Tag Archives: Canning

Canning 101

canning-101-collageLet’s start at the beginning in our Canning Journey with Canning 101. We will look at the different types of canning, canning terms…tools…jars and pectin.

This is just the basics but important information to learn before we continue on to other important things such as choosing our canner (water bath or pressure), walking through the canning process step-by-step and exploring and making some recipes both sweet and sour.  We also have some canning labels in store for you later this week to print out and personalize…so welcome to Canning 101, let’s begin!

Canning Types

A combination of vegetables and/or fruits, spices and vinegar cooked for a long period of time to develop favorable flavor and texture. Usually with a sweet-sour flavor.

A soft spread similar to jam, that is made with at least 2 kinds of fruit in addition to nuts or raisins.

A spread made by crushing or chopping whole fruits. Jams are thicker than jellies and tend to contain chunks of fruits.

A spread made with only fruit juice rather then the whole fruit to form a smooth gel consistency.

A spread that contains pieces of citrus fruit and peel evenly suspended in transparent jelly.

A perserved fruit or vegetable (usually a cucumber) in a vinegar or brine solution

A spread in which fruit is cooked with sugar to the point where large chunks of fruit or whole fruit (usually berries) are suspended in a syrup base. The texture of preserves is not as smooth as jelly or jam.

A pickled product prepared using chopped fruits and/or vegetables cooked in a seasoned vinegar solution.

Fruit Butter
A soft spread made by slowly cooking fruit pulp and sugar to a consistency thick enough to mound on a spoon and spread easily. Spices may be added.

Fruit Curd
A creamy spread made with sugar, eggs and butter, generally flavored with citrus juice and zest. Curds are often not safe for waterbath canning because of their dairy content, so be sure to use a recipe specifically designed to be canned.

Canning Terms

Citric acid
A powder made from natural acid derived from citrus fruits. Citric acid is often used in recipes to increase the natural acid in the recipe in order to make it safe for canning. Lemon juice or lime juice may also be used for the same function, but each have their own PH level.

A reaction caused by intentional growth of yeast, bacteria, or mold in which natural sugars are turned into lactic acid. Examples of fermented canned foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, and some pickles.

The degree to which screw bands are properly applied to fresh preserving jars. Use your fingers to screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight. Do not use a utensil or the full force of your hand to over-tighten bands.

Full rolling boil
A rapid boil. A boil that can not be stirred down. This boil generally occurs at about 220°F (104°C). This stage is essential for attaining a gel when making jams & jellies

The unfilled space in the canning jar between the top of the food and the lid. Each recipe will specify the amount of headspace needed. This headspace is needed to allow for expansion when the jars are heated and also to form a strong seal once the jars are cool.

Hermetic seal 
An absolutely airtight container seal which prevents reentry of air or microorganisms into packaged foods.

High-acid food
A food with a pH level of 4.6 or lower. Most tomatoes & fruits (except figs, Asian pears, melons, bananas, dates, papaya, ripe pineapple, persimmons) are naturally high in acid. Citric acid, lemon juice, or vinegar can sometimes be included in a recipe to help raise the acidity. Fermentation can also add acidity. Only high acid foods are safe for waterbath canning.

Low-acid food
A food with a pH level higher than 4.6. Vegetables, meat, & seafood are all low acid foods. These are foods that are easier for bacterica to thrive in and need to be processed in a pressure canner to safely perserve them.

A natural gelling agent that is derived from fruits like apples or citrus fruits. Pectin can be purchased as a powder that is added to softer fruits like strawberries to create a thick jam or jelly. Pectin is available in several varieties including low-sugar or liqud (more on that in the next post!)

Pressure canning
The use of a pressure canner to heat-process low acid foods. The pressurized steam inside the canner allows the food to reach higher temperatures and thus can kill the harmful bacteria that can be housed the the low-acid food. Pressure canned food also must be processed for the specified amount of time on the recipe.

Processing time
The time in which the filled jars need to remain in the waterbath or pressure canner. The processing time is specified in most recipes and can have variances depending on your altitude. The amount of processing time depends on many factors including the acidity level, size of jar, and type of food. The process time allows every bit of the jar to be heated to the sufficient temperature.

Repeating the heat processing of filled, capped jars when a lid does not seal within 24 hours. The original lid must be removed and the food and/or liquid reheated as recommended by the recipe. The food and/or liquid must be packed into clean, hot jars and covered with a new, clean lid with the screw band adjusted. The filled jars must then be reprocessed using the preserving method and full length of processing time recommended by the recipe.

