Calling on all of you canning experts.
I searched this site high and low, but can't seem to find a canning 101 lesson. I went to Canning Pantry http://www.canningpantry.com/index.html ... but really have no idea where to begin.
Does anyone have a book they recommend, too many on Amazon to know what is best? What basic supplies do I buy to get started? What should one never buy or try to can? What can be reused, what can't?
Thank you for your advice in advance,
I can every year as part of "get ready for winter" prep for my folks. The method we use is the propane pressure cooker, because we do a bit of meat and fish too, but if all you're doing is vegitables, you can also use the "water bath" method.
The only one I'm familiar enough to speak on is the Pressure Cooker, so we'll look at that...
It's really a pretty simple process with just a few requirements and caveats:
- A pressure Cooker with Pressure gauge
- Ball or Mason Canning Jars (Reusable)
- Sterilized Lids (Cannot be Reused)
- Fastening Rings (Can be Reused)
- Tongs for removing the Jars
Ingredients for your recipe:
Generally, the "recipe" for what you're canning will require kosher salt, water and a variety of spices, if that's your thing.
We have Ball's "Blue Book" of canning - which despite it's awkward title is a wonderful resource for recipes. It probably has close to a thousand pages.
Once you've set up the cans with the appropriate amount of water and cure/spice or sugar if you're doing fruit, and sterilized your lids (To do this, we just boil them lightly for about 10 minutes); Fit the lids onto the jars, then place the rings on the jars, taking care not to overtighten. Make sure that there isn't any dirt, mold or air-bubbles in the jar you're going to can.
Before you fire up the Pressure Cooker, take and place the jars inside; and fill about 3-4 inches of water... enough to cover the jars about halfway. You don't want them submerged.
Next, fire up the pressure cooker, and allow the pressure to build. Once it reaches the desired pressure, keep it steady by scaling back the amount of gas being used, and keep a close eye on the guage. When we can, someone sits with the cooker the whole time - for safety and to be sure that the pilot doesn't go out.
Generally, for fruits and vegis, we've done 5-7lbs of pressure for 30 minutes, and for meats, 10lbs for 90 minutes.
Do no - for any reason - take the lid off while there is any pressure in the cooker.
Don't let children, or clumsy people aroudn the cooker. Knocking it over could be a diaster.
Be very cautious when removing the jars - they'll be very hot, and can burst if handled roughly.
Let the jars sit until they cool.
By the way - I just found this link - which is much more in depth and helpful than my post:http://farmgal.tripod.com/index-2.html
PS - a word of wisom, the prep work involved is sometimes more of a headache than the actual canning process. I did a batch of pears last year that were nearly brown by the time I got them into my cans, between washing, peeling, quartering and preparing (see, boiling sugar water) the juice.
Do small batches first to bring your skill set up, is my advice for the first timers.
Thank you for all useful the info, nothing better than advice from the experienced. Suppose I will keep Dogs away from the pressure cooker!
Cat, if it makes you feel any better, I canned for the first time last fall, grape jelly from a neighbors grapes, with my daughter, and it was much easier than I thought. I think I may even have used the site Aaron posted, as it looks very familiar. But the box of pectin we used had excellent directions in it as well. We water bath canned and all the jars sealed well, though I had a momentary freakout when I was taking them out of the bath as the lids were still concave and I thought I'd botched it. But as they cooled, the seal formed and sucked the lids down and all was well.
We bought a dozen smaller jars (pint?) with lids and rubber gaskets, a couple of packages of pectin and went for it.
That said, DH's 99 year old grandmother cans crab apple jelly in anything she can get her hands on and pours wax over the top to create a seal. So, she'll send us jelly in old marinated artichoke jars. I actually didn't partake of any of the last batch, because the seals weren't looking thick or complete. I think it's more work that she can do these days. :(
You are an amazing font of information, my friend!
First the gun thread, then gardening thread, now this.
