Canning is making a comeback due to a growing interest in healthy eating.
Why wait for fruits and vegetables to be in season when you can preserve them and eat them year-round? Thanks to the age-old method of canning, you can enjoy your favorite seasonal food at any time of the year.
Before can sealing machines were invented, people used jars to preserve food in their homes all the time. But canning isn’t just for grandmas in their aprons—it’s for anybody who wishes to preserve food at home. In fact, canning is making a comeback due to the public’s growing interest in healthy eating and growing their own food.
Learning the art of food preservation is quite easy and fun. If you don’t know where to start, then this article will give you an introduction to the basics of canning.
What is Canning?
Canning is a preservation method that involves storing the food in airtight glass jars, then heating them to kill the microorganisms. During the heating process, the air is driven out of the container. Then, a vacuum seal is formed once the container cools down, preventing more air from getting in and contaminating the food inside. This process gives the food longer shelf life, typically one to five years (and sometimes even longer).
There are two types of safe canning methods: the water bath method and the pressure canning method. Each method is best suited for different types of food.
Water bath method
This method is ideal for high-acid foods like fruits, jams, jellies, tomatoes, salsas, pickles, chutneys, pie fillings, vinegar, and condiments. It involves immersing the food containers in a completely covered boiling water to cook for a specific amount of time.
Pressure canning method
For low-acid foods like vegetables, meats, seafood, and poultry, the pressure canning method is the only safe way to preserve them. The jars are immersed in water and cooked using a special pressure cooker. The above mentioned types of food can harbor a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum, and pressure cooking is the only way to kill it.
Ready to stock up your pantry with canned goodies? Here is the list of all the equipment you’ll need for both water bath and pressure cooking methods:
Water bath canner
A water bath canner is a very large pot with a wire rack inside to separate the jars. It can hold at least 7 jars and is deep enough to cover them in 2-3 inches of water. The wire rack is hooked to the side of the canner to hold the jars up out of the water. It also has handles that allow you to easily take out the jars after cooking.
The canner may be made of stainless steel or porcelain-coated aluminum. If you don’t have a water bath canner, you can use any pot as long as it’s deep enough. You can also use whatever rack you have to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot.
For the pressure canning, you’ll need a pressure canner—a heavy pot made of stainless steel or aluminum. It has screw-down knobs that clamp the lid to the kettle. The lid has a vent, pressure gauge, and a safety fuse. It also has a rack inside where you can place the canning jars.
Pressure canners should not be confused with pressure cookers. Although they both cook food rapidly at the same time using pressure, a canner is much more sophisticated than the cooker. It is specifically designed to monitor the pressure, hold several jars inside, and kill the microbes in the food.
So, is it okay to use a pressure cooker to replace the canner? The answer is no. It’s better to use the correct equipment for canning than risk getting illnesses or injuries from improper usage.
The two types of jars that are the most ideal for canning are mason jars and ball jars. These are made of heavy glass and their mouths are perfect for sealing lids. If you’re planning to create a big batch of canned food, you can buy jars in bulk from a glass bottle manufacturer like Roetell. This will ensure that the jars you’ll use are safe for the heating process.
One of the most important parts of canning is sealing the jar lids very carefully. Using the right sealing lids will ensure that no air can get in the cans and contaminate the food. Take note that the lids should only be used once, but the metal band may be reused as long as it hasn’t rusted yet.
Other canning tools
A few additional canning tools that you’ll need are jar lifters, lid wands, knives, rubber spatula, hot pads, and cutting board.
Basic Canning Rules to Remember
Whether it’s your first time canning at home or your twentieth, following these basic canning rules will ensure that you’ll maintain food safety throughout the process:
Use the correct method for the type of food you’ll be canning. If you’re planning to preserve high-acid foods, then you should only use the water bath method. Similarly, if you want to cook low-acid foods, then the pressure canner method is the only safe way to do so.
Don’t screw the lids too tightly. After heating the jars, a vacuum seal is formed as they are cooling down. If you screw the lids too tight, this seal won’t happen.
Sterilize the jars before using them. Before you place your food in the containers, wash and sterilize all the jars first. This is also applicable to all of the equipment to ensure that there will be no contamination.
Follow tried and tested recipes. There are a lot of modern recipes today that you can try. Make sure that it’s from a reliable source to ensure food safety.
Although canning is an old method of preserving food, it is still being largely practiced today. It’s a healthier and more inexpensive alternative to buying food with additives from the supermarket. With the right equipment and knowledge on basic canning techniques, you’ll be stocking up your pantry with your favorite preserved foods in no time.