Canning Methods and Supplies
Canning has been a favorite way to preserve food since the process was first invented in the late 1700s. The techniques have evolved somewhat, but are still based on tried-and-true methods from the early days of canning, only with better technology on our side. Canning is still popular today for all kinds of reasons— some people love to make jam from fruit in their own backyard, others want to preserve food to use throughout the year, and some have the goal of long-term food storage in case of a disaster.
The main purpose of canning is to prevent food spoilage by containing the food in an airtight container and destroying the microorganisms that cause decomposition. This can be accomplished in two different ways, your choice of which depending on the type of food you want to preserve.
Water Bath Canning
Water bath canning is for high-acid foods like fruits, salsa, pickles, vinegars, and chutneys. This process involves heating your filled jars in boiling water and basically cooking the whole sealed jar with the food inside. How long you heat the jars depends on the recipe for the specific food you want to preserve.
Here's what you need to perform water bath canning safely:
· A canning jar lifter to protect your hands from the boiling water
· Any other canning accessories required for the recipe you want to use
The specifics will change depending on your recipe, but the basic steps of water bath canning are the same.
1. First, boil your empty jars to sterilize them and prepare the seal on your lids by gently simmering them in hot water.
2. Fill the clean jars with the food to be preserved (it needs to be hot), making sure there's none on the rims of the jars and leaving space inside dependent on the recipe, and close them tightly with their lids and rings.
3. Lower them into boiling water for the required amount of time, starting from when the water returns to a boil after you put the jars in.
4. When the time is up, put them on a towel on the counter to cool. You'll start hearing small "pinging" sounds from the lids as the vacuum seal forms.
5. Once they've cooled, remove the rings and the tightly-sealed jars are ready for storage.
As mentioned, this is a basic outline of the steps involved, and before you start canning you need to have recipes to tell you the exact ingredients, boiling times, and other variables that you'll need to use. But if these steps sound like something you can follow, then you're ready to start water bath canning.
If any of your jars don't seal, just put them in the refrigerator and use them in the near future.
Pressure canning is for lower-acid foods and foods that need to be brought to a higher temperature to preserve them safely. These foods include meat, dairy products, vegetables, seafood, and poultry among others. Your recipe will tell you more.
The reason these foods need to be brought to a higher temperature is because that's the only way to kill the Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which cause foodborne botulism. Your target temperature is at least 240° F, which can only be done with pressure canning.
Pressure canning is the only canning method that gets rid of these bacteria in low-acid food. High-acid foods can be preserved by water bath canning because the environment is too acidic for the bacteria to survive, but for low-acid food, you need to compensate with temperature
To get started pressure canning, you need all the same supplies as mentioned earlier with the addition of a canning pressure cooker. The pressure cooker will raise the temperature enough to form a vacuum and kill any bacteria that are present.
How to Start Canning
Now that you have an idea of what canning involves and the methods you'll need to use for certain types of foods, you're ready to start collecting recipes. You can create your home canning kit by collecting the items mentioned in this article and check Midland Hardware's Canning and Freezing Supplies for more inspiration. There are also tons of great tutorials and YouTube videos to be found online. Get your supplies, spend some time looking around, and before you know it you'll be a canning master.