This post is going to be the muther of all posts and won’t have a lot of pictures. Normally I like to keep my post short, sweet and to the point. However, with this being a blog about preserving, I feel like I should break it down to the nitty gritty for you. So bare with me.
Let’s talk about the equipment you need, utensils, jars, preservers, labels and books. Ready, set lets preserve some stuff up homie.
There are so many canners out there and to each there own. I am not here to tell you I have tried them all or that one works better then the other. I’m just going to tell you about the one I have and absolutely love. I have the All American 921 pressure canner. This is a beast of a canner but well worth the investment if you are serious about preserving food and want it to last FOREVER. This canner does not require a gasket seal like most pressure canners. That means there are no parts that need to be replaced after so many uses. It has a weight on the right side, which actually helps preserve the food inside. What it does is allows that many pounds of pressure to be inside the canner. The amount of pounds needed to can depends on the altitude in which you live. This helps preserve food that are low acidic foods. On the left, you have a gauge, this tells you when the amount of pressure is present within the canner. Anytime you use this canner you want to ensure that all pressure is released before you open it after a canning project. It also comes with two racks making it easy to stack jars on top of each other. It is heavy duty, which may scare the living crap out of you when you pull it out of the box but it is so easy to use. It took me two years to even use mine. I bought it in our early days of learning how to homestead and then life happened you know got married, moved to a new city, bought a house and got pregnant all in span of three months! But anyway, it took some time for me to grow the balls to use it. Then I did and fell in love with it. Like I said, it’s a beast so it cost about $230. I could not stress it enough, it was well worth every penny.
Water Bath Canner:
This one is pretty basic. You can find this water bath canner on Amazon, Walmart or Target for about $30. Sometimes the grocery store will carry it as well. It’s pretty much a big pot with a rack inside. Side note, in all canners there must be a rack or something that lifts the jars up about an inch or so. Jars will break if they come in direct contact with the bottom of the pot.
This little group of utensils are life saving when canning. I say you splurge and get the kit. Don’t think you can get by without it, you can’t just face it now. The kit usually comes with a funnel, plastic knife, magnetic picker upper (yes, I just said picker upper) and jar tongs. I highly suggest a mesh strainer that will easily fit over a jar, a timer and a ladle. Bust these bad boys out with each canning project.
I fought buying pectin in the beginning of my Canning journey. I started with jams and most recipes include pectin but I though I don’t want to add that to my jams, I want it all natural. Just buy the pectin, it makes your jams cook down to the right consistency. With out it your jams and preserves will stay on the runny side, it being runny doesn’t compromise the safety, just the quality. Lemon juice is another item you will need to keep on hand. Lemon juice brings low acidic food to the right acidity in order to keep it safe for canning. In my recipe for canning tomato sauce you will see that I used it to help ensure my canned tomato sauce stayed safe. Citric acid does the same thing. Sometimes, depending on what food you are canning, lemon juice can leave a taste. Citric acid does not, so it’s canner choice. If vinegar is not already a staple in your pantry it should become one now. Vinegar is used so often during canning projects. Get yourself a big bottle of it and feel good that you always have it on hand. We use vinegar for cleaning, sanitizing, hair conditioner the list literally can go on. When making jams and preserves sugar is going to be your best friend. Sugar helps preserve food, that’s why you will find so much is added to jams and preserve recipes. Adding pectin can help reduce the amount of sugar added. Lastly, salt, get your self some canning salt and store that bad boy in your pantry right next to your vinegar. Canning salt does not contain anti-caking agents or additives like iodine. These additives can compromise the quality of your foods turning the water cloudy and your food dark in color.
There are a few brands of mason jars, any will do. I have not found anyone brand to be more superior then the other. The same thing with lids. You will find Ball and Kerr available. Either work perfectly fine. You can have a Ball jar and put a Kerr lid on it and it will work perfectly. Try not to think too hard about it. The rings usually come with the jars and the lids. Now, you can reuse the rings but not the lids. Once you process a jar with a lid and it seals, that lid is now compromised once opened. You can use it to store jars in the fridge after opening, like pickles, but you cannot use it again in another canning project.
It’s fun to buy pretty labels because these jars will sit in your pantry and let’s face it pretty labels make us smile. But in reality not necessary what so ever. It’s actually kind of a waste because once you open that jar most of the time you’re done with that jar and have to wash it. Trying to peel off a pretty label is just going to piss you off in the long run. Just stick to the dissolvable kind and be done with it.
My all time favorite is the Ball: The Complete Book of Home Preserving. When it comes to canning food safely stick to any ball book. These next two books are just super fun and well let’s face it, pretty. Canning for a new generation, this book has some really fun recipes for chutney and pickled veggies. Jams and preserves book is just as fun. Jams and preserves are the easiest to start with when exploring the world of canning. I recommend this book for any beginner. When it comes to jams and preserves all you need is a water bath canner. Keep it simple when you begin exploring the world of preserving food. You will learn quickly if this is for you then you can justify spending $230 on a pressure canner.
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