Basic Canning Tips

I have canned for years, first helping my mother, grandmother and older sisters, then as a young housewife on my own. There are some things that I have learned over the years that make canning easier for me, whether I’m canning a single batch of jam or buckets of green beans or a whole turkey.
Let me share with you –
1. A helper is great – husbands, older children, sisters, neighbors. Sharing the work load makes it go faster and you are sharing your experience with new canners and, if you’re lucky, learning from more experienced canners.
2. Get organized before you start. Read your directions, make sure they are up-to-date, and make a plan, at least mentally.  If a cookbook tells you to water-bath something for 3 hours or just to turn jars over to seal, you need to get a current $5 Ball Blue Book.
3. Clear the decks. I stash some of my countertop appliances in my utility room if I’m planning a big session.
4. Plan on a “make-ahead” meal – perhaps a salad or simple sandwiches. No room to be cooking a meal when you have your canning in gear.
5. Keep your tools together. I store some of my tools in a old, covered 9 x 13” pan, then use the pan for my “filling jars” pan.
6.  I put clean towels on trays or half sheets to set my finished jars on - I can move them around without disturbing the jars.
7.  I keep the rings I plan to use handy in an old bread pan so they aren't all over the counter..why didn't I think of this earlier?
8. I like the long, plastic-ended tongs from OXO for removing jars from their sterilizing water. They won’t scratch the glass, and they are 12” long, keeps your hands out of the boiling water.  I usually heat or sterilize my jars (according to the recipe) right in my canner while heating water for processing before filling them - saves room on my stove.
9. I also like a long nylon spoon like this one, a 12” Vollrath food service spoon – it goes in the dishwasher, isn’t reactive, and withstands 475° temperatures.
10. My next purchase is going to be a ladle with a hooked end – no more ladles falling in my jam!  I've had my current one for 40 years!!
11. Try a big tea ball for a spice bag, I really like the big, 3” one I purchased, it will hold cinnamon sticks, etc.
12. If you are going to make jelly, I like a granite-ware jam pan – they carry them at Ace Hardware stores for about $20, or you can buy copper ones for $200-300! I can go through a lot of graniteware ones for that price. The wide deep pan cooks your jam or jelly down fast, and is high enough to keep it from spattering too much.
13. I now use stainless steel stock pots with glass lids for water-bath canning. I use a pressure canning rack in the bottom or a cake rack the right size. I like to see into the pan! I bought 20 quart ones from Walmart at a good price.
14.  Use disposables. This isn’t necessarily the time to be accumulating sticky rags and dishtowels, I have a big roll of paper towels handy. I often peel onto a few thicknesses of newspaper on top of a large plastic grocery bag, and then I can wrap up the mess and carry it out to the compost or trash.
15. If I am “hot-packing”, that is, the product to be canned is hot, I put the pot in my stainless steel sink, put the “filling jars” pan next to it, and I don’t have to reach over a high pot to fill jars. Easier on the back and arms, and you’re less likely to make a mess.
16. Don’t be afraid to try pressure canning. Start by canning something simple, like green beans or even carrots you can purchase any time of the year. These are good items to practice on. Try canning just water the very first time. If I can do it, you can too.
17.  I think it would be wonderful to have an expensive pressure canner, but I can perfectly well with a 12 quart Mirro and a 16 quart Presto, both with multiple "jiggler" weights.    I like having two - I can choose the size I want, or run both consecutively.  Canning alone, it takes me too long to get a double-stacked canner filled, as I used to do when I had a bigger garden and family at home to help, besides being too heavy to handle.  I bought my Presto at Walmart, specifically because it had the jiggler weight instead of a dial.  I want to "hear" how the canner is doing, not stand around watching a dial gauge.
18.  I keep my canners and stock pots on the top shelf in my pantry, and my canning tools in a nearby drawer.  I can get canning at the drop of a hat without having to find my supplies. 
19.  I can all year round - I frequently can all of our meat and poultry, beans, soups, stocks and stews from January to March when my kitchen is cool and I'm going to be inside anyway.  Then I am free to concentrate on garden produce in the summer.  I also need less jars; I can use the empties from winter canning in the summer and vice versa.
Storage Ideas:
Keep those boxes.  I use them to store clean empty jars in my garage, and I also use them to store full jars on my kitchen pantry shelves as well as for my additional storage.  They keep the jars together, and keep them from getting tipped over.  I can mark the boxes on the outside to know what's in them.
I use a "ring hanger" - two wire hangers twisted together - to store extra rings in addition to a couple boxes full.  I like a heavy plastic bag with a reinforced handle area to cover them but make them readily accessible.  I usually hang it on my jar storage rack or inside my pantry door.  Be sure to remove the rings from your thoroughly cooled, sealed jars and carefully wash the jars, especially in the screw band area.  This will prevent mold and rusting.
Make sure your shelving is STURDY.  Filled and even empty jars weigh a lot, and a collapsed shelf will certainly make a mess!
I have also stored canned goods in the boxes under our bed or in other closets when I haven't had as much room.  I keep a list of what is where.
Canning is a satisfying hobby – one that will make you more self-sufficient, let you control what is added to your food, and will also save you money, especially on specialty items like jams, relishes and pickles, your own or shared-with-you garden produce and meats and convenience foods.

