sauces, pickles, and a variety of vegetables, the list is as endless as your imagination (or your taste buds)!
The modern day revival of home canning continues to grow in popularity every year, as going back to basics seems to be all the rage. People are looking into what is in their food, how the food is processed and the prices. People are fighting again chemicals and GMOs and want organic, real food.
When canners were asked, “Why do you Can?”, their answer was, “Canning produces flavourful, high quality food that saves you money, builds self-reliance and creates lifelong memories.”
What Is Canning?
Canning is a method of preserving food in which the food contents have been processed and sealed in a jar at high temperatures. The heating process does two things. First, it kills microorganisms and inactive enzymes that could cause food to spoil. Second, the heating process pushes air from the jar, creating a vacuum seal as the food cools. You can use any airtight container, glass jars, mason jars, steel or tins cans, but glass jars are the most popular by far. Canning prolongs the shelf life of the canned food from anywhere from one to five years, and possibly even longer!
Tools for Canning at Home
The investment you might make in the needed supplies for canning can put some people off, but there are kits available for beginners who are just starting out. The list of tools includes:
- Jar Lifter Tongs: Tongs help to pick up the hot jars safely out of the hot water after processing.
- Ladle: A ladle helps to spoon food into canning jars.
- Wide-mouthed Funnel: A funnel has a larger opening for filling the jars. It makes it easier to fill the jars and keep the jar rims cleaner.
- Canning Jars and Seals: Use glass mason jars with sealed lids.
- Large Pot: A large stainless steel pot will work great if you are mainly canning fruits, jams, jellies, pickles, and salsa.
Step-by-Step: Water Bath Canning Method
This method is a lower temperature canning process (unlike pressure canning which is a high temperature method typically used to preserve low-acid foods). Use this method if you are canning fruit, jam, and jelly, sauce, chutney, pie filling, salsa, tomatoes, pickles and fermented vegetables.
- Before starting, make sure the canning jars are cleaned and sanitized. Wash the canning jars in hot, soapy water, and rinse thoroughly. Place the clean jars in a large, deep pot and cover with hot water. Simmer over a low-medium heat for 10 minutes. Keep the jars in the simmering water until ready to be filled. Once ready, remove one jar and place on a clean towel.
- Pour the processed food into the jar using a ladle and wide-mouthed funnel. Every recipe will differ as to how much headspace to leave at the top. Refer to your recipe for this exact amount.
- Check the jar for any trapped air bubbles. You can poke the contents with a clean wooden skewer or a chopstick.
- Make sure the rims are completely clean. Any drips can prevent a tight seal. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp cloth and screw on lids.
- Using the jar lifter, gently place the jar into the large pot. Make sure the jars do not touch each other.
- Once all jars are placed in the pot, cover with 2 inches of water.
- Place the lid on the pot and heat the water to a full boil. Boiling time will vary from recipe to recipe. Refer to your recipe for the exact processing time.
- Remove the jars with a lid wand, place on a towel on the counter and let them cool to room temperature. You will hear noises from the jars when you take them out of the pot. The sound is from the seals being formed. The center of the lids will become concave as the vacuum seals take hold. You now have an airtight seal!
- Once the jars are completely cooled (12-24 hours), test the seals by pressing down on the center of the jar lids. If the lid pops down and up, the jar has not sealed properly. You should store the jar in the refrigerator and eat before it spoils.
- Store jars in a cool, dark place.
Many people think that you can only can food through one season, but we assure you that canning can be done year round. You are able to start in the spring with the first crop and continue right through to the fall’s last harvest. Come winter and hunting season, canning venison, steer, and poultry will keep you busy.
Canning is an excellent way to store your own food with your own favourite flavours and recipes. You can create and preserve delicious foods that you will be able to store on your shelf for years to come, or gift them to family and friends.
Whether you are an experienced canner or just beginning, making sure you have all the necessary equipment for the canning process. It will take the guesswork out of preserving your own food and make the entire process more smooth and enjoyable.
For beginners, don’t let the fear or lack of knowledge and experience hold you back! Shop our canning & fermentation selection, grab a friend, and dive right in!