Canning 101: The Ultimate Guide

Canning 101: The Ultimate Guide

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Here is the ultimate guide to canning 101!

What is Canning?

Canning is the process used to preserve food. There are two main types of canning. Pressure canning and water bath canning. Pressure canning is necessary for canning low acid vegetables and any meat. Water bath canning is for high acid vegetables and most fruits.

Common Misconceptions with Canning

  • Canning is very hard
  • I will blow up my house and myself
  • Canning isn’t worth it

While canning does involve work and is a process, it really isn’t all that hard to do. I’ve done this for years and am happy to share what I’ve learned through trial and error. Pressure canners do need supervision, but the newer canners have more safety features to release steam than the older canners. Canning is totally worth it when it is in the middle of winter and you open a jar of fresh tomato juice to make chili or soup or just to drink! It is so much better than store bought.

How to Get Started

 

The first thing to get started is to have something to can. This can be your own produce or food you’ve purchased from either a farmer’s market or store.

 

Next, you need a good stove to can on. If you have a smooth top stove, you need a pressure canner specifically made for that type of stove. See this post about pressure canners.

 

Then you need jars. If you have a family member or friend that used to can and no longer does, see if they have any jars laying around they don’t want anymore. This is a great way to get started. Just make sure there are no chips or cracks.

 

Don’t have any? No problem, later I’ll let you know exactly which jars I use.

 

Also, you will need lids and bands. The lids are never reusable, but the bands can be reused from year to year.

 

Before canning, I always run my jars and bands through the dishwasher. Mine has a sanitize cycle that I use, but it isn’t necessary. Just as long as they’re clean.

 

Supplies Needed

  • Large pot for boiling jars
  • Small saucepan to boil lids and bands
  • Potholders
  • Pressure canner or boiling water bath canner
  • Canning salt
  • Vegetables or fruit
  • Ladle
  • The following items

Best Products to Begin Canning

  • Before products, I highly recommend this book for beginners. This is the place you will get all the info you need as far as how long and at what pressures certain foods need to process. Read this post from thefrugalchicken.com about canning mistakes that can make you sick.
  • The first product I definitely recommend is this basic canning set. I didn’t have this for the first few years of canning and could’ve kicked myself for not getting it sooner! So inexpensive and totally worth the small investment. 

NorPro Canning Set

This canning set is amazing because the funnel is the perfect size for quarts, pints 1/2 pints (or jelly jars). Tool to easily measure the appropriate head space and double to remove bubbles so you get a good seal. The small stick looking thing on the end has a magnet so you can safely get your lids and rings from boiling water. The jar lifter is my favorite thing EVER! It keeps your jar upright while lifting them safely from hot water. 

Ball Mason jars

  • Now if you don’t have access to any jars, here are the jars I use. you can use wide mouth or regular mouth jars. If you are canning a lot of green beans or something, start with quart jars. If you can’t eat a whole quart when it is opened use pint jars. The main thing is to can in quantities you can use quickly after opening.

Canners

  • Also, you need two types of canners. Here is the post I did about pressure canners that you can read about here. For high acid vegetables (such as tomatoes) and fruit, you will need a boiling water bath canner.

Juicer

  • If you plan on juicing tomatoes or berries, I like an electric juicer for this job. Beware! It can be a bit messy. This is the one I use.
  • I have also used this juicer for a less expensive option. Basically, anything is better than the wooden handle with cheesecloth and a colander the way I remember my mom doing it!

Canning Salt

  • This is the canning salt I use to add flavor. Canning and pickling salt is what you should use when home canning. It is made specifically for this purpose. This salt doesn’t contain iodine or anti-caking agents which these can turn the liquid cloudy. If you’re looking to cut down on salt, many items are ok to be canned without salt

 Getting Started Canning

 

To get started, gather all of your supplies. In your large pot and a small saucepan, fill with water and get that to boiling. Boil your jars in the large pan and your bands and lids in the small pan. Boil the lids for at least one minute and the jars for several minutes to sterilize. Use the tongs in the canning set to remove from the hot water. After sterilizing your jars, place on a clean old towel.

Empty the pot you sterilized your jars in and get a clean pot of boiling water ready. Use the funnel from the canning set to fill your jars with produce and add the appropriate amount of canning salt. Some items such as green beans require filling the jars with boiling water. Use the headspace measure in the canning set. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean towel and using lid remover from the canning set remove from boiling water and apply to jars. Then apply the band and tighten finger tight only.

Apply to canner according to instructions for either pressure canning or boiling water bath canner. Remove using gripper from canning set and as they cool you will hear a “pop” then check to see if the jar has sealed. The lid shouldn’t give on top if it is properly sealed.

 

Common Questions About Canning 101

 

How long do you boil a jar to seal it?

