This is a quick guideline for those of you who have not done home canning before, or if it has been a while since you last canned food.
Canning is not just for making pickles: tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, corn, carrots, onions, eggplants, cherries, rose hips, soups, jellies, even meat and fish can be "put by." You name it, you can probably can it. Think about it -storing canned food is less expensive than operating a large freezer.
Proper canning practices include:
• carefully selecting and washing fresh food • hot packing many foods • adding acids (lemon juice or vinegar) to some foods • using acceptable, sterilized jars and self-sealing lids • processing filled jars in a Boiling-Water Bath (aka Hot Water Bath) or Pressure Canner Canning involves putting food into sterilized jars, then heating them at a temperature high enough and long enough to kill undesirable microorganisms. The heating and cooling process also creates a vacuum and that airproof seal is why we can store canned foods on shelves, unrefrigerated, for extended lengths of time. Of course, once you open the jar you are going to want to keep it refrigerated until you have used it up.
Jars, Lids, Rings and Canner
Jars do not have to be new; look for gently used jars at garage sales and thrift shops. Check rims for nicks or bumps by running a finger around them lightly. If there is any unevenness the jars will not seal properly, do not use them.
Always buy new lids. Lids cannot be reused, as the gasket material is not flexible enough to seal twice. Lids can be purchased inexpensively in packages of a dozen each. Rings can be used again as long as they are not rusty, if they show the slightest sign of rust, or if they are no longer round, get new ones. The only other items you need to get started are an enamel Waterbath Canner, a canning rack, jar lifter, lid lifter (basically a little stick with a magnet on the end of it) and funnel. Believe it or not, most of these items can be found at your local hardware store.
There are lots of recipes and helpful information on-line, but one of my favorite canning guides, used by my mother and grandmother and still available today, is the Ball Blue Book.
There you have it, easy as pie. Taking a little time to can at home will save money, and provide healthier food products for your family with no additives or chemicals...and with much better taste!