By this time of year, you probably have a nice bumper crop of fruits and veggies. In an effort to use all that produce up before it goes bad, you've put together a ton of vegetable platters and added tomatoes to all of your sandwiches and burgers. If you find that you still have too much food on your hands after that, it might be the perfect time to try your hand at canning! Don't worry — it isn’t as hard as it some people make it out to be, and there are a lot of great cookbooks out there filled with easy-to-follow canning recipes. However, before you run to the kitchen, you'll need to equip yourself with all the necessary supplies.
Pressure Canner or Water Bath Canner
When buying canning supplies, you'll usually have to choose between a pressure canner and a water bath canner. You should be able to complete most recipes with a water bath canner, which thankfully doesn't cost a lot of money. While pressure canners are the more expensive option, they're necessary for canning low-acid recipes and meat dishes like chicken noodle soup. Plus, a pressure canner will eliminate the risk of botulism in your canned goods. Most of the time, recipes will tell you whether or not they need to be processed in a pressure canner or if water bath canning will suffice.
Jars and Lids
Next, you're going going to need at least a few jars and lids. Jars come in several different sizes, and it can be helpful to keep a variety of them in your kitchen. You may find that some foods, such as jams and jellies, do better in small jars, while others do better in large ones.
Avoid using commercial jars in your canning endeavors, as there’s a good chance you won’t be able to find proper seals for them. Even if you do find a seal that fits, remember that commercial jars can break when being processed, resulting in a waste of both a jar and your time. Luckily, jars that are meant for canning aren’t too expensive and can be used year after year as long as they don’t have any cracks or chips in them. You’ll just need to keep buying new lids for them, as the old ones will quickly stop sealing as well as they did the first time around. If you see any signs of rust or damage on the bands that screw around the lids, you may want to replace those, too.
If you’re planning on freezing any of your canned foods, be sure to put them in jars that were made to withstand low temperatures.
If you're going to be water bath canning, then you'll already need one large pot. No matter what method you end up using, you're going to have to get at least a few pots dirty. Prepare the recipe in one, and warm up the jars and lids in another one or two. It's not uncommon to have your entire stovetop covered in pots when canning.
Other Helpful Accessories
Bubble removers and headspace measuring tools are some other helpful supplies to have on hand when canning. You'll also want to invest in a jar lifter, which securely grips hot jars and allows you to remove them from boiling water without burning yourself. Once you've gotten them out of the water, you'll need a hot jar handler (like a potholder) to move them around more easily. Finally, a canning-specific funnel will provide you with an easy and mess-free way to fill up your jars with food.
Other useful canning materials include ladles, dissolvable jar labels, herb scissors, sharp knives, cutting boards, and food processors.
When canning your extra garden bounty, you have to be sure to follow the directions carefully. After all, they've been specifically created to help you prevent spoilage and any problems with bacteria. Read them over a couple of times before beginning the canning process. Before you start working on a new recipe, it's also a good idea to clear a good amount of counter space. Canning can take up a lot of room, especially if you’re completing more than one recipe in a day. If you want your jars to seal correctly, give them all enough counter space to sit undisturbed for a few hours.
A jar that doesn't close can definitely be annoying, but remember that you always have the option of eating the food inside of it right away. Alternatively, you can try resubmerging it in the water bath to get it to seal properly. Never give up on trying to get a good seal!
Canning is a fun pastime that will make your harvest last longer. There’s nothing like opening a jar of pickles or spaghetti sauce in the middle of winter and experiencing that fresh garden taste all over again. Take your time and follow the instructions, and you'll be well on your way to creating some tasty treats.