Canning is a fantastic way to preserve foods you love, from jams and jellies to all manner of pickles, so that you can enjoy them throughout the year. Many people hesitate to jump into canning, but it’s actually a very simple and safe process, especially if you consult this walk-through of how to can foods using a water bath.
It’s easiest to sterilize jars using your dishwasher. Alternatively, wash them in hot, soapy water and then simmer them in your canning pot, covered with water, for 10 minutes. The jars should still be warm when it’s time to fill them. To avoid damaging the lids, simmer them separately in a small pan of hot water over medium heat. You don’t have to sterilize the bands or tongs, but dipping the funnel and ladle in the pot of boiling water is quick and simple.
Because boiling the large amount of water necessary for processing takes time, fill your canning pot with water and start heating it well in advance. Your food and jars should both be warm when it’s time to can, so if your recipe takes more than 30 minutes, you can prepare it before sterilizing the jars; otherwise, prepare it after sterilizing the jars. Fill the still-warm jars with the prepared recipe, leaving headspace at the top as specified in the recipe (typically 1/4- or 1/2-inch). If pickling, make sure that the fruit or vegetable is fully covered by the pickling liquid. Stir the contents to release air bubbles, wipe the rim of each jar clean, and then put on the lids and screw on the bands fingertip-tight (don’t completely tighten them; otherwise, air in the jars can’t escape).
Place the filled jars in the canning insert and lower the insert into the pot of boiling water (or lower the jars into the pot and onto the rack using a jar lifter), making sure that the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Process the jars for the amount of time prescribed in the recipe, making sure that the water is at a rapid boil before you start the clock. Processing times vary based not only on the size of the jars you are using but also on altitude. As elevation increases, water boils at lower temperatures that are less effective for canning. We specify the times for various elevations in each recipe. After the processing time is up, turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for 5 minutes.
Remove the cans from the pot using the canning insert and jar lifter (or just use a jar lifter to remove the jars if you are using only a rack) and let the jars cool on a wire rack or a towel for 24 hours. During cooling, you should hear a popping noise, which is the sign that the jars are sealed airtight and the process is complete. You can check the seal by removing the bands; the lid should be taut and should adhere tightly to the rim of the jar. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place; they will keep for at least 1 year.
What's the pH necessary to inhibit bacteria when canning? Good question. Here's a short video answering that very question:
By Elizabeth Carduff | July 31, 2012
Why This Recipe Works: My garlic- and basil-infused tomato sauce starts with fresh farmers’ market or homegrown tomatoes. I prefer to peel the tomatoes—I find the peel’s presence distracting in the final product. A simple blanch and shock makes them easy to peel, and pureeing them in the food processor before adding them to the pot breaks them down quickly and avoids any splattering. Oil can cause botulism in canned goods, so I forgo sautéing and go straight to simmering the tomatoes with garlic, tomato paste, basil, and salt. Once the sauce has reduced for a couple of hours, I divvy it into jars, sanitize them, and store them.
30 pounds tomatoes
12 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup tomato paste
1 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper
½ cup red wine vinegar
Giveaway Alert!! We love the Cook's Country From Our Grandmother's Kitchen cookbook so much that our friends at Cook's Country graciously gave us 5 copies to giveaway to you! We will randomly select 5 people responding to today's Your Turn question to receive a copy of this fabulous cookbook!
Your turn: Experienced canners--What tips do you have for beginners? Beginners--What canning questions do you have about getting started?