The evidence that a food product has not been completely rid of microorganisms. If microorganisms are present, the nutrients in the food product will allow them to grow and multiply. Spoilage occurs when food products have not been processed correctly. Signs of spoilage include broken seals, mold, gassiness, cloudiness, spurting liquid, seepage, yeast growth, fermentation, slime and disagreeable odors.

The process of killing bacteria. Achieved by heating empty jars to a high temperature prior to filling them & then heating them again once full.

Waterbath method / boiling water method
The simplest method to preserve high-acid foods. Using a waterbath canner, water is heated to at least 212°F (100°C) to destroy molds, yeasts, and bacteria & also to seal the jar lids. The jars must be kept in the canner and covered by at least 2″ of water for the specified processing time in the recipe. You should not use this method for low acid foods.

Canning Tools

Canning Rack

A shallow (usually metal) rack that elevates the jars slightly off the bottom of the canning pot. The rack keeps the jars from being in direct contact with the heat of the stove and also allows the water to circulate and ensure that it is able to evenly come in contact with all facets of the jars. You can use a rack specifically designed for canning or you can also use a round cake cooling rack that fits in your pot – both do the job!Lid Lifter
Lids must be submerged in hot boiling water before they can be used. This process sanitizes them and also helps to soften the rubber for a better seal. This tool is designed in order to remove the lids from the boil. It is not 100% necessary, but it is helpful. It is basically a magnet on the end of a stick.  I happen to have some neat geometric magnets on my fridge that keep my fingers safe and work just as well.Jar Funnel
A funnel with a wide a opening perfect for the opening of a mason jar. This funnel will basically help you make less of a mess. It’s not necessary to use a funnel, you can also just ladle directly into jars, but you’ll find there is more clean up to do on the jars before they can be sealed.Jar Lifter/Grabber

This specially designed tool is essentially a pair of tongs with a circular grasp to pick up mason jars. It’s nessisary to safely be able to remove the jars from the boiling water.

Canning Jars

Jar: The glass part. Jars are reusable as long as they have no chips or cracks in them, so it’s important to inspect them before using.Lid: The metal circle that fits on the top. Lids have a rubber band that fuses to the glass of the jar and that is what creates your seal. You should not reuse lids and replacement packages are available just about everywhere canning products are sold.

Band: The metal ring that screws around the top of the jar and holds the lid in place. Bands are reusable, but should be cleaned well after use.

Generally, the size you use is entirely up to you.  I tend to primarily use half-pints or quarter pints for almost all of my projects, but if you have a big family you may find yourself wanting to package your goods in a larger jar.  Half gallon jars are also available and I love to have one or two around for making Iced Tea but they are pretty bulking to use for my personal canning projects.


Pectin is a natural gelling agent that is derived from fruits like apples or citrus fruits.  Pectin is the unsung hero of jam and jelly making…it’s the ingredient that really makes the magic happen.  You don’t need pectin to make jam, but almost all modern jam recipes use pectin and for good reason.  Pectin allows jams to gel with less sugar being added and with significantly less cooking time. Comercial pectin is slightly sweet and doesn’t have much of a flavor to it.  You can find pectin at your local grocery store usually in the baking isle with the other canning supplies.
There are a few different types of pectin, but they all work pretty much the same way:
Powder: The most common state of pectin.  Sold in a small box or in a larger jar.
Liquid: Liquid pectin is basically powdered pectin that has already been disolved.  It is a bit messier and harder to work with in my opinion, but some people swear by it.
Lite or Low-Sugar: Pectin that cuts the typical jam recipe’s sugar content down by about 40% vs regular pectin.  It makes the jam a bit better for you, but I also really appreciate the resulting flavor with the low sugar recipes -it’s less in your face sweetness and allows the fruit flavor to shine through a bit more.
Freezer Jam Pectin: This is a product designed specifically for making freezer jam and no cooking is necessary to create a gel.  My understanding though is that this pectin can create runny jam more often than not. This product is not intended for traditional canning.  You can use regular pectin for freezer jam, but you can’t use this freezer jam pectin for traditional hot water bath canning and it has a bad reputation for not working as well…so, you want my advice? Skip it – use regular pectin and cook your jam even if you plan to freeze it.
This article was written by Kat from Simply-Living-Simply and can be viewed here.

Ornamental Rule Lines in Different Design 2 150x44 Canning 101

Grow, Can and Store!

