Welcome to the Wonderful World of Home Canning!

All American Pressure Canner 21 qtI recently purchased an All American Pressure Canner Cooker and all I can say is what a fantastic piece of kitchen equipment it is. It’s not my first pressure canner but it is certainly the best I have ever owned.

So I thought that it might be a nice idea to give you some ideas so that you can see how easy it is to home can and how it will save you money.

Canning is both a treasured American tradition and an excellent way to share your best homemade goodies with family and loved ones. Home canned vegetables are at least as good as store bought ones, and even better when you have grown them yourself or bought them fresh from a local farmer. Canned foods have a substantial advantage over frozen in that they require no expensive equipment to keep them—just a shelf in a cool, dark, dry place.

If you are a first-time canner you might feel frustrated while you’re getting the hang of it, but after a little experience you’ll find yourself doing it with confidence and skill. You will find few sights more pleasing than the rows of sauces, jams, vegetables, and other foodstuffs that you’ve produced!

Firstly – A Little History

Early in the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the 19th century, the French government offered a large cash prize to anyone who could invent an affordable way to preserve large amounts of food. In 1809, Nicolas Appert rose to the challenge after noticing that food cooking inside a properly sealed jar didn’t spoil. As a professional confectioner and brewer, he devised a way to seal food inside glass jars with near-perfect consistency.

Home canning emerged as an industry with the Mason jar, patented in 1858. Ever since then it’s been an American folkway to home can pickles, preserves, and other delicious foodstuffs for stocking pantries and sharing gardens with friends and neighbors.

Getting Started

Good planning is the secret to satisfying canning. Be prepared with all the utensils, ingredients, and information you’ll need before starting. Begin with more than enough time, so you don’t run the risk of cutting corners on processing times should any step go long.

Norpro Home Canning KitUse the following equipment, making sure that everything is clean:

  • Jars (Most processing times specify using pint or quart jars. Both are available with either a wide or regular mouth. Wide mouths are easier to fill, but cost slightly more than regular jars. Test all jars by running your finger around the lip. If there are any cracks or flaws, the jars are not up to canning standards and will not seal.)
  • Two part jar lids—a screwband and a one-use lid (Screwbands can be stored in a dry place and used again next year. Don’t reuse the domed lids, however, as the rubber inside is only good for one sealing.)
  • An inexpensive jar lifter for removing hot jars from a pressure canner
  • Hot pads
  • Canning funnel
  • Knives
  • Cutting boards
  • Kettle
  • Colander
  • For boiling water bath canning, a deep kettle with a lid and rack
  • A teapot for adding hot water as necessary
  • If pressure canning, a pressure canner and rack

Preparing Food and Jars for Canning

  1. Clean the food. If needed, cut it into uniform pieces. For raw-pack processing, set prepared food aside. For hot-pack processing, place food in a large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer 2 to 5 minutes.
  2. Sterilize clean jars by filling them with hot (not boiling) water and lowering them onto a rack in a water-filled pot. Make sure there’s at least one inch of water above the rims. Bring water to a boil and keep it there for ten minutes. Keep jars consistently hot throughout the process.
  3. Remove a jar, empty it, and fill it immediately with food. If using raw-pack method, pack it tightly. If using the hot pack method, fill the warm jar loosely.
  4. Add very hot water, syrup, or juice, according to the recipe, until it covers the food. Allow proper headroom.
  5. Remove air bubbles by inserting a non-metallic utensil and firmly pressing the food.
  6. Carefully wipe the jar rim with a clean towel to allow for a good seal.
  7. Apply the lid and secure it with the screw-ring.
  8. Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 until all jars are filled. Reserve water used to sterilize the jars for the canning process.

Boiling Water Bath Canning

A boiling water bath is the cheapest and easiest method of canning for preserving high-acid foods. These include all fruits, all pickles, and those vegetables to which vinegar has been added, raising the acidity to a sufficient level. Warning: DO NOT use boiling water bath canning for other vegetables—they absolutely must be pressure canned. That said, here’s how to water bath can your high-acid foods:

  1. Lower your packed and prepared jars into simmering water with a jar lifter. The jars should stand on a rack placed at the bottom of the pot. Note that cold jars should be put into water that is warm but not yet hot; they will crack if exposed to a sudden change in temperature.
  2. Add enough water to cover the jars by 2 or 3 inches. Put on the pot lid, bring the water to a roiling boil, and then begin counting the processing time.
  3. When the recommended time is up, remove the pot from the heat and take out the jars with a lifter. Old jars should be treated with extra care, so leave them in the water until the boil has stopped. Be careful not to knock your jars together—they break easily when hot! Don’t cover the cooling jars.
  4. Leave the jars to sit until they have cooled thoroughly, then test the seal. Do this by pressing hard on the center of each lid. If the lid does not move downward or give, your seal is complete. (Any unsealed goods can be refrigerated and eaten within a day or two.)
  5. Store the jars in a cool, dry, dark place for no more than a year.

