Here is where we separate the real gardeners from those with a passing interest. This one word scares the bejesus out of most people who are unfamiliar with the process. CANNING. But modern appliances and some shortcuts have made it a lot easier to do.
There are BOATLOADS of places that push canning and other cooking methods of food prep for long term storage. This takes energy, and your bills will reflect it. But when you add up those bills and compare them to what you save on your food bills, you will save a ton of money. Plus you are not drinking oil. IT’s healthy. But it is hot and it is a lot of work.
General Canning Information
How Canning Preserves Foods
The high percentage of water in most fresh foods makes them very perishable. They spoil or lose their quality for several reasons:
Microorganisms live and multiply quickly on the surfaces of fresh food and on the inside of bruised, insect-damaged, and diseased food. Oxygen and enzymes are present throughout fresh food tissues.
Proper canning practices include:
Collectively, these practices remove oxygen; destroy enzymes; prevent the growth of undesirable bacteria, yeasts, and molds; and help form a high vacuum in jars. Good vacuums form tight seals which keep liquid in and air and microorganisms out.
OK, I need a canner? Why types are there?
Equipment for heat-processing home-canned food is of two main types–boiling-water canners and pressure canners. There are many other types which are NOT recommended by the authorities (see this page for more about obsolete and unsafe canning methods)
Most are designed to hold seven quart jars or eight to nine pints. Small pressure canners hold four quart jars; some large pressure canners hold 18 pint jars in two layers, but hold only seven quart jars. Pressure saucepans with smaller volume capacities are not recommended for use in canning. Small capacity pressure canners are treated in a similar manner as standard larger canners, and should be vented using the typical venting procedures.
Low-acid foods must be processed in a pressure canner to be free of botulism risks. This is because botulism-producing bacteria produce spores that can survive boiling water temperatures, but are destroyed using a pressure canner with the appropriate time and pressure, which reaches temperatures between 240 and 250 degrees F. Low-acid foods include meats, dairy, sea food, poultry, all vegetables (except tomatoes) and many fruits (notably figs). Be sure to see this page for a detailed list of the Acid content of common fruits and vegetables.
Higher acid foods (and those which have been acidified and tested) that may be safely canned in a boiling water bath canner include jams, jellies, pickles, applesauce, apple butter, peaches, peach butter, pears, pear butter, spaghetti sauce without meat, tomatoes, ketchup and tomatoes.
Which Type of Canner Should I Get
There are advantages and disadvantages of Pressure and Boiling Water Bath Canners. Which is best for you depends upon what you want to can and your budget.
Water bath canners are faster for higher acid foods
Although pressure canners may also be used for processing higher acid foods, boiling-water canners are recommended for this purpose because they are faster. A pressure canner would require from 55 to 100 minutes to process a load of jars; while the total time for processing most acid foods in boiling water varies from 25 to 60 minutes. A boiling-water canner loaded with filled jars requires about 20 to 30 minutes of heating before its water begins to boil.
A loaded pressure canner requires about
- 12 to 15 minutes of heating before it begins to vent;
- another 10 minutes to vent the canner;
- another 5 minutes to pressurize the canner;
- another 8 to 10 minutes to process the acid food; and, finally,
- another 20 to 60 minutes to cool the canner before removing jars.
But Water Bath Canners cannot be used for meats, dairy, sea food, poultry, vegetables and many fruits.
And the food quality and storage time is better with a pressure canner. Because they get hotter (240F vs 180F-212F) pressure canners result in a better flavor and the ability for to store for a longer time.
A pressure canner can be used as a boiling water bath canner, just remove the gauge and weight. That way you have 2 canners in one!
Conclusion: Pressure canners cost more to buy, but ultimately, you can “can” more foods in them, store the foods longer, and use the same canner as a pressure canner or without sealing the lid, as a boiling water bath canner.
You can also find free information about canners from the USDA in this PDF file (it will take a while to load!) about selecting and using canners here!
One of the few get to it guides:
Sugar helps retain the color, shape and texture of canned fruits. Sugar is usually added as a syrup. To make syrup, pour 4 cups of water into a saucepan and add:
- 2 cups of sugar to make 5 cups of thin syrup or
- 3 cups of sugar to make 5 ý cups of medium syrup or
- 4 1/4 cups of sugar to make 6 ý cups of heavy syrup.
Heat until the sugar dissolves. Make 1 to 1 ý cups of syrup for each quart of fruit. Up to half the sugar used in making syrup can be replaced with light corn syrup or mild-flavored honey. Fruits also can be safely canned without sugar. Pack the fruit in extracted juice, in juice from another fruit (such as bottled apple juice, pineapple juice, or white grape juice) or in water.Salt may be added to vegetables and tomatoes before canning. Since its only function is flavor, it can safely be omitted. Canning fruits and vegetables without adding sugar or salt does not affect processing times or microbiological safety.
