As you might expect, canning fruits and vegetables is pretty trendy during the Covid-19 pandemic. It can seem intimidating at first, but it’s a way to save money by giving fruits and vegetables a longer shelf life.
We’ve got a few tips to help you enjoy your fresh produce year round.
What you’ll need:
- Mason jars with new lids and bands
- Some common kitchen utensils (such as a spatula, a funnel and tongs)
- A pressure canner or a boiling water bath canner
What you need to know about canning methods:
There is a difference between a pressure canner and a water bath canner. Foods with high acid content, such as most fruits and tomatoes, can be processed in a boiling water bath canner. Because these foods are naturally acidic, they are able to kill bacteria at boiling point (120°F). Foods with low acid content, like most vegetables, require a pressure canner. A pressure canner reaches high enough temperatures that will kill any bacteria (240-250°F).
Most large pots that you have at home can be converted into boiling water bath canners, so if you’re new to canning, it might be easier to try canning produce with high acidity first.
How to get started:
The overall canning process is similar for both methods.
- Gather the ingredients for what you’re canning. Read through the recipe and instructions.
- Wash and dry the mason jars, lids and bands.
- Heat the jars and lids in hot water (but not boiling) to prevent cracking when hot food is added. Bands can be kept at room temperature.
- Fill boiling water canner half-full with water (or 2-3 inches of water to pressure canner) and simmer while food is being prepared and placed in jars. If you’re using a pressure canner, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Prepare the food you’re canning.
- Next, remove the jars from the hot water using tongs. Fill the jars with food, and leave an appropriate headspace the recipe calls for (the space between the food and the lid).
- Clean the rim of the jars and place lids on top, making sure the lid is centered. Screw on the bands tightly.
- Return filled jars to the hot water in the canner. If you’re using a boiling water canner, place the lid on top and bring to a boil. If you’re using a pressure canner, follow the manufacturer’s directions. Processing times will differ.
- Remove the jars from the hot water and let them sit 12-24 hours. Do not retighten or adjust the bands.
- To ensure the lid is sealed to the jar, remove the band and try to lift the lid off gently. If the lid stays on, the jar is sealed successfully.
- Label your jars and store in a dry, cool place.
How to get the most out of canning food:
- It is best to can your fruits and vegetables immediately after you harvest them because this is when they will have the highest vitamin and nutrient concentration.
- Iron, aluminum and copper should not be used when preparing your fruits and vegetables to can. These metals can cause discoloration of the produce.
- As mentioned previously, do not fill the jars completely. Produce expands during the boiling process, so leaving adequate space at the top will prevent the jar from leaking.
- To ensure the best quality of the food, try to eat your canned fruits and vegetables within 1 year.
Sources: USDA Guide to Home Canning (2006) and Ball Canning Corporation.