If you can boil water, it'll be a breeze to can your own food. It's really that simple. Follow grandma's lead and put up your sauces, pickles and preserves so you can enjoy your summer fruit and veggie bounty well into the winter and beyond.
The canning craze has really taken off the past few years, and for good reason. It's super easy, super effective and oh-so-satisfying when you hear that pop later when you're ready to dig in!
Basically, you fill your jars with your goodies - acidic foods like tomato sauce, salsa, chutney, jam, pie filling and pickles work best - then expose the jar to heat to create a food-safe vacuum seal. This abates the food-fuzzies that you often see in the back of the fridge, while the high pH of the contents helps keep bacteria at bay.
Tip: Check out The National Center for Home Food Preservation and the USDA websites for tried and true recipes for foods that work well for canning.
The easiest (and naturally most popular) method is called water bath canning. It's so easy and you only need minimal gear to make it happen. Just pick up some mason jars, rings and lids, give them a quick wash and you're ready to go.
Note: Make sure you have a pot large enough to cover the jars with at least an inch of water while boiling, otherwise grab one of those too.
You can also pick up a canning rack to make things a little easier when moving your jars in & out of the boiling water. They're very handy and they don't cost much ... but you can get by with sturdy tongs and a hot mitt almost as well.
Once you've got your gear set and your goodies made, you're ready to roll.
- Put enough water in your pot to cover the jars by 1” and heat to a simmer .
- Warm your jars using the dishwasher or another pot of water so they don't break when you fill them with hot foods.
- Put your prepared dish into jars and be sure to leave 1” of space at the top to leave room for heat expansion during canning.
- Run a small plastic spatula around the inside of the jar and press down on top of the contents to get rid of air bubbles and pack the food in tightly.
- Clean the rim of the jar, put a new lid on top and twist a band around it until it's just barely on. Don't make it tight because air needs a way to escape to create the vacuum.
- Carefully slide the filled, (barely) closed jars into the simmering water. Cover the pot and heat it to a steady boil for as long as the recipe requires.
- Turn off the heat and let your jars stand for 5 minutes. Take them out of the water and let them cool upright on a wire rack or dishtowels for 12 hours. Leave the lids alone and let them work their magic. You'll hear pops as each jar seals itself.
- Test your jars and make sure the lids are properly sealed. If there's still some flexing when you press the center of the lid, you can either refrigerate the jar for immediate use or try sealing it again in your next round of canning.
Boom. Done. Crazy easy, right? Be sure to pick up some fun labels and tags to keep track of contents, or share your goodies as gifts. Your sealed jars will last for up to a year and you can remove the bands if you like - the lids don't need them to keep the seal. However, if you're planning to leave the bands on, make sure the threads are dry underneath and around the lip of the jar before putting them into storage.
Have fun & if you find some super yummy canning dishes, be sure to let me know!