I never would have entered into the canning food world if it weren’t for my dad.
Every year, my dad plants a garden that could feed a small village. When it’s time to harvest a vegetable, my dad–much to my mother’s chagrin–has been known to take over the kitchen for an entire day (or for multiple days) in order to creatively preserve his homegrown goods.
It’s not abnormal to come home to find buckets and buckets of tomatoes, green beans, asparagus or other vegetables waiting to be used up, given away or canned.
The great thing about my dad’s
farm vegetable garden is that throughout the winter, he will often send us home with canned green beans, potatoes, tomato sauces, salsas, pickles and even an occasional can of pickled beets (which to be honest, have never made it to my mouth). We get to eat organic, garden vegetables all year long!
For my birthday one year, he gave me all of the canning tools I would need in order to start canning my own food. After I persevered through the unknowns of canning, I have arrived at a point where I really enjoy it.
Canning is a resourceful way to preserve fruits and vegetables that are in season. It is also a great way to save homemade salsa, marinara sauces, jams, etc. These also make great gifts for people. It seems like most people shy away from canning simply because of the unknowns.
In this post, I’ll be walking through the process of canning a Roasted Corn Salsa Recipe. It’s a pretty easy recipe that doesn’t require a pressure cooker to safely store the food.
Lets get started by clarifying the difference between two different methods of canning: Water Bath vs. Pressure Cooker.
Safe Canning Techniques
Technique 1: Water Bath (method I use in this tutorial)
Essentially, a water bath canner is a very, very large pot. It typically holds at least 7 quart jars and allows them to be submerged by 1 to 2 inches of water. In fact, if you already own a large pot you can use it as a water bath!
The way water bath canning works is that you submerge the canned food into boiling water for a certain amount of time. This method is ideal for high acid foods. These high acid foods (pH below 4.6) are considered “safe” because their pH level prevents the scary toxins from forming. In other words, you cannot get botulism from a properly canned high acid food. It simply can’t grow there. If you’re looking to can fruits, fruit juices, jams, jellies, fruit spreads, salsas, tomatoes sauce, pickles, relishes, condiments or other high-acid foods, this is the method you will want.
Technique 2: Pressure Canning
When preserving vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood, safety is key. To keep your canning safe, you’ll use the Pressure Cooker canning method which heats the contents to 240º F eliminating the risk of food born bacteria.
Since we won’t be cover this thoroughly in this post, here is a tutorial on how to pressure cook canned goods. Don’t be scared of the pressure cooker. I’ve used it many times, and, after one or two times, you get the hang of it.
Canning using a water bath does take an initial investment in order to get started (OR you could just win them all here!). However, if you get quality products, like the ones I mention below, you will likely never have to replace them. The only things that aren’t reusable are the rubber rings for the jars.
Here is what you need to get started canning:
This canner includes a 21.5 qt. canner with side handles, a lid and jar rack. This durable porcelain on steel pot heats quickly and efficiently; saving energy. The versatile jar rack holds: 7 – quart jars, 9 – pint jars or 13 – half pint jars and is dishwasher safe. Canner is suitable for gas or electric stovetops and is dishwasher safe.
Canning Jars (1/2 liter sized)
I am loving these Weck canning jars. They are not only great for canning but cute enough to use as gifts or to use as decoration. Weck canning jars are made of thick glass to withstand boiling and sterilization. Glass lids are immune to rusting and can be used to process again and again. Since the lids are made of glass (as opposed to aluminum), there is no BPA coating that is found on metal canning jar lids.
Canning Jars (liter sized)
- Wide easy to fill jars
- Glass lids that will not rust
- Seals that are easy to check at a glance
- Easy open jars (no can opener needed)
- Easy stack jars for convenient, space saving storage
- Wide openings making for easy cleanup
- Glass is microwave safe, dishwasher safe
- Attractive, fun, decorative shapes nice enough for table use
Since you’ll likely be pouring hot recipes through a funnel when canning, you’ll want to use a metal funnel, not plastic. This stainless steel funnel is a great, safe option.
The Weck Jar Lifter for canning will make it easier for you to remove the jars from hot water in your canner. The hot jars can be removed from the canner with the lifter, even when they are standing very close together. The stable jar lifter with its well-shaped handles and its chrome-plated metal parts have years of durability and fits not only WECK Round Rim Jars, but also other canning jars.
How to Can Using a Water Bath
Despite Rachel‘s initial reluctance to learning how to can, she agreed to come over while both of our kids were in preschool to learn one morning. It was fun to walk though the process with her and was much easier to take pictures of every stage!
1. Sterilize Your Jars
The first thing you want to do when preparing to can is to get your jars and lids sterilized. An easy way to do this is to fill your canning pot up with water, put your empty jars and lids in there and let them boil until you are ready to use them.
2. Prepare Your Recipe
In the midst of preparing this post, Rachel and I created some videos sharing cooking tips that you might find helpful, especially when making salsa.
We ended up making two batches of this recipe. One that came straight from the Food in Jars cookbook and then another that we tweaked quite a bit and turned into a freezer version. Because of the added beans to our version, we weren’t 100% sure the acidity was high enough to be safe to just water bath. So we decided to freeze it instead (you know our love for freezer meals, right?). Check out our original recipe, Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa: A Big Batch Freezer Recipe if you’re interested.
3. Remove Your Jars
Carefully remove your sterilized jars and place them on dish towel. No need to dry them out with a towel. The hot water will evaporate and you don’t want to risk getting anything in your jars.
4. Fill Your Jars
Using your stainless steel funnel, fill your jars up leaving about 1/2 inch head space (or more if your recipe calls for it).
5. Wipe the edges of the jar off (if needed)
To make sure you get a good seal, wipe down the edges of your jar to remove any food or liquid left behind from canning.
6. Add Lids and Return Jars to Canner
Place your rubber rings and lids on top of your filled jars. Secure the lid down with the clamps that came with your jars. The jar contents expand due to heating. Pressure is created within the jar. The spring clamps allow air, steam and sometimes even some liquid to escape from the jar, but not to enter it. Genius, right?!
7. Boil Jars
Follow your recipe and boil your canned food for the amount of time directed. Our Roasted Corn Salsa needed to boil for 15 minutes. After boiling time, take the pan off the heat source and let jars sit for about 5 minutes before removing from the pan.
A vacuum now prevails in the jar. The normal pressure of the surrounding air outside the jar presses the lid down on the jar, thus firmly sealing it. The spring clamps required during the canning process are now unnecessary and should definitely be removed after the jars have cooled down.
You can now store your canned goods safely in your pantry. Congrats!
Hope this little (OK, big) post on canning gives you the jump start you need to enter into the world of canning. You’ll be so glad that you did!
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