With all this knowledge under your belt, are you sure you're not really older than me and just posted some young guy's picture to fool us all?
You'll find me decidedly ignorant on many of lifes topics =)
Still so much to learn.
Thank you for the compliment,
Go with the 23 or 24 quart cooker .. they have some on ebay around $100 incl. shipping HERE is one
The book we use as a reference is the Blue Book by Ball. According to it, the boiling water bath method is recommended for fruits, tomatoes and other acid foods as well as jams and jelles, etc.
Pressure canning is recommended for other vegetables and meats.
The Ball Blue Book is great. Another very rich source is Canning, Preserving and Freezing Cookbook published by Home Economics teachers in 1975. I just checked and found 9 used copies on Amazon. The first two chapters discuss techniques and needed utensils and equipment. This book is primarily for fruits and vegetables and has an amazing variety of recipes. I borrowed it from a neighbor last summer and finally returned hers when my ordered copy arrived.
I read conflicting opinions on canning squash (pressure canner). Some say ok, some say it is potentially dangerous.
Anyone with firsthand experience?
If you want to jar any kind of winter squash, which is what I think you're referring to here because of the potential danger you've read about, don't bother processing it before you jar it. Meaning wait to make whatever you want to make with it until the day you reach for the jarred product to use. When you actually jar it, just skin it and cube it and then pack it in water.
The warnings arise because some people puree the squash and then try and jar it as is. But squash can be quite viscous and as you may know can also be quite stringy depending on the variety. This makes the likelihood of multiple, large air pockets likely, especially so for someone who is not aware of this detail.
Because of the warnings I've always just jarred it cubed in water, which is foolproof. Another reason for doing it this way is that there's no reason not to have the other ingredients you might jar it with be fresh. So if you're going to turn your squash into pie filling, for example, all the other ingredients will taste better if fresh as opposed to being jarred along with the squash 9 months earlier.
That said, I do know people who've jarred the pureed version without trouble. But when I asked them about the puree, they basically said that they pureed it to death, under high heat almost into a liquid. Since I like my mashed squash chunky and grubby, this is one more reason just to cube it and make my mash later.
We always have sooo much zucchini I always try new ways to save some for winter.
Canning did not work unless it was suspended in tomato sauce. I finally started drying it and once re-hydrated - it is nearly as fresh as the day it was dried.
Our winter squash keeps just the way it is until around Feb. . . but it is usually gone before that. Just plant long keeping varieties and many will keep till spring in cool dry areas of cellars or unheated basements. IF I did need to keep squash longer - I would go with drying it and store it in the freezer with all our dried foods. (Dried foods take up 1/10th the space as just fresh frozen). We use a wood fired / solar heated dryer since I found canning to be so energy intensive but we do can our jams, salsa and pickles.
A little more of an investment but look into the French style canning jars as everything is reusable. With proper care the seal will last many years. More sustainable and less stuff to stock up on.
Can you provide some more information? A link or something?
This would be very interesting, but I'm up to my elbows in sawdust and don't feel like googling ;)
About canning squash, as well as other foods. I always take the rings off the jars AFTER cooling overnight. That does 2 things. First, it saves the rings from getting so rusty, so they last longer by not havng moisture trapped between them and the jar.
More importantly, Clostridium (Botulism for one) bacteria give off gas as they grow (remember bulging can lid warnings?) By removing the ring, any gas formed will break the seal and the lid falls off. It may even make a small mess, but better that than getting very, very sick.
Squash and some other foods will also produce gas after being canned for awhile, say a year or two? This can lead to thinking the food is contaminated. Since there is no way to be sure, outside of a lab, dump it! Best is to plan to use it all within a year. Some foods keep two years and are OK, most will keep longer, but not hold their nutrients. Try to have a small surplus of most things each year, but not a full two years worth.