Like me, so many of us are diligently planning our spring gardens.  We start our pen-to-paper plans, gather supplies to start our precious seeds, and wait for the weather to turn so we might start working and preparing our beds.  But in this idle time we have waiting, you really should be considering inventorying your canning supplies and planning your crop based on your families  need.


It’s a good time to calculate how many jars of pickles, cans of jelly and jam your family typically needs to get you through winter months.  I learned this winter that I hadn’t actually canned enough dills to carry me through.  Same was for our tomatoes.  I’m down to only a few jars of my tomato’s and sauce not having realized how much our family of four would actually go through.  I’m a good canner, but my math needs to be honed.

I am now in the process of figuring out how many canning jars and sizes I have vs. what I will need.  Same for lids.  Since I have to replace dozens of lids, I have opted to invest in reusable Tattler lids after having decided they work beautifully and will save me money in the long run.  Another consideration I made was, as a committed prepper, I believe material may be hard to come by.  Having to replace my lids every time I can and believing there is even a remote possibility that they may be hard to come by would defeat all my seasonal garden planning.

How many quart jars did I use last year and how many more I need this year was a big question.  How much jelly or jam will I put up?  How much applesauce or peaches will I need?  Obviously, I could never lay out a formula for you, but you really should start planning and pre-planning.   And buying your canning supplies now, before the season hits will save you money.  Last season I found myself running around looking and buying jars when the prices were their highest.  Buy them out-of-season to get the best price.


Salt, sugar and spices will also be needed.  Will you be planting the herbs you will need to can your harvest?  Dill is one that is vital to me.  Italian herbs are as important.


You may, like me, wish to scan all your recipes and determine which ingredients you can grow and what you will need to purchase.  Start planning now, watch for sales on items you will need to purchase and be sure to stock up on it when it’s most feasible.  And your canning books are as important as anything.  A few of the VERY best I could recommend are:

Ball Complete Book Of Home Preserving

Canning is just one aspect to preserving your food.  Dehydrating is another.  Do you have a dehydrator?  You can look on Craigslist or garage sales to find one, but if you are seriously planning on building a food supply, you really need to invest in one.  And because dehydrating is sometimes much more than slicing and drying, you will want a great cookbook.  The best on the market (by many standards and reviews) is Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrator Cookbook.

The same is true for a vacuum seal system.  I use and would recommend the FoodSaver which is a workhorse.  I use it nearly every day and much more in the summer months.   All these appliances which allows you to protect and preserve your food may not pay for themselves this season, but they will pay for themselves over time.


Also, if you plan on putting some of your foods into long-term storage, you will need oxygen absorbers and mylar bags.  Start asking your bakery and deli department for 5 gallon buckets now. You may also wish to purchase moisture absorbers as an added line of protection for your food.  You will need these if you plan to store food.  Many local businesses will give them away or sell them for $1 each.  But, be sure you get food-grade buckets.  You may also wish to invest in high quality gamma lids.

I’m Penny Batts, aka PrepperPenny! Having been born and raised in Illinois, I now live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband of 20 years and two small grandchildren. After having a successful career in non-profit management, I now devote all my time to my family and home. I am a suburban homesteader having transformed our home into a sanctuary of simple, country living without the demands and stresses of the society around us all. I hope you enjoy watching me and my family as we learn new aspects of this glorious life that leads us to self-reliance and preparedness for an inevitable economic collapse of the US economy, wars, terror attacks and other natural or man-made disasters. All this serious consideration has not taken away my zest and love for life. It’s serious, yes. But I love to teach preparedness with joy and happiness. I advocate being prepared so you will not be scared.

This post can also be viewed here:  www.modernhomesteaders.net

Can Do!

You actually filled your deer tags this year.  Your fishing trip gifts you with more fish than you can eat.  You have found a great deal on farm chickens.  What do you do with all that meat?  Have you ever considered canning it?

It is not something most people think of when they are looking to preserve meat, poultry or fish.  Yet there is nothing more simple than just grabbing a jar and cooking.  Why rifle through the freezer and risk freezer burned meat that has been stored a tad bit too long.

To make sure that your meat, poultry and fish are canned safely, it is important that you follow tried and true methods.  All meats are canned using high temperature, or 240 degrees Fahrenheit, to destroy food borne pathogens.  This ensures that your meat can be stored without worry for up to a year.

The first necessity for canning low acid foods like meat is a pressure canner that heats jars to 240 degrees F.  The method of canning using boiling water do not reach temperatures high enough.  To can meat by this method would be unsafe.  Most canners hold 7 quart or 9 pint jars.

