{Preserving Primer} Canning in 4 Steps and My Latest Canning Binge

“an elementary textbook that serves as an introduction to a subject of study”

I really can’t remember what drew me to canning.  It wasn’t something I grew up with: my mother steered clear of most things domestic unless required, and my grandmother, a culinary master, didn’t preserve unless she had to.  But for some reason last year, I got it in my mind that I wanted to learn how to preserve.

However, canning seemed so foreign and intimidating.  I assumed the alchemical process of taking something perishable and making it last for an indefinite amount of time had to be complicated.  After taking a class at the Workshop one Saturday afternoon, I was dumbfounded by how easy it was.  However, my confidence as a canner stems from having someone walk me through the steps and arm me with some tricks of the trade.  My goal is to share what I’ve learned with you to hopefully demystify home preserving and inspire you to try it.

Canning in Four Steps

This first post in a series of “preserving primers” simply provides an overview of the steps involved with canning, so that you can see how straightforward it is.  All of this will be re-posted on the Preserve page for easy reference.  In addition, I’ve listed some useful books and online resources in the Enlighten page to get you excited about delving into the world of home preserving and “putting things by”.

When you are ready to embark on a canning project, I encourage you to refer to any of the resources I list on the Enlighten page – they all go into the process in detail, providing step-by-step instructions. Rent a book from the library or go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation‘s page on boiling water canning.

(Pictures are from my latest canning binge, described below)

Wash jars and lids. Place the jars in a pot, placing a canning rack, jar rings, or something to keep the jars above the bottom of the pot so that the water can circulate. Boil the jars in a large pot of water for ten minutes to sterilize them.

Prepare the food according to recipe, which can take anywhere from minutes to hours. Be sure to read the recipe thoroughly in advance so you know what you’re getting into and can time everything accordingly (e.g. your jars aren’t boiling for hours while your jam cooks).

Place the lids in a saucepan and cover with hot water from the canning pot (you want them to be hot to activate the sealing agent, but don’t want them to boil for a long time). Fill the hot jars, leaving headspace (space between the food and the top of the jar) according to the recipe, generally 1/4″ for jam and 1/2″ for other goods. Wipe the rim with a cloth dipped in boiling water. Add the lids and screw on the band until finger tight. I fill my jars one at a time, others do an assembly line.

Put the jars back in the pot and bring back to a boil. Start your timer once the water returns to a strong boil and process for the number of minutes indicated in the recipe. When the timer goes off, take the lid off the canning pot and let the jars sit for 5 minutes, then remove to a cloth on a counter to rest.

You should start to hear the magic pinging sound

After an hour, check all the jars for seals (should be indented slightly and not pop back when you push down).  Remove the bands, and wipe down.  Double-check the seals by lifting up the jars by the lid slightly.  Store without the bands for up to 1 year, or as specified in the recipe.

My Latest Canning Binge

For some reason, whenever I can, it tends to be in binges.  For several days in a row, I’ll can one thing after the other.  Last month it was pineapple jam, cantaloupe jam, roasted corn salsa, and peach salsa.  To decompress last weekend, I made more cantaloupe jam and tried out some pickled onions.

Then the deluge of fruit came… my aunt gave me several pounds of pears and my friend’s mother generously gave me about ten pounds each of peaches and nectarines.  I have been canning almost every day for a week straight: nectarine-plum-ginger jam (4 half pints + 1 4oz), spiced peach jam (4 half pints + 1 4oz), nectarine and cilantro salsa (4 pints), peach vanilla jam (2 half pints), and pear vanilla jam (7 half pints) + 1 4 oz).  I used over five pounds of sugar and filled close to 24 jars in a week.

From left to right: Pear Vanilla Jam, Peach Vanilla Jam, Spiced Peach Jam, and Nectarine Plum Ginger Jam

And Nectarine Cilantro Salsa

A few things I learned during the current binge:

– Canning is more fun with a beer and an old friend, with Cat Stevens playing in the background

– You can can something in under an hour (more on that in a future post)

– Wide mouth pint jars hold more than regular mouth pint jars (I know they shouldn’t but I swear they do)

– Nectarine salsa pairs amazingly with Indian food (it’s like a spicy chutney)

Do you have any questions about safely preserving foods?  What are you excited to learn how to can?  Post in the comments.

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6 thoughts on “{Preserving Primer} Canning in 4 Steps and My Latest Canning Binge

  1. Pingback: Canning Can Be Quick (and a recipe for Cantaloupe Jam) « Nourish, Preserve, and Flourish

  2. Pingback: Quick Canning: Small Batch Caprese Jam « Nourish, Preserve, and Flourish

  3. I have beautiful memories of looking in my Grandmothers pantry and seeing canned jams. It amazed me as a child. Pretty decorative jars with her handwritten labels and the taste was out of this world.She was old school, feeling her way through cooking with the recipes in her head. Now I have a little granddaughter and I want to learn for us so one day we can do it together.

    • That’s a beautiful story! There is something so satisfying about canning, and I love sharing it with people. It really is a memory in a jar, in more than one sense – when you open it, you get to experience the flavors of another time, but also remember where you were (and who you were with) when you made the preserve. Let me know if you can with your granddaughter!

  4. Pingback: {Preserving Primer} Need to Have vs. Nice to Have « Nourish, Preserve, and Flourish

  5. Pingback: {My First Pickle} Sweet and Sour Pickled Red Onions « Nourish, Preserve, and Flourish

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