Plan to use stored squash up first, then potaoes, then sweet potatoes for calories all year around without canning or freezing. New potatoes can be ready by July 4th in almost any spot in the 'lower 49.' Plant potatoes for summer and another crop for storage.
The Ball canning book is the way to go. I've used it for years with good results.
If using a pressure canner, be sure to take it to the County Extension Agent yearly to check the pressure gauge. Doesn't hurt to have an extra seal around as well. They keep quite awhile in a sealed plastic bag.
I investigated what Spencer had to say and found several places, this place seems to have the best price and options that I can find.
Great thread. I was about to propose one on this subject. Great minds! [smile]
My grandmother and mother (lived on a farm in E. Iowa) both canned like crazy every year. Here's hoping I inherited the gene. We won't get enough to need to can this year (garden is a growing-work-in-progress but still not all that big) but I figure I can practice this year so when the garden's big enough that I'll need to can the overflow, I'll be ready...ish.
Thanks for all the input folks!
Viva -- Sager
I don't have the link but try Lehman's. They advertise on this site. Lots of cool stuff, most made in America by Amish craftsmen.
I bottle/can vegetables, garlic, sauces, etc - none of these use a high pressure thingy (im scared of them lol) they just require a boiling bath.
Say i am doing vegetables, i cut up all my vegies to size, i use normal jars/bottles and lids, i dont know where you live but im in australia and i buy everything from a company called plasdene glass pak - you could google search them - it would give you an idea what i use.
So my vegies are cut up - i cram them all into a bottle - i sprinkle in some herbs - i make a vinegar mixture - for every two litres of vinegar i use 1 kg sugar, i bring this to the boil - i pour into the bottles till 3/4 full - i let this sit for5 minutes and thevegies shrink a bit - i top up with more vegies and fill the jar to the rim with the vinegar mixture - i then put the lid on. Once all my bottles are ready - they go into a big pot of boiling water - making sure the water covers the lids and they go in this for about 30 minutes - this seals the lids - thats it for pickled vegies.
The same goes for garlic - or onion.
For sauces - i use whatever recipe i want and then into the bottle they go and into a hot boiling bath. Its very simple.
I make hundreds of bottles like this every week.
All my jams, chutneys, relishes are made in the same manner with a boiling bath.
I also bottle butter, cheese etc and all these lines go into my storage pantry.
All of these lines are just done with a hot boiling bath - no pressure canner here.
Hope this helps.
I bottle/can vegetables, garlic, sauces, etc - none of these use a high pressure thingy (im scared of them lol) they just require a boiling bath.
I do have a question about this method for veggies. I keep reading article after article such as this by the University of California, Safe Methods of Canning Vegetables.
All of these articles warning of botulism.
Have to say I am not too thrilled about using a pressure cooker either, but after reading these articles know I won't be using the boiling bath for veggies.
I have read a few article on a steaming method, but again am unsure about its safety.
Anyone have any words of wisdom?
Steaming reaches the same temps (and pressure) as boiling - if you're lucky. It will NOT do anything to C. Botulinum, the bacteria that causes Botulism. Pressure as well as heat is required to kill it. That requires a pressure cooker.
The other option is to store foods fresh (root cellar style) or dried. Be sure the foods are thin enough to dry properly, then store in a freezer or dry as in a paper bag NOT in a sealed container at room temp, or you'll find them getting moldy and spoiled. One can dry and store much more safely in a desert area, as the humidity isn't as high there. In humid climes it's a sometimes dangerous problem.
Your skepticism is well justified.
Only a handful of veggies/recipes can you get away with non-pressurized canning of, unless you add some kind of preservative. To calm any fears or doubts, I would pick up at least two reputable jarring books, ones that offer both the technical process as well as recipes, and then combine that knowledge to move forward yourself. I have the Ball book and the USDA book.
As far as being leery of the pressure cooker, don't be. If you can handle a gun you won't have to worry about a pressure cooker.
