Six helpful tips to start canning

Preserved fruits and vegetables in jars

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) Canning is a simple way to preserve and store your favorite foods. The possibilities are endless: fruits, vegetables, meat, and even soups and stews. Whether you purchase from your local farmers market or grow your own garden, skip the grocery store prices and the possible threat of pesticides while feeling the satisfaction of being more self-sufficient.

WOTV 4 Women guest blogger Bethany Chantel offered some helpful tips to help make your canning process run smoothly and successfully.

1. Make sure everything you’re working with is clean and sanitized. Soak your fruits and vegetables in a three-to-one ratio of water and vinegar. Not only does this solution clean your produce, it also makes it stay fresh longer if you’re quite not ready to process it. Scrub out your jars (even if they’re brand new), rings and lids along with any utensils you plan to use such as tongs, knives, etc. The best way to sanitize is to run them through the dishwasher, boil them, or use a water/vinegar solution (one cup of vinegar per gallon of water).

Helpful Hint: You can reuse your old jars as long as there are no deformities, cracks, or chips. If your rings are still in good shape, those can be reused as well. It is strongly advised to use brand new lids every time you seal a new jar. Lids can be easily bent when opened therefore ruining any future seals.

2. When preparing to fill your jars, leave on the ring. This prevents the lip of the jar from drips and splatters, saving you from a big mess and time-consuming wipe downs later on.

3. Do not fill the jars to the rim. You need to leave one inch at the top known as head space. This space allows for the expansion of food or bubbling of liquid during processing. Leaving too much head space, however, can cause some air to remain in the jar after processing, which can darken the food at the top of the jar. The head space allows a vacuum to form during the processing of the food, so use your best judgement.

Helpful Hint: Be very careful when pouring hot liquid into cool jars. It is best to have your jars in a slow oven or in hot water before pouring in hot liquid to avoid breaking your jars.

4. Do not over-tighten the rings. Screw the rings down just until you start to feel resistance when you tighten. Some air bubbles get trapped inside the jars while you’re filling them. If the lids are screwed down too tightly, those air bubbles don’t have a way to escape during the hot water bath and can cause your lids to buckle.

Helpful Hint: Eliminate air bubbles by poking through the contents of the jar with a chopstick or wooden skewer before securing your lid/ring.

5. For a hot water bath, put a wire rack on the bottom of a large pot and fill the pot with hot water. Use a jar lifter to place each jar on the rack. Add enough water to cover the jars by two inches and bring the water to a boil. Boil the jars for the amount of time required (you can find most canning recipes online). Remove from the water with a jar lifter and allow the jars to stand on the towels for 24 hours. When the jars are cool, check for a slight indentation in the lid, which indicates a vacuum seal.

6. Remove rings once jars have sealed. You don’t need the rings once the jars have sealed. Removing the rings allows you to reuse them for other canning projects, avoids problems with the rings rusting during storage, and allows you to spot potential problems sooner.

If you are a beginner and are ready to start canning, the best tip is to do your research before stockpiling with fresh produce. There are many books on the subject and countless websites and blogs you can explore. Read up and learn as many dos and don’ts as you can to ensure success. It’s great to learn from others’ accomplishments and better to learn from their errors rather than experiencing your own when it comes to preparing your family’s meals.

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