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I’m sure you have all been desperately worried about where I have been ( can you detect the sarcasm?), but I assure you that I am perfectly fine. I have been out of town for a while hanging out with my parents in Tennessee and learning a very valuable life skill; how to can food. We country folk like to call it “puttin’ up” and it was something we always did when I was a kid. I just never paid much attention.
Since children, I have become much more conscious of what my family eats and although they get their fair share of “fench fies and ticken” I am also proud to announce my kids love corn, carrots, fruit, beans and even broccoli. So, naturally I want to feed them the best. And the best comes from your local farmers. Luckily farmers’ markets are all the rage right now and it is much easier to find locally grown fresh produce near you. Maybe you are even lucky enough to have a sunny spot of land with a garden ( unlike me) and have a plethora of fresh veggies that are coming into harvest. Either way, canning your crop is a great way to not only eat well and cheap during the winter but also get the most nutritional bang for your buck.( Plus, its a lot of fun to see the look on your local farmer’s face when you say, “I’ll take a bushel”.)
Home canning is perfectly safe and although the initial investment is a little high, your cost will decrease every year since nearly everything can be reused over and over. And if you have a garden it is really a very good investment.
First off there are a few things you will need:
- A pressure canner. Not a water bath canner which can only be used for water bath canning. This is different from a pressure cooker. It’s bigger and comes with a rack (if it doesn’t, get one). You can pick one up at Walmart for about $60 or if you have an older one you can take it to your local 4-H or Agriculture Extension office and they will test and inspect it for you to make sure it is safe. Some pressure cookers can be converted to a canner with the addition of a rack, but check your manual first!
Not everything has to be pressure canned, but a pressure canner can double as a water bath canner so why waste the money and buy two canners?
- Canning Jars. Buy new ones if you haven’t canned before. I recommend quarts and pints since they are the most versatile. Sometimes you can find jars at yard sales and thrift shops too. Make sure they are Ball or Kerr jars made specifically for canning. Check for cracks before you begin. Do not use the old-timey jars with the hinge and lid. They may be pretty but not practical.
- Rings and Lids. A new pack of jars will come with rings and lids, but if you have used jars then you will need to get new lids. Remember, jars and rings are reusuable; lids are not.
- Funnel and Jar Grabber. These are essential unless you have hands of steel and can reach into boiling water without burning yourself. They sell kits that have a funnel, jar grabber, magnetic lid grabber, and headspace adjuster that are very handy and can be found at the grocery store.
- Canning/Pickling Salt. Regular table salt or kosher salt would work, but I recommend getting a box of this. It will last for forever and your veggies won’t get cloudy.
- A Canning and Preserving Guide. Also an essential. Since every type of vegetable is processed differently it is very important that you have an accurate guide to tell you processing measurements. I recommend the Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving by the US Agriculture Dept. or the Ball Complete Book of Canning and Preserving.
You can also get a guide for free at your local 4-H or Agriculture Extension office.
–Towels, Dishwasher, a Friend, and Time. You will need the towels to cover your jars while they rest. You’ll need a dishwasher to sterilize your jars before you begin. Friends are great to lend a hand and maybe split the cost.
- Fresh Fruits, Veggies, and/or Meats. You pick. There really isn’t anything that can’t be canned. Wash and prep them.
Okay, you go and get all of this together and come back here tomorrow and we will do some step by step pressure canning.