Couple of notes here:
Even recipes that don't require pressure cooking will take much less time (say 15 minutes versus an hour) if the pressure method is used. My system has evolved so that I almost always jar under pressure. Why waste the time. There's no reason to.
Respect for the pressure cooker is in order however. Realize that once the lid is turned and locked you won't be removing it until it has been removed from the burner for quite some time -- really until the pressure gauge reads that it is safe to do so. All children and pets should be temporarily banned from the cooking area. I never touch the thing unless I have mid-forearm length oven mitts on. But beyond these fairly common sense tips, I think once you do it a few times you feel like you've been doing it for years.
Plus, there's nothing better than finally removing the lid of the cooker and then pulling out and drying off these glistening bottles with your beautiful, preserved food inside.
Arron, Sue, Tom, Beavermom, Endgame, Spencer, Judygranny, and Gifts.
Cowgap, I ordered the recipe book.
Maincoon, I trust you! So I will give the pressure cooker a try. Dogs will let you know if I don't survive...
I guess a pressure cooker/canner goes on the list, along w/jars&lids&so forth.
[scurrying to find my prep list...]
I have to add my .02 cents. There's a singular pleasure in listening to freshly canned produce *ping* a seal on your kitchen counter as jars cool.
I haven't canned for several years, though I'm looking forward to taking it up again. I used to can a lot - particularly pickles and jams, and a spaghetti sauce and spicy tomato juice (done in tandem) following recipes from Farm Journal's Country Cookbook, which includes a variety of standard recipes as well as little gems tucked among the pages such as how to make butter, can tomatoes, make jams and jellies, freeze and pickle fish, roast venison, and recipes such as "Home-cured Corned Beef," "Whole Pit-Roasted Pig," "Homemade Pork Sausage," and even, um, "Head Cheese" and rabbit and raccoon recipes.
I just found the book at Amazon.com...you can get the 1972 version I have for $1.67. The original 1959 will cost you the premium of $3.12.
I'd recommend the section entitled "When the Tomatoes Are Ripe" on page 203. I'd also compare any canning instructions with current pre- and pro-scriptions to ensure food safety.
I am looking to get the Blue Book by Ball for canning. Aaron said it had about a thousand pages so are we talking about the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine (at 448 pages with all the canning jars on the front cover)? OrBall Blue Book of Preserving (at 124 pages with the fruit tart on a blue background)? Or are both being recommended?
I was probably exaggerating - and the one we've got is a family heirloom. It's thicker than two bibles and has better recipes, so I just assumed it had better than a thousand pages.
It'd probably be really hard to find that particular copy, since it's been around since... heck, the 1940's or 50's...
Insofar as the newer ones go, I can't help.
Sorry for the confusion,
Here's an update.
After arming ourselves with the aformentioned Home Preserving book, Cat and I took our mason jars with us to Tennesse ready for a canning lesson from Cat's Mom.
We figured we'd go with green beans and then try our hand at dill pickles. So off they go to the Farmer's market to get beans and cukes. And return they did with bounty in hand (okay, plastic bags)
At this point, the kitchen looks not unlike the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. There are pots and pans and kitchen implements they do not make anymore all in play. The pressure cooker had four stages and probably could shoot something farther than a North Korean Taepo Dong 2 missile. (I did not make that up)
The beans were pretty straight forward, pull of the stringy doo-dads, snap them in half, stuff 'em into a jar, add a little salt and boiling water, put the seal and lid on finger tight and then toss them in the pressure cooker. 10 pounds of beans, maybe 15 minutes.
I have started up and shut down submarine nuclear power plants close to 300 times and could probably list from memory 90% of the steps verbatim. But I always used a checklist or procedure. I have a general rule that when I am fiddling around with gizmos that contain hot, pressurized water that I will always follow the written procedures. So when the book says to put the beans in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes while venting, followed by 10 minutes at 10 pounds pressure that's what I will do.
