How to get started canning foods


jelly and jam


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© 2015 Shanna Lea

The easiest way to get started canning foods is starting with jams and jellies.  Jams are a great way to capture the flavor of fruit at the peak of ripeness to enjoy all winter.  Use the fruit you grow yourself or pick locally.  Many areas have a “you pick” farm for you to pick your own fruit, like strawberries.  Look up your favorite canning recipe for jelly to see how much fruit you need to pick or buy.  It will be given in cups or by weight.  Make sure you have sugar and canning equipment ready at home before starting.  Some fruits also need pectin added to jell, but strawberries don’t.

Here is the basic equipment you will need

For this article we are going to list what you will need for canning high acid foods such as most fruits (pH level is above 4.6).

  • Water bath canner
  • Canning rack to hold the jars (you can also use a hand towel on the bottom of the pot)
  • Canning jars
  • Rings (Band that tightens)
  • Lids (they form the seal)
  • Tongs to lift hot jars and a magnetic lid lifter to grab lids and rings out of the boiling water
  • Wide mouth funnel for filling jars and a ladle
  • Labels for marking the date made and what is in the jar
  • Towels to set the hot jars on when taken out of the pot
  • A place to put the hot jars where they can cool completely, undisturbed
water bath canner

Water Bath Canner Set

The basic procedure is this: 

1.  Wash and dry the canning jars, rings and lids with soap and water. Then place them in a pot and boil for 10 minutes to sterilize them. Carefully take the out the jars with the jar tongs and place them upside down on towels to dry. Remove the rings and lids with the lid lifter. When they are dry, keep upside down until you start cooking the fruit. in boiling water

2.  Wash and inspect the fruit for and spoiled areas. If you see any, cut it off. If you are cutting the fruit smaller, do that, or if you are leaving it whole, like with raspberries, just put them in a large saucepan. You need to have weighed the whole amount, or have measured how many cups you have as per your jelly recipe. That will tell you how much sugar and pectin you need. You will bring the fruit to a boil and continue boiling until the whole amount has thickened. Your recipe will tell you how long, usually until the fruit coats the back of a spoon without dripping off.

3.  Using the wide mouth funnel and a ladle put the jelly into each jar leaving about one quarter inch headroom at the top. Wipe the top edge with a clean cloth if you got jelly on it. Put the lid into the ring and put it on the jar twisting the ring almost tight. You will finish tightening later, but now just tighten so water will not get in. Place the jars into the jar rack, and then lower the jar rack into the water bath canner of boiling water. Simmer for the time it says in your recipe. When the time is up, lift each jar out of the canner and set on towels. When all jars are on the towels, listen for a popping sound. This will be the vacuum seal that forms as the jars cool. You will see the lids are pushed in on the top. You can tighten the rings now all the way. Leave the jars until they are completely cooled to the touch. If any jars have not sealed must be refrigerated and used first.

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

Now you are all set

So now you have a batch of jam for your winter toast. This is just the first of many canning sessions in your future. If you buy the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving , or Stocking Up, and you will have a lifetime of recipes to try. As you progress to low acid foods, you will need to buy a pressure canner to add to your equipment. Canning is a fun way to preserve food and share your harvest.

Recommended Links:

Stocking Up, 3rd ed

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

Water Bath Canner 9pc set includes: rack, tongs, jar lifter, funnel, colander, lid wrench, and magnetic lid lifter

Ball Jelly Canning Jars


All American Pressure Canner

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