Let’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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
An absolutely airtight container seal which prevents reentry of air or microorganisms into packaged foods.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.