The right ingredients and materials for home preserving should not be overlooked, since quality ingredients and proper preserving containers will help create a tasty and safe final product. All ingredients, materials, and equipment should be gathered ahead of time to make the process easier. Before beginning, jars should be sterilized, and any jars that have not sealed properly should not be stored.
Quality ingredients can help yield delicious preserved food. These ingredients should be as fresh as possible and free of blemishes. Fruit should also be ripe, but not overripe. All food that is to be preserved using home preserving methods should also be washed thoroughly.
The proper preserving jars, or canning jars, are also necessary for home preserving. Glass canning jars are usually recommended. These typically come with flat metal lids and threaded rings. The lids are placed on top of the jars and the ring is screwed onto the lip of the jar to hold the lid in place.
Some glass canning jars can be reused, but only those with no chips or imperfections around the rims. The metal rings can also be reused, but only new lids should be used. Used lids might not seal properly, which can cause bacteria to be introduced into the jars, spoiling the contents. Old commercial jars, such as spaghetti jars, should also not be reused for the same reason.
Organization can make the process of home preserving much easier. When all of the necessities are gathered before beginning the process, for instance, one will not need to stop the process to find a necessary tool. Before preparing the ingredients for preservation, all jars should also be sterilized.
All components of canning jars should be sterilized using one of two methods. The easiest way to sterilize these parts is by running them through the dishwasher, which uses very hot water. They can also be immersed in boiling water.
Home preserving recipes can then be used to prepare the items that are to be preserved, and they can then be put into canning jars. Large funnels can be used for messy preserves, such as jams. A small amount of space, known as headroom, should be left between the top of the preserves and the rim of the glass. The rim of the jars should also be wiped clean to ensure that they seal properly.
Most home preserves need to be submerged in boiling water for several minutes after the lids and rings have been placed on the jars. A large stock pot should suffice, but a rack should be placed on the bottom of the pot to keep the jars from setting on it. A couple of inches (5 centimeters) of water should cover the jars after they are placed in the pot. A separate pan of water can be used to boil water, and this boiling water can be added to the stock pot if the water level falls below the lids of the jars.
Jars should be removed from the water when the recipe states, usually after several minutes. Jar tongs are insulated tools that are used to lift jars from hot water. The jars can then be allowed to cool, labeled, and stored. Any jars that do not seal properly should either be consumed right away or stored in the refrigerator.