27 comments:

  1. Something I started doing last year that I love and saves precious stovetop space for multiple canning projects going at once...I keep my lids on warm in my crockpot of water which is always right next to my stove! Works Awesome!!!

    Great post!!!

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  2. Great tips ~ thank you for sharing!

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  3. Thanks for all the great canning tips. Love the ring holder. I'll be making one this afternoon! :)

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  4. Great storage ideas!



    Inviting you to this week's Carnival of Home Preserving up at my blog and open until this Thursday. New edition each Friday.
    http://laurawilliamsmusings.blogspot.com/2012/06/carnival-of-home-preserving-15-come.html Hope to see you there!

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  5. Do you have to have an electric stove with hot plates to do canning? I have a gas stove so just wondering.

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    1. Right now I have a regular electric stove for canning. I have also canned on a gas stove for years - it's actually probably easier to can on a gas stove, as you can regulate the heat more easily. I have also canned on a glass-top stove, with a flat-bottomed canner like my Presto with good luck, although I don't recommend a heavy, double-stacked canner on a glass-top - just too much weight.
      You do have to watch out if you have a microwave mounted over the stove, so there is enough clearance.
      I have not canned outside, as some do, so I can't speak to using outdoor gas stoves and turkey fryers for canning.

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    2. What works well if you get the chance is a second kitchen in the basement or back room. We remodeled our kitchen so I had cabinets and appliances put in a corner of the basement. Set up a canning kitchen which is also nice for overflow baking at holiday time. Produce comes into basement and is cleaned and processed out of the way. Storage is handy too, not running up and down stairs with a pan full of jars to store. Mess is not visible.

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    3. Love this!! My MIL (Minnesota) has a second kitchen in her basement and it's ideal for canning. We are in the South...no basement!!

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  6. I love the list. I've been canning for years but just started pressure canning a couple of years ago. I love the ring hanger idea. I will definitely have to use it.

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  7. We use our pressure canner outside on a turkey fryer base. works wonderful!

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    1. How does that do? I am new to canning and have read that that does not work well. That could be one solution for us!!

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  8. I store all of my canning supplies in a large plastic drawer unit that is sold at a discount store. It stores easily under a cabinet or on a shelf in the storage room if space in the cabinet is limited.

    It is easy to keep the jar tongs, lid magnet, jar funnel, extra lids and rings clean and organized. The rings are kept on a belt(that I no longer needed)and they are flexible enough to store in the drawer. I have one belt for small rings and another for larger ones.

    Incidentally, a small magnet stuck on a fork works good for lid magnet if you don't have one.

    I love having all of my supplies handy. It makes the job easier!

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    1. Sounds like great ideas! I agree that finding your canning supplies should be easy...no excuses!

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    2. I store my equipment inside my canner. It's a 41 quart All American. Holds everything.

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  9. I'm new to canning. I would like to can some family recipes, but don't know which canner to use, or even how much time. HELP

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    1. You need to get a Ball Blue Book...a newer edition at your library or cheaply at stores like Walmart.
      Read it thoroughly, look at recipes that may be similar to what you want to can. You need up-to-date information.
      Here's a good link for classes and information. Canning Information and classes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation
      Vegetables, dried bean recipes, and meat, poultry and fish need to be canned in pressure canner. The Presto version they sell at Walmart is one I have and use the most, it is basic, not terribly expensive, and easy to use.
      Fruits, pickles and preserves need a water bath canner; I use a 20 quart stainless steel stockpot with a glass lid and a cake rack in the bottom that is the right size.
      Contact your University extension service where you live; they often have canning classes or can connect you with someone who can help you.
      Check out the canning information from Clemson University; the links are at the bottom of our main canning page.

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  10. Is there a difference between a pressure cooker and a pressure canner? If so, what is the difference? I'd really like to expand my canning. It's been the *best* for managing recently diagnosed food allergies in our family.

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    1. You are asking an important question...don’t substitute a “pressure cooker” for a canner, it heats up too quickly and cools down too fast to meet the processing requirements for canning recipes. You can tell if it’s a pressure cooker; it is 8 quart or less capacity, and doesn’t have variable 5-10-15 pound weights. Some regular pressure canners also have only a dial and no variable weights; the 23 quart Presto is one of those. The All-American 10 quart canner is the smallest pressure "canner" available right now.
      The quart dimension is not how many jars it will hold but how much liquid the vessel will hold when filled to capacity.
      I think you will like pressure canning...a good canner to start with is a 16 quart Presto from Walmart...the price is reasonable, and it isn't too heavy. It has only variable weights, not a pressure gauge, and is easy to learn how to use. I have one I have used for years. All American canners are excellent, but very expensive (although they will probably last your lifetime). Actually Myrna is still using our Mother's very old Montgomery Ward canner - canners, with any care at all, will last for years.

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  11. Just found this site thanks to pinterest! I love reading your tips! Cant' wait to look at more.
    When I can I like to put an old bath towel over my work area. I usually fold it in half. Then when I'm finished all the mess goes right into the washer. Very little to wipe up and not using so many disposable towels.

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  12. I just "found" you via Pinterest also. So happy!! :-)

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  13. This is beautifully done! You are amazing. I'll pass this on to my children....grandchildren too! ♡

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  14. Thank you for sharing. I do some canning, but you still taught me a few "good" tricks. Lynne

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    1. We really enjoy canning...great to meet other canners!

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