Plan to have 1 pint jar for every 2 pounds of meat.  You will need cleaned and sanitized Mason-type jars with new lids and good quality bands.

No matter what type of meat you are cooking make sure that it is a high quality cut that is free from blemishes, bruises, gristle or excessive fat.  The fresher the meat, the better the product.

When canning chicken and rabbit use the freshest you can find.  Mine goes from my rabbit house to the kitchen which is about as fresh as you can get   Soak the rabbit in brine for an hour and then rinse.  Chill chicken for 6-12 hours before canning.  Remove excess fat as this will help prevent your meat from going rancid quickly.  Cut it into suitable sizes for canning.  You can pack them with or without bones.  You can use 2 methods of packing, hot pack or raw pack.

In the hot pack method you must boil, steam or bake the meat until it is about 2/3 done.  Add 1 tsp of salt per quart jar.  Fill the jars with meat and hot broth or water leaving 1 inch of space.  The raw pack method involves simply adding your tsp of salt to your jar with the meat and leaving out the liquid.  I have never used the raw method but it certainly is an option for those who don’t want the broth.

Process in your pressure canner according to it’s instructions  Processing times will vary so a reference chart will be later.

When canning ground meats always begin with fresh beef, lamb, pork, sausage, veal, or venison.  When using venison add one part of pork fat before grinding.  Shape chopped meat into patties and cook until lightly browned.  Remove excess fat.  Fill the jars with meat and 1 tsp salt then add your broth or water leaving one inch of space.

When canning your meats cubed always begin with chilled cuts.  If you are packing a strong flavored wild meat then let it soak for an hour in a salt brine before chilling.  If you are using the hot pack method cook your meat until it is considered rare.

You may also use the meat drippings or any discarded parts of your animals to create a broth for canning and using later in soups and stews.  Simply boil bones and discards until meat is tender and can be picked off the bones.  Let it cool and skim off the fat.  Add the meat back to the stock and reheat to boiling.  Fill jars leaving 1 inch of space.

For all fish except tuna the prep is the same.  Use fresh catches.  Remove the head, tail and fins.  Wash the fish carefully removing all blood.  Split the fish lengthwise and cut into chunks and pack tightly into jars.  Add your 1 tsp salt and water leaving 1 inch space.  Tuna can be packed precooked or raw.  Precooking removes most of the oil but also a lot of the health benefit.  If you choose to precook bake your fish at 225-250 degrees for 2 1/2 to 4 hours depending on fish size.  Make sure that the internal temperature reaches 165-175 degrees.  Refrigerate fish overnight to firm the meat.  Place into the jars with your water, salt and 1 tbsp of vegetable oil per half pint jar.  If canning raw, filet the fish and remove the skin.  Remove blood vessels or any discolored flesh.  Cut meat into quarters and pack tightly.  As with the raw canning method there is no need to use water.

Processing times for meats can be anywhere from 60-90 minutes depending on what you have packed.  You need to be vigilant while they are being heated making sure your canner holds its temperature throughout the recommended time.

TYPE OF MEAT                        PACK TYPE               PROCESS MINUTES

Chicken or Rabbit w/bones   hot or raw            pints 65, quarts 75

Chicken or Rabbit                   hot or raw            pints 75, quarts 90

Ground and chopped meat         hot                   pints 75, quarts 90

Meat cubed, strips, chunks   hot or raw            pints 75, quarts 90

Meat stock                                    hot                   pints 20, quarts 25

Fish                                               raw                   pints 100

Tuna                                         raw/precooked    pints/ 1/2 pints 100

*All PSI will be 10 from 0-1,000 feet and 15 for above 1,000 feet

Refresher Course:

Pour 4-5 inches of hot water in the canner.  Place filled jars in the rack and fasten the      canner lid tightly.  Leave the weight of the vent port.  Heat at the highest setting until steam pours from the vent port.  Exhaust the steam for 10 minutes then place the weight on the vent port.  The canner will pressurize during the next 3-5 minutes.  Start the timing process when you reach proper pressure.  Regulate the heat to maintain a proper pressure.  If your pressure falls below the target pressure, reset your timer and restart your process.  When the timing is done turn off the heat and remove the canner from the source if possible.  Let it depressurize.  After the pressure returns to zero remove the weight from the vent port.  Wait 2 minutes and unfasten the lid.  Remove the jars with the jar lifter and place on a cooling rack.  Cool for 12-24 hours.  Check your seals before storing.  If you find one that is faulty refrigerate the contents and use within 2 weeks.  Store the rest for up to 1 year!