  • It depends on what it is you’re canning. Most high acid vegetables and fruits the general time in a boiling water bath canner is 10 minutes. Again this can vary depending on what you are canning.
  • Pressure canning requires different pounds of pressure for different amounts of time depending on what you’re canning. The book recommended above gives you all the info you need for times.

What foods can be canned?

  • Pretty much any fruits, vegetables, and meat can be canned. I also can leftover soup sometimes and homemade chicken broth.

How do you can using a water bath?

  • Using a water bath canner is the easiest way because the jars fit better and it comes with a rack to lift jars out when they’re done. But it can be done with just a large pot of boiling water enough to cover the jars when standing upright in the pot.

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Canning

 

  • It does take some time and effort but so worth the work! It’s not difficult work but needs to be done when you have time to pay attention to it. It usually takes me an afternoon to do this unless I have a lot ready at one time. Then a full day is in order.
  • Let me know what you think of this list for Canning 101. Is there anything else you would recommend?

 

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Herb Container Gardening

Herb Container Gardening

I love herb container gardening. After several years of trial and error, this is the easiest way I’ve found to grow herbs. Bonus: I have the perfect spot outside my kitchen door where I can easily access these for cooking! There are some herbs that do really well in the regular garden. However, some will completely take over if planted there and ruin your garden.

Mint

I love me some mint! My favorite thing to do in the summer is to take a sprig of fresh mint and put in my glass of ice water. So refreshing. However, mint of any variety is one of those plants that will completely take over the garden if left to its own devices. For my needs, I buy ONE plant and plant it in a medium-sized container and have plenty.

Basil

Basil is one of those herbs that do grow well in the garden. However, I love having it in the container right outside my kitchen door for convenience. This is one herb that needs a little larger container. I planted mine in a large (not extra-large) container. Again, one plant is enough for my family as long as I make sure to keep the blooms pinched or snipped off.

Rosemary

I love to use rosemary, especially when cooking with poultry. It adds such great flavor! This one does well when planted in the garden or even in your landscaping. It becomes almost like a small bush. Also, this one requires a large pot. One plant does my family well. I usually treat most of these herbs as annuals when container planting, however, this one came back in my container this year! I will need to add fertilizer and some additional new potting soil. And hopefully, it will make it!

Sage

Sage is an herb that is pretty pronounced. My husband is a wonderful cook and he uses sage more than I do. It did great in the container. I just planted this one in a medium-sized container. He likes to dry sage and then crush it. One plant was enough for us but if you want to dry and crush a lot of sage, you might want more than one plant.

Chives

My chives came back in the container this year also! I use chives all the time when I’m cooking so I was thrilled that they came back. Hopefully, they continue to do well. One plant in a medium-sized container worked well. You want to give chives a “haircut” periodically during the season and they will do well.

Thyme

I have never tried planting thyme in a regular garden, but in my container, it tended to grow and spread out. I’m not sure the exact variety of thyme I purchased. My bad! But if it was creeping thyme, that would probably also have a tendency to take over in the garden. I planted this a smaller container.

Cilantro

I’ve grown cilantro both in the regular garden and in containers. And it’s done well in both places.For cilantro, it is very important that you harvest and prune often. It tends to want to flower and go to seed fairly quickly if not attended to. I also love the flavor of cilantro in many dishes. If you want the cilantro to come back the following year in your regular garden, just let it flower and go to seed at the end of the season. Next spring you’ll see little sprouts coming back.

Oregano

Like mint, oregano seems to be an aggressive grower. I have not planted this in my regular garden because of this. You don’t want to have to fight a plant that wants to take over. However, this did great in my medium-sized container. It does well being dried and crushed also. We’ve grown a couple of different varieties in containers and enjoyed both of them.

What You Need to Know About Growing Herbs in Containers

Never use soil from the ground in containers. It will not do your plants any favors. Soil from the ground tends to not drain as well and then when it does begin to dry it just becomes a big clump of dirt. Use potting soil, as it is made for that purpose, and save yourself a huge headache. Make sure there are drain holes in the bottom of the container so your plants won’t drown. Most containers–especially in the heat of summer–require frequent watering. Sometimes morning and evening as the containers dry out quickly. If you see yellow leaves on your herbs, it’s usually a sign of overwatering. Always check the soil by checking about an inch deep and then water well if it’s dry. Every couple of weeks I use a water-soluble fertilizer.

Harvest your herbs when they have around 3 inches of growth and cut just above a set of leaves. Harvest often to keep them under control and to prevent them from getting leggy or flowering. Flowers are pretty, but the plant will give all of its energy to the flowering process rather than providing you with the edible foliage you want. If you want them to come back the following year it’s ok to let them flower and go to seed at the end of the season! Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

 

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