Canning preserves is an economical way to keep food costs down while ensuring the nutritional needs are met. By knowing how the food was prepared, home canners feel comfortable what is eaten meets both safety and taste tests. The best tips for canning preserves include having the right supplies, picking fresh produce, preparing the food correctly, and preserving the product safely.
When canning preserves, timing is crucial, so it is important to have the right supplies on hand before starting the canning process. Glass jars sold for canning are available at most grocery stores and large discount retailers. The jars have a wide mouth to make it easier to ladle the food into the jar. Metal lids with separate metal bands are also required for creating a vacuum seal during the canning process.
For canning preserves using the water bath method, a high capacity stock pot with tall sides and a lid is required, and for pressure canning, a specialized piece of equipment known as a pressure canner is required. In addition to the canning container, it is helpful to have a pair of long tongs to remove the hot jars, a measuring spoon, a ladle, and a rubber spatula. Several dish towels and washcloths will also be needed to clean the jars of any spilled preserves.
Another requirement for successfully canning preserves is to pick the fruit or produce at the appropriate time. Under ripe or overripe produce will only result in a mediocre finished product. Carefully inspect each piece and only use unblemished produce at the peak of freshness to help guarantee the best possible taste when preserved foods are ultimately used.
Preparing the food correctly is also an important factor to determining whether the final taste is going to be good. Most canning recipes note that all stems and debris should be removed and suggest a thorough washing of any skins that may remain. Tomatoes, for example, are often seeded by blanching and squeezing before actually canning so the resulting sauce or juice can be used as is without the need for straining. To control the cooking times, home canners should take care to cut all pieces to the same approximate size. This will aid in even cooking and provide a consistent taste to the preserves.
Once the supplies are laid out and the produce is prepared, the actual preserving begins. It is extremely important to follow the cooking guidelines exactly or the resulting preserves may be unsafe to consume. Low-acid foods should be processed in a pressure canner while other foods can be processed using the water bath method.
The jars should be filled while both the jars and food are still hot and any air bubbles should be removed by running a knife along the inside edge of each jar. After the jars are processed, let them cool completely then check for a strong seal. Any jars that did not vacuum seal should be refrigerated and eaten within a week or two to prevent spoilage.