The two methods of packing, food into canning jars are raw pack and hot pack. Raw pack is packing raw, prepared food into clean, hot jars and then adding hot liquid. Fruits and most vegetables need to be packed tightly because they will shrink during processing. However, raw corn, lima beans, and peas should be packed loosely, as they will expand. For hot pack, heat prepared food to boiling, or partially cook it. It should be packed loosely boiling, hot into clean, hot jars. Hot pack takes more time but has been found to result in higher quality canned foods. For either packing, method, pack acid foods including tomatoes and acidified figs to within ý-inch of the top of the jar. Low acid foods to within 1 inch of the top of the jar. After food is packed into jars, wipe the jar rims clean. Put on the lid with the sealing compound next to the jar rim. Screw the band down firmly so that it is hand-tight. Do not use a far wrench to tighten screw bands. There must be enough “give” for air to escape from the jars during, processing. Process food promptly after packing it into jars and adjusting lids. Processing times are given for pints and quarts. If you are using half pint jars, use processing times for pints. For one-and-one-half pint jars, use processing times for quarts. Fruit juices are the only product that may be canned in half gallon jars.
Use a water bath canner to process acidified tomatoes, acidified figs and all other fruits. A pressure canner can be used to process acid foods but the quality will not be as good.
- Fill the canner half full with water; then cover and heat. For raw-packed food, have the water hot but not boiling. For hot-packed food, have the water boiling
- Using a far lifter, place jars filled with food on the rack in the canner. If necessary, add boiling water to brine, water 1 to 2 inches over the tops of the jars. Do not pour boiling, water directly on jars. Cover.
- When water comes to a rolling boil, start counting the processing time. Keep water at a boil for the entire processing time. Add more boiling water to keep water I to 2 inches above jars.
- As soon as the processing time is up, use a jar lifter to remove jars from canner. If liquid boiled out of the jars during processing, do not open them to add more. Do not retighten screw bands, even if they are noticeably loose.
If you live at an altitude of 0-1000 feet you can process foods in a weighted gauge pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure. If you are using, a dial gauge pressure canner, use 11 pounds pressure. If you live at an altitude more than 2,000 feet you need to increase the pounds pressure at which you process foods. These increases are not given in this bulletin. Contact your county extension center to get this information. If tomato products are acidified, they can be safely processed in a water bath canner. If not, they must be processed in a pressure canner.
Here are some pointers for using a pressure canner:
- Pour 2 or 3 inches of water in the bottom of the canner and heat to boiling.
- Set jars on the rack in the canner. If you have two layers of jars in the canner, use a rack between them and stagger the second layer.
- Fasten the canner cover securely so steam cannot escape except through the vent.
- Once steam pours steadily from vent, let it escape for 10 minutes to drive all air from the canner. During, processing, the canner must be filled with steam, not air, since it is steam that reaches the desired temperature of 240’F.
- If the canner has a weighted gauge, start counting the processing time when it jiggles or rocks. The target pressure for this type of canner is 10 pounds pressure. Adjust heat so that gauge jiggles 2 or 3 times a minute or maintains a slow, steady , rocking motion.
- If the canner has a dial gauge, bring pressure up quickly to 8 pounds, then adjust the heat to maintain 11 pounds pressure. Start counting the processing times when the gauge registers 11 pounds pressure.
- When the processing time is up, turn off the burner. (If you are using, a coal or wood stove, remove canner from heat.) Let the pressure in the canner drop to zero by itself. This may take 45 minutes in a 16-quart canner filled with jars and almost an hour in a 22-quart canner. If the vent is opened before the pressure drops to zero or if the cooling is rushed by running, cold water over the canner, liquid will be lost from the jars.
- When the pressure has dropped to zero, open the vent or remove the weighted gauge. (With a weighted gauge canner, pressure is completely reduced if no steam escapes when the gauge is nudged or tilted. If steam spurts out, pressure is not yet down.)
- Remove canner cover carefully, tilting it away from your face so that the rising steam cannot burn your face or hands.
- Remove jars from canner. If liquid boiled out of jars during processing, do not open jars to add more liquid. Do not retighten screw bands, even if they are noticeably loose.
- Place hot jars upright to cool on a towel or rack. Leave space between them so air can circulate. Keep jars our of drafts.
Vacuum seals form as the jars cool. When jars are cool (12 to 24 hours after processing), check the seals. If the lid is depressed or concave and will not move when pressed, it is sealed. If sealed, carefully remove screw bands. If a band sticks, loosen it by covering, it for a moment with a hot, damp cloth. Bands left on jars during storage may rust, making later removal difficult. If you find an unsealed jar, do one of the following:
- Refrigerate the food and use it within 2 to 3 days.
- Freeze the food. (Drain vegetables before freezing.)
- Reprocess the food. Remove lids, empty the contents in to a pan, heat to boiling, pack into clean, hot jars, and put on new lids. Process again for the full time. The eating quality of twice-processed food may be poor. If more than 24 hours have gone by since processing, throw out the food. It might be unsafe to eat.
I live in growing zone 5 which will not mean much to nongardeners. Draw a line from New Jersey to Central California. Draw another line from Georgia to Somewhere in mid Salinas Valley California and you just about have it. I bring this up because corporate foodies will say that when the garden harvest comes in, it comes in at the same time. So you will have thousands of canners firing up at the same time. This is a waste and they can do it “au masse” cheaper, faster and more efficiently. Of course then they have to transport it….AHHH they don’t really have an answer for that because shipping is not their cost. It is an externallity. Which is why corporate america should be kept away from our food supply. Very Far From Our Food Supply.