Canning your own food during the summer months, for use throughout the rest of the year, can be a great way to save on your grocery budget. Not only that, but it is very rewarding to step back and look at all your work and have peace of mind that if things got really tough–you would have a little bit of a back up.
If the peace of mind isn’t enough–knowing exactly what you put into those jars is very comforting. But, the idea of canning your own vegetables, jams/jellies, pickles and sauces can sound pretty intimidating. Once you know the basics and do your first few batches–you’ll not only feel like a professional, but you’ll be looking for new things to can.
One of the first things you should know before beginning is that there are 2 different canning methods. Each of which serve their own purpose.
Water Bath/Boiling Water Canning
This method is used when wanting to can High Acid foods such as tomatoes. You do not have to buy a specific Water Bath Canner. As a matter of fact, as long as you have a big sauce pot with a lid (and something that you can put in the bottom so that the jars are not directly on the bottom) you are good to go. If you are wanting to buy a Water Bath Canner–keep your eyes peeled in the fall when the typical canning season is over. I scored my canner, originally priced at $18.75, for $8!
The boiling water inside the canner heats up the contents of the jars, ultimately destroying any mold, yeasts or bacteria that might be present. DO NOT process Low Acid foods in a Water Bath Canner. The temperatures are not high enough to destroy the bacteria spores present in the lower acid foods, which could result in botulism.
This method is used when wanting to can the lower acid foods such as Green Beans, Corn, Carrots, and Okra. Over the last few years, pressure canning has gotten somewhat of a bad rap. If done correctly, while using caution, there is no reason to fear it. I got my pressure canner last year and now use it for more than just canning. It does wonders on cheap cuts of meat (with very little time), and I also use it when preparing pumpkin for Homemade Pumpkin Pie.
Pressure Canners are heated to 240° and stay there for a specified amount of time, under pressure, which varies with the item you are processing. The weights on the canner, pressurize the steam inside.
Now that you know the 2 methods to canning, and their purposes, in the next installment I will go over Canning Equipment and Tools.