There are several true and fast ways to preserve your fruits and vegetables. One of the easiest methods is water-bath canning, which anyone can do at home.
Having an enormous bounty this year, I needed to preserve my excess. You can also use local produce or a pick-your-own if you do not have a garden. After looking through my favorite and family recipes for the garden items I had, I decided to water-bath can my abundance.
Since I haven’t done this process in about ten years, I called experts and reread several ancient cookbooks that have been passed down for generations. I also went to the library to research any time-savers or updated tips, and to my surprise, there was hardly any information on water bath canning! So, I decided to write this series for anyone interested.
Water bath canning is the easiest method and requires no special equipment that you wouldn’t already have in your kitchen: large pots, a metal rack, etc.
What can be canned: high acid foods, such as tomatoes, pickled items and fruits are preserved this way.
What you will need:
1. Large pot for boiling water bath, big enough to place the metal rack in and handles several jars and deep enough to cover the jars in 1.5 – 2” of water. There should be a lid that fits snug.
2. Jars: Wash and sterilize jars right before filling. You can do this while preparing your recipe. It’s best if the jar is already warm when filled with hot food. This will prevent the glass from cracking.
3. Tongs & hot pads/mitts: To remove and place the jars in the boiling water bath.
4. Clean dry towels: To place hot processed jars on while they cool. You will want to let them cool naturally, so, place a towel on a surface that will not be needed for 24 hours.
5. Canning equipment: All your items for preparing and transferring your recipe into the canning jars: measuring cups, spoons, pots and pans for cooking, etc.
6. Teakettle: You will need to add extra boiling water to the pot after the jars have been placed in to cover the jars. When doing a couple sets of jars, I use a ladle to remove water from the top of the processed jars, so I can remove them without having to immerse my mitts or tools into the boiling water. Then you can add water over the next group and start again. Placing the new group into the pot with oven mitts is easier too.
Ingredients: The day before, go through your ingredients to make sure you have all you need. This is when I usually place them on the counter or even measure and set aside for cooking.
It is best to pick your produce, then prepare. I find it easiest to harvest, clean and do any chopping or ingredient preparation the day before if I can. This way, I have all the items I need to go forward uninterrupted. You don’t want to have to stop what your doing and run to the store. That would interrupt the timing and be stressful to boot!
Always bring the water to a boiling point before timing the process time. Process time is how long each boiling water bath should remain in the boiling water before taking out.
Do not place the jars in the water touching. There should be enough room for the jars to have water circulating around them, as well as expansion room during the heating process.
Air space: follow the amount of airspace needed at the top of the jar for each recipe. Don’t try to fit more in than you should, this will cause the jars not to seal properly.
If a jar doesn’t seal, you can reprocess it from the beginning again.
Use new seals or lids with seals each time. Reusing the tops can stop the sealing from working properly.
If unsure, reprocess or do not use.