I won’t lie: Canning can be a time-consuming way to preserve food. It requires some specialized equipment. Most foods lose crispness and nutrients during heat processing. Certain steps must be taken to ensure the food remains safe throughout storage.
Still, canning has lots of advantages. Sealed jars can be stored on shelves at room temperature. Basic supplies can be used endlessly. Food often can be eaten straight from the jar and gifted easily. And some foods, like Dilly Beans and Asian-Style Pickled Beans, just aren’t possible even if you have rows of freezers.
Unfortunately, many people are afraid to can at home. Today, you can buy almost any type of food, from any culture, in a commercially processed and sealed package. The idea of replicating this process without the commercial standards, equipment, and know-how in your home kitchen seems a bit unreal. But in many ways, that commercial jar of jam or pickles or pasta sauce can trace its roots back to home cooks canning their garden’s yield 180 years ago.
And home canning does have all of those things that make people confident in a commercial jar. It has standards; before canning at home, download a free copy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Complete Guide to Home Canning, 2015 revision, for reference. Home canning has required tools, some specialized and some already in your kitchen. Finally, this blog is among the many resources available that outline techniques, provide recipes, share advice and know-how, and ultimately encourage people to can.
Tips & Tricks
The posts on this site include tips and tricks for canning the foods found in the given recipes. But there are a few things to keep in mind every time you plan to canning garden goodies.
- Gather your equipment and check its condition before you start canning. Ensure canning jars are free from chips or cracks, rings are not rusted or bent, and lids are new.
- If you have hard water, add 1/2 teaspoon distilled vinegar to the water bath; it will help keep the jar exteriors clean.
- As long as the processing time, including your altitude adjustment, is at least 10 minutes, you don’t need to sterilize the jars, lids, or rings in advance; just make sure they are clean and hot. Jars can be kept hot in a dishwasher, the canning kettle itself, or even an ice chest filled with near-boiling water.
- Once you start filling jars, work as quickly as you can to keep the food and jars hot. This is where canning with others can be particularly helpful; you can form a mini assembly line, with one person filling jars, another adding lids and rings, and a third filling the canner.
- Headspace is the amount of room between the surface of the food and the lid. Most foods need 1/2 inch of headspace, but 1/4 inch is fine with jams and jellies. I mention the room needed in each recipe.
- Make rings finger tight when you screw them on, rather than cranking them down, before you put the jars in the canning kettle. Avoid retightening them when you remove the hot jars. Finally, take them off entirely for storage; at that point, they do nothing to keep the lids sealed but could rust.
- Jars and rings can be reused, but always use new canning lids when sealing jars. Old lids can still be useful for refrigerated and fermented items or storing dehydrated foods.
- Store canned goods in a cool, dark place—light can darken food, and heat can lessen the quality. For the best flavor and texture, it’s best to eat the food within a year, but as long as the seal holds it will keep much longer.
You’ll find lots of information about canning in the recipe posts on this site, as well as in these posts: