There is nothing more rewarding than growing your own fresh food, processing and storing it to enjoy during the long winter months.
Home grown and processed food provides the nutritional benefits without the added chemical and preservatives used in our nation’s food supply chain.
Home processed food is also good on the pocket book. The initial investment in canning jars and processing equipment can add up, but if well taken care of, the equipment can last to even pass on to future generations.
The word canning might be a bit confusing, as some may think the food will be packed into tin cans and stored.
While there are home machines to can food into tin cans, the equipment is expensive and the knowledge needed to prevent botulism food poisoning is above the average home canner.
Home canning uses mason style glass jars that are able to take the heat used in the canning process.
These jars come in either wide or small mouth referring to the size of the top. Universal lids with a rubber ring are used to vacuum seal the tops.
Standard glass jars used for pickles and other store bought products should not be used, the glass is thinner and may shatter when heated plus the jar tops may not seal properly.
Some of the store bought items do use mason style canning jars to give them a cooked from home image.
Once you have the equipment, the ongoing investment will be the jar lids, mixes, and paraffin to seal off the top of jams and jellies.
Never reuse the lids, but the outer screw rings can be kept and used over and over. The lids can be purchased in small boxes where canning supplies and mixes are sold.
You can use canning equipment passed on down from your family.
Look for cracks in such things as a Victorio food processing auger assembly, cracks in the older wooden plungers, or other wear such as chips in granite ware pots, that might make it harbor bacteria that can transfer to the food products.
The old water bath granite pots with chips, lime buildup or a little rust on the wire rack will not hurt if you will only be using them to boil water that never comes into contact with the food.
New gaskets and seals should be purchased. Old pressure cookers should be inspected have a new lid gasket and the pressure gauge and safety pop off valve tested or replaced before using. Some of the old time hardware stores provided this service.
If they appear to be dropped or damaged in anyway discard and go with a new one.
Canning is easy to learn, with the right equipment and some extra hands the process can move rather quickly.
There are two types of canning processes using either a pressure cooker, or a hot water bath to finally seal the canned jar tops.
The hot water bath method is considered the safest and easiest to use for vegetables and juices.
The pressure cooker process uses high heat and steam under pressure, it is the only process though considered safe to can meats and meat products.
Many of the stores which carry canning equipment will also carry dry seasoning mixes. These make wonderful pickles, tomato sauces and salsa or you can find recipes in various cookbooks.
You will want to purchase a good instruction book to follow closely in order to be sure you are correctly following the canning process so that you do not create an environment in which the food becomes contaminated or creates botulism food poisoning.
The safest instructional home canning books should come directly from a county extension office or directly from the manufacture of canning jars.
The Ball Corporation, is an excellent resource for canning instructions. Just Google them for more information.
Don’t just rely on other Internet blogs or sources, these may have short cuts or forgot to add one important step.
Some people can tolerate and process bacteria differently than others who may become critically ill. Just because someone uses an old family way of canning and never got sick doesn’t mean it is the best way to prevent a food borne illness.
Follow the steps and directions on package mixes closely; vinegar and other ingredients are precisely measured to kill the bacteria that can create botulism.
The sterilization of the jars and the time to boil in a hot water bath are all critical steps in the home canning process. Even the new jar lids need to be boiled and sterilized.
Walk through the canning process you decide to use, evaluate the time it will take and the equipment that you will need on hand for each step.
You will want to keep the process moving without lengthy delays that might create a chance for the food to begin developing bacteria.
If every in doubt it is better to throw it out and start fresh. It is just not worth your family’s health.
You can find canning products at local stores for small batches to purchasing on line at such stores as Cottage Craft Works. Com who sells some serious canning equipment made and used by the Amish.
RedElf from Canada on June 04, 2012:
I had never seen the lid lifter before - what a dandy gadget!