Canning Safety

Never taste even a bit of canned food that you suspect may be spoiled. Examine jars carefully to detect signs of spoilage, which may include:

  • Mold on the outside of the jar
  • Food leakage
  • Mold inside the lid
  • Darkly discolored food
  • Food that appears shriveled, spongy, slimy, or cloudy
  • Liquid that seems to bubble
  • An off odor
  • Contents that shoot out of the jar when opened

If you think that any of your unopened food has spoiled, detoxify the food and the jars before disposing of them. Do this by placing the unopened jar in a pot of boiling water for 30 minutes. If the jar has been opened, empty the contents into a saucepan, thin them with water, and boil for 30 minutes. Boil the empty jar in water separately, then recycle—do not reuse!

Finally, remember to wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water immediately after handling any spoiled food or contaminated item.

Additional Tips for Successful Canning

  • Add butter to jelly, jam, and preserves to prevent foam from forming during the cooking process. If you leave the butter out, skim off the foam before ladling the cooked food into jars.
  • Measure all the sugar into a bowl before beginning the recipe. Many canning recipes call for a large volume of sugar to be added when a mixture is already boiling; measuring ahead simplifies this step and prevents mistakes.
  • Use a ruler to measure volume. Some recipes call for a mixture to be reduced by a certain amount. To ascertain this easily, insert a clean, wood ruler into the pan before cooking and measure how far up the mixture comes. Then cook as directed until it has reduced by the percentage specified. For example, if uncooked mixture measures 4 inches in pan and recipe says to reduce by half, cook it down to 2 inches.
  • Do not double the recipes. If you want to make more, cook successive batches.

Recipes

We suggest starting your home canning adventure with some basic fruit preserves—they’re some of the easiest, least technical, and most popular canned goods. Your early success will inspire you to keep learning!

Strawberry Jam

Ingredients

  • 5 cups crushed ripe strawberries
  • 4 cups sugar

Directions

Place strawberries and sugar in a heavy saucepan and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Makes 3 ½ cups.

Options: Add ¼ cup of lemon juice or your favorite liqueur, 2 teaspoons lemon or orange zest, or ¼ cup minced mint or tarragon.

Apple Jelly

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 pounds cooking apples (about 12 medium)
  • 6 cups sugar

Directions

Cut lemons in two and slice thinly, removing pits.

Soak in water overnight.

Cook over moderate heat until peel is tender, about ten minutes. Peel and core apples, then cut into thin slices.

Combine apples, sugar, and lemons with their liquid. Bring to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat and cook until thick, about thirty minutes.

Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Makes 4 16-ounce jars.

Grape Jelly

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds grapes
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 3 ounces of liquid pectin

Directions

Sort, wash, and stem ripe grapes. Crush them in a pot or kettle, add ½ cup of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about ten minutes. Turn into a damp jelly bag and drain well; do not squeeze.

Hold the juice overnight in a cool place, then strain through 2 thicknesses of damp cheesecloth to remove the crystals that form.

Measure four cups of juice into a large kettle, add the sugar and mix well.

Bring quickly to a full boil that cannot be stirred down. Add the pouch of pectin, bring again to a full rolling boil and boil hard for one minute.

Remove from heat, quickly skim off the foam, and pour the jelly into hot ½ pint jars, leaving ¼ inch of headroom. Cap with a screwband lid.

Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath, then cool upright and naturally.

Orange Spice Marmalade

Ingredients

  • 8 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • Water as needed
  • 9 cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

Cut lemons and oranges in half lengthwise, then into thin slices, removing pits as you go. Measure and add 1 ½ cups water for each cup of fruit. Soak overnight.

In the morning, bring fruit, spices, sugar, and water to a boil and cook for 20 minutes. Ladle marmalade into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Makes about 6 cups.


We invite you to read our review on the All American Pressure Canner/Cooker

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