I am relatively new to canning. Although I grew up watching my grandmother and mother can, I really had no idea what equipment I needed or how to proceed with the canning process. So, I went to the internet and book store to learn how. It's was a little intimidating at first, since it was all new to me. But, once I got the supplies I needed and canned my first jars of jam, my confidence grew. Now 3 years and hundreds of canned jars later, I have come to love the process of canning and pulling my homemade jars off my pantry shelves throughout the year. Homemade canned goods also make great gifts, and you can always have them on hand.
Truth is, canning isn't hard. It just seems that way if it's totally new to you. So, I hope if you're interested in giving canning a try, maybe my experience will help you. I'm a canning rookie compared to many, but I haven't had a batch fail yet. It's all about following the rules. And, it is important to follow the rules so that your food is preserved safely.
A word of caution about water process canning. For food safety, it is important to have the correct amount of high acid ingredients in a recipe in order to use water process canning. That's why I only use tested canning recipes. You can safely make tweaks to the seasonings, but it is important to keep the correct ratio of of low and high acid ingredients to ensure a safe pH level. Canning homemade recipes can be risky if they haven't been tested for proper pH levels. Without enough acid in a canning recipe, harmful bacteria like botulism can form.
If you want more detailed canning information, I recommend the Ball website. They are the ultimate authority, and their site is loaded with detailed information and recipes suited for canning.
I'm going to show you how I canned a recent batch of my Marinara Sauce. Whatever recipe you decide to can, make sure it is one that has been tested for canning food safety. Refer to the Ball website or canning cookbooks to be sure.
Step 1: Assemble your equipment. Here's what I use. These items can be purchased separately or in a kit. An enameled waterbath canner, jar rack, jar lifter, funnel, magnetic lid lifter, tool for measuring headspace and removing bubbles. (I purchased the funnel in my photo separately--the kit comes with a plastic one.)
The lid rack is another gadget that I love. It's optional, but makes handling the lids so much easier. The entire rack can be lowered into a small pot of simmering water to sterilize the lids and keep them warm and wet until needed. It's very easy to use the magnetic tool to lift out a single lid at a time.
Canning jars come in several sizes. They come with one set of lids and rims. The lids are all one of two sizes: regular or wide mouth. I used wide-mouth pint jars for my marinara sauce. It is important that you use jars specifically made for home canning. Ball has a chart of canning jar and lid sizes that is a good reference. These jars and lids are available at many grocery and discount stores. ♦♦View mason jars on Amazon♦♦
You can also purchase rims and lids together, or lids only. Rims can be washed and reused, but lids cannot. That's because the lids have a seal around them that needs to be new and in perfect shape in order to get a tight seal on your jars. Otherwise the canned food will spoil. So, if you have jars and rims that you've used before, they can be washed and reused. But, you need to buy new lids each time you can.
Step 2: Fill the waterbath canner and heat the water to a boil. Make sure you put the rack in the bottom of the canner before filling it. The water level needs to be 1-2 inches above the jars.
Step 3: Sterilize your jars, rims, and lids. First wash them in hot, sudsy water and rinse them. The jars can be sterilized in the boiling waterbath canner. The lids shouldn't be boiled (it can damage the seal), but should be put in a simmering pan of water (in a lid rack if you have one) until it's time to put them on your filled jars.
Step 4: Use a canning funnel to add sauce to each jar.
Step 5: Measure and double check the headspace. Use the measuring tool to make sure you've left 1/2" of headspace (the distance between the liquid and the top of the jar). Note: The amount of headspace required may vary in different recipes.
Step 6: Remove air bubbles. Insert the flat end of the measuring tool down the side of each jar. Move it in towards the center of the jar. This will remove any air bubbles that might have formed. Repeat this 2 or 3 times around the inside of the jar.
Step 7: Clean the jar rims. Use a damp paper towel or cloth to wipe the rims of the jars. Any sauce left on the rims can keep the jars from sealing properly.
Step 8: Put lids on jars. Use the magnetic tool to remove a lid from the hot water (this no-touch method keeps them sterile) and place them on tops of the jars.
Center a lid on each jar.
Step 9: Place and tighten the rims on the jar lids. Screw the bands down and tighten them just until you first feel resistance--this is called "fingertip tight". Don't over-tighten.
Step 10: Put jars in canner of boiling water. Use the jar lifter to pick up the jars and place them in the canner.
Add jars carefully to the rack on the bottom of the canner, making sure the bottoms are resting flat on the rack and remain upright. Put the first jars around the outside of the rack and move towards the center as you add more jars.
Step 11: Return the water to a full rolling boil. This may take a few minutes.
Step 10: Bring canner to a full boil again and process for specified time. With cover on, process jars at a gentle, steady boil for the time indicated in the recipe. Process time for the marinara sauce is 35 minutes for pint jars and 40 minutes for quart jars.
Step 11: After processing time is up, turn off heat, remove canner lid, and leave jars in canner for 5 minutes.
Step 12: Remove jars with jar lifter and let cool. Set them upright on a towel to cool with approximately 1 to 2 inches between them. Do not retighten the rims. You may hear a pinging noise as the jars cool and seal. The jars should not be disturbed for 12-24 hours.
Step 13: Check the seals. After they have rested for at least 12 hours, press the center of each lid. There shouldn't be any give to it. If it gives to your finger pressure, that means the seal isn't good. Refrigerate and use it soon, or freeze the contents.
Step 14: Label and store. Label each jar with the contents and date. Store in a cool, dark, dry place.
Step 15: Enjoy your homemade canned goods!
Here are some of my recipes that are suitable for water process canning:
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