That is not what my mother-in-law did. I don't know what she did because I left the kitchen until the unauthorized deviation from procedures was finished and I could hear steam venting at the tail end of the the bean process. Nothing blew up so I guess it worked.
WARNING 1: Anytime your mother-in-law says "Oh, you don't have to do that step, I do it differently." just nod and walk away slowly.
We only had one bad seal and ended up eating those beans a few days later.
Then we got on to the pickles. We experimented with spears, chips and whole pickles and various mixes of the above.
Here was our dill recipe:
1 cinnamon stick, broken
5 crushed bay leaves
2 tbsp mustard seeds (I was liberal with these guys)
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp dill seeds
2 tsp cardamom seeds
2 tsp pepper flakes
1 tsp whole cloves
a whole bunch of fresh dill from our herb garden
6 garlic peeled cloves, cut in two
We added everything together except the fresh dill and garlic, wrapped it in cheesecloth and stuck it in boiling water and vinegar to make a spice infusion. We used 2 cups of white vinegar, 16 cups of water and 1 1/2 cups of pickling salt per six quarts of pickles. Scale up or down from there.
Then we jammed the cukes into the jars, added the boiling water, fresh dill, garlic cloves and a few alum crystals. We only used alum in 4-5 jars, not sure that a crispy pickle is a requirement. Of course, my mother-in-law insisted that we had to add alum because that's what the directions said to do.
WARNING 2: Anytime your mother-in-law begins arguing something that is contrary to the material she covered in Warning 1 above, just nod and walk away slowly.
As an added bonus I spooned in a couple of spoonfuls of the spice bag mix to each jar (less the cinnamon).
Then into the pressure cooker they went (and out of the kitchen I went).
The pickles came out great. We had some of the chips a few days later and they were superb.
Next batch I think I am going to try adding some horseradish for some extra kick.
Long story short, Cat and I had a blast, and while we are far from experts, we learned something new and are comfortable that we can do this on our own.
Except when it comes to the pressure cooker - I'm driving.
LOL to submitting to the will of the MIL. About crispy pickles:
I don't use alum anymore, because it contains aluminum, which is related to Alzheimer's disease. (I'd rather have mushy pickles than a mushy brain ). But there are a couple of workarounds that don't involve Viagra:
Add a fresh wild grape leaf to each jar. It looks quaint, and the tannins inhibit the pectinase, the enzyme that would otherwise break down the tannins in the pickles.
Cut off the blossom end of the cucumber (about 1/4 inch). That's where most of the pectinase is.
Add calcium chloride. The calcium helps firm up the pickles.
Use a slack lime (calcium hydroxide) pickle recipe. This works best with sweet pickles because the hydroxide ion raises the pH (and therefore makes the solution more capable of supporting bacterial life). Adding sugar alleviates this problem, as the high tonicity is also antimicrobial. I'll try to post my many-years-in-the-family slack lime pickle recipe later. They are really crispy, and yummy, but a bit of a hassle to make (many steps over several days).
For more information on keeping your pickles crispy, folks can go here.
And here is an unabashed plug for my new thread: http://www.peakprosperity.com/forum/preserving-harvest/21935.
I understand your wanting to keep the peace with MIL, but I have to question the idea that skipping part of the process in canning is ok. I may have misunderstood, but you seem to imply that MIL skipped the venting stage.
Please have a look at this http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/uga/using_press_canners.html. It explains that all the air must be vented to allow the remaining steam to reach the required temperature. Skipping this step could be lethal.
I had no experience with canning, and don't know anyone who owns a canner. Most people just look confused when I mention it. I found this really helpful site http://www.paulnoll.com/Oregon/Canning/index.html and I use this site a lot too http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/can_home.html
Mason jars aren't available in stores in Australia, so I reuse glass jars from the supermarket, like pasta sauce jars, and buy new twist top lids. I've had no problems using them in the water bath, and pressure canner.
This overall it's something that's been working for me
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