Good luck and good canning!

 Can also be viewed here:  www.modernhomesteaders.net

What the March Root Cellar Holds


I suppose you might have thought me lazy when I first started canning for I really didn’t want to go through the whole trouble of water boiling the jars to seal the jars.  I just figured that if the top popped I was good to go, so any form of heat would be probably be good.  Window sills seemed reasonable. Luckily, I was in the beginning stages of canning and really limited to pickles.  I filed them into their jar, filled half way with vinegar, half way with water (just like I do now), a sprig of dill, a teaspoon of salt, and some mustard seeds, celery seeds, and cayenne.  Then in the window they went!  We enjoyed them greatly.  I wasn’t making the amount I make now so they were gone in a matter of weeks.  Same withtomatoes in their tablespoon of lemon juice and teaspoon of salt.  We thankfully ate them quickly.  I got really brave one year and made salsa.  With corn.  I asked a friend at the farmer’s market, who I knew canned, about what I might have done wrong.  She looked a bit horrified at me as I revealed how I canned.  And the yummy tomatoes and corn and spices I have sitting in the window.  They were ticking….oddly enough.  Literally, ticking like a time bomb.  She said hoarsely, “Get rid of it!”  I did.  I ran with the ticking thing to the trash and threw it in and said a prayer for the trash man!  I hoped it wouldn’t blow up until it got far away.

I can immodestly say now that I have perfected canning, the real canning, with a little sheepish horror in reminiscence for how I started!  So, last year I decided to can over three hundred items.  It was a homesteading goal.  Just to see if I could do it.  And I did.  I am doing a root cellar tally.  I did not really think about all I was canning, just that I needed to can.  So whatever Miller Farms had extra was in my kitchen.  So here’s how it looks come Spring time.

Peas were the earliest to be canned and promptly eaten…sadly.  So delicious.  The frozen not quite satisfying my craving.  It seemed like I had tons of peas, but had only four jars by the end of shucking.

I have one can of corn left.  Not bad, but not enough.  Corn won’t be here until July so I should can more corn this year.

Apparently we ain’t big on beets.  We like them alright but somehow I still have at least twenty quarts left plus all the pickled beets.  It is very beautiful in the root cellar with all the ruby colored jars.  Perhaps less this year?

Ditto with zucchini.  Seemed like a brilliant idea.  Lot of zucchini and zucchini and tomatoes to put into soups and minestrone.  I guess we didn’t feel much like minestrone and soup this year.

The green beans are half gone.  I like them better canned than fresh I think.  How weird.  Perhaps because my memory growing up is of canned vegetables so they taste like when I was a kid.  Only organic and home-canned.  Still put butter and salt on top.  Drool….

The fruit cocktail didn’t last too long.  The apples did.  Apparently I did not bake as manyapple pies as previously expected (I baked one).  However, we do not get more apples until this fall so there is time for apple crisps and cabbage and apples.  The cherries are holding out alright.

Tomato sauce is gone.  It is a staple.  I have eight jars of spaghetti sauce but those won’t stick around.  I am swimming in ketchup, barbecue sauce, chutney.  These should last until fall though when it is time to do it again.

No matter how many jars of diced tomatoes I put up every year, it is not enough.  I am down to one.

We ate pickles like they were going out of style last year.  I ran clear out.  So, I doubled my numbers.  They haven’t been touched.  Oh, if we could only predict cravings!  Too bad Emily didn’t crave pickles!

The dried beans are holding out.  I am almost out of honey.  I have plenty of wheat.  I have an entire bucket of beets in sand.  Really?  More beets?!

The carrots that I packed in damp sand last fall?  Awesome.  Crisp, delicious, perfect.

The potatoes?  Well, you read that story.  If I hadn’t escorted them to the compost bin, they may have climbed straight out the window.

I have one less squash than when I started.  Huh.  I should have canned it.  During the winter, I don’t feel like canning.  It feels too out of season.  Too comfortable in the house or something.  It must be at the peak of temperatures and misery.  I will can in the fall.  More of this, a whole lot less of that!


The original article may be found here: http://farmgirlschool.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/what-the-march-root-cellar-holds/

Can also be viewed here:  www.modernhomesteaders.net

This is a guest post by Farmgirl of http://farmgirlschool.wordpress.com