Older generations used to refer to it as “putting up” vegetables, fruits, jams, jellies, and countless other combinations of tasty, fresh-picked garden fare. It was common practice on farms and in city home kitchens, mostly because produce availability was seasonal. Root cellars and pantries were stocked with shelf after shelf of colorful glass jars so that, even on a wintry evening, the fresh taste of summer peaches could be enjoyed.
Canning is a simple process, and completely safe once a few basics are understood. There are two methods available to the home canner that are considered to be safe. Pressure canning is required for non-acidic foods such as meats, vegetables, and soups. Water bath canning may be used for foods like tomatoes, fruits, jams, and relishes.
Basic Supplies Needed to Get Started
- Water bath canner or large stock pot with lid and rack
- Steam pressure canner with rack
- Tempered glass jars such as Mason or Ball, rims free of chips, that have been sterilized
- Metal screw-on bands and new, rubber-rimmed lids
- Lifting tongs and funnel
- Recipes or guide specifying processing times
Choose ripe fruit and fresh vegetables that are free of bruises or bad spots. Wash, peel, seed and cut vegetables according to the recipe. Pack in jars as instructed, clean rims, cap, and process.
A pressure canner is a metal kettle with a cover that clamps down on a gasket to make it steam tight. Carefully read the directions that come with a particular canner to learn its pressure valve system and safety features. It operates the same way a standard-sized pressure cooker works and can be used for small jars. Pressure canners are usually sized at 12, 16 or 21 quarts. That is liquid capacity, not the number of jars that will fit.
Most vegetables can at 15 pounds of pressure, but follow a reliable guide. Place jars on the rack, adding two to three inches of boiling water. Seal the canner, and start timing when pressure is reached. Pressure must be maintained for safe sealing.
Water Bath Canning
Bring enough water to cover jars by about two inches to a boil. The rack designed for canning helps lower the jars into the already boiling water. Begin timing when the water returns to a gentle boil. Jars must cool on a wood surface, metal rack, or folded towels, undisturbed. A “pop” sound tells the tale of the proper seal. Otherwise, no give to the center lid when pressed indicates the jars are sealed.
Canning food once meant survival, and it could again. Learning how to safely stockpile a variety of foods through the canning process is fun, saves money, and is a skill that would benefit families should the need arise again.This home canning guide is a good place to start.