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Getting Started ~ Checking Equipment ~ Stocking Up
Tue Jun 29, 2010 4:06 pmForum Host
It's that time of year again. Gardeners are eagerly awaiting that first, perfect tomato and planning for canning. It's also time to check your canning equipment and stock up on your canning pantry.
Are you new to canning?
Beginner canners are encouraged to follow the USDA guidelines to get started off on the right foot.
USDA 2009 Guide To Home Canning
Home Canning Basics Videos for the Beginner
The EASIEST way to Can-Shelf Stable Can
Jams/jellies are pretty much foolproof and great for beginners.
We've provided links HERE for your benefit. The threads will explain things like headspace (the distance in the jar between the lid and the surface of the food being preserved), tightening the band (finger tight only to allow air to be exhausted during processing), and processing times.
The Ball Blue Book is generally considered the bible of canning. You won't go wrong with a copy...they're available nearly anywhere canning equipment is sold, at your favorite booksellers or even at your local library. So Easy to Preserve from the University of Georgia and the Ball Complete Guide To Preserving are other publications written with the new canner in mind. If purchasing these books isn't an option, the NCHFP (National Center for Home Food Preservation) has an excellent website with thousands of laboratory-tested recipes.
For canning supplies/equipment, you'll need:
Pectin (link) for jams/jellies
Sugar (for jams/jellies/preserves and sweet pickles)
Canning salt, for pickles (sea salt and table salt can negatively affect the appearance of your preserves due to additives)
Bottled lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid/ascorbic acid (for tomatoes and pickles)
Lids and bands
Sharp knives and cutting board
Narrow rubber spatula
Magnetic Wand (to pick the lids up out sterilizing water)
Pressure Canner (good for non-pickled foods) Click on Pressure Canner v. Pressure Cooker for an explanation of the difference between the two. If you have a dial-gauge pressure canner, you will want to have your gauge tested. Click on Testing Pressure Canner Gauges for more detailed information.
Water bath canner (good for jams/jellies/preserves and low pH things like relishes and pickles). A boiling water canner is just a pot big enough to cover your filled jars with an inch or so of water. If you don't want to invest in one, almost everybody has a big stockpot/dutch oven in their pots and pans cabinet. Use that for processing half-pints and maybe pints, depending on how high the sides are. If using this pan, make sure to place something in the bottom to prevent the base of the jars from direct contact with the bottom of the pot (otherwise, they may break from thermal shock). Keep an eye out for sales on BWB canning pots. Garage sales and charity shops are also good suggestions. If you cannot find the inside rack, don't worry. You can put a teatowel in the bottom to prevent the glass jar bottoms from coming into direct contact with the bottom of the pot. If you already have a water bath canner or buy a used one, wash out with soap and water or vinegar. Check for any rust spots and make sure jar rack is still welded together.
Nice to have (but not strictly necessary):
Foley Food Mill
Canning Jar Brush
Measuring Ladles (they come in 2-, 4-, 6-, 8- and 12-ounce sizes). Available at specialty and restaurant supply stores.
Cut glove ~ Made of kevlar (bullet-proof police vest material) and available in five sizes from XS to XL. Invaluable for preventing slicing injuries and busting your knuckles on the grater. FYI, they are sold singly, not pairs (you don't need one on the hand holding the utensil). Available at specialty and restaurant supply stores. Approximately $20.
Check your jars for any chips or cracks, and buy new lids (the sealing compound is meant for one-time use only). Check your rings for any signs of dents or rust and discard if needed. Also do a once over on jar lifter, as well as the funnels and any "canning dedicated" equipment like measuring spoons/cups. How's your pantry? Check the Use Before Dates on any pectin/ClearJel products left over from last year, discard if needed.
Here is some information on:
Bulk Products ~ Jars, Lids and Pectin
Nearly 1800 Terrific Canning Recipes
A couple of things that aren't commonly mentioned in recipes:
1) Jam/jelly recipes do not generally multiply well. It's best to make single batches.
2) TESTS FOR JELLING (link)
3) The blossom end of cucumbers contain an enzyme that can lead to soft pickles. Nip off 1/16" from that end prior to bottling.
If you have any questions or would like to add a comment, please don't hesitate to post them.
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