In the USA, canning is big! It’s an extremely popular hobby which over here we would usually just call preserving. It’s a very wholesome and enjoyable pastime, which is as good for your conscience as your budget. Use it to give yourself access to out of season fruits or vegetables or to deal with a glut.
The basic premise of canning is simple, involving heating and sealing foods without air to stop them from spoiling. This can be done in a water bath or a pressure canner. The pressure canner works at a higher temperature than a water bath and so is more suitable for low acid foods. If you want to try this sort of preserving there’s a wealth of information available online. Here are some easy tips for canning to help you get started. Probably the most important canning tips are those related to hygiene, as this process is all about removing bacteria!
Basic canning tips
Avoid poor quality of overripe fruit. This is not a way to dispose of the dodgy items at the bottom of the pile – if you use poor quality produce, you will get a poor quality result.
Beware bacteria! Low acid ingredients, seasonings and spices can lead to unsafe levels of bacteria, so use recipes from a reliable source and follow them carefully, as they will have been well tested. Tomato products usually require the addition or acid in the form of lemon juice or vinegar, but follow recipe instructions carefully to avoid an overly tart flavour.
Don’t add fats as they do not keep well and could cause your product to spoil more quickly and alter the way it cooks, which can be unsafe.
Similarly, don’t add thickening ingredients such as flour or starches as these absorb liquid and alter the rate of heat absorption. This again can lead to an unsafe product.
Wash jars and lids thoroughly then sterilise before filling. Check jars for a good seal the day after processing and eat those which haven’t sealed properly within a week. They will not be safe to keep.
Water bath canning tips
Use trial and error to work out how much water you will need. Essentially you need to make sure your jars are covered by at least an inch of water throughout the process. If your water levels looks low, add more boiling water carefully.
Use a handle! Special jar lifting tongs are available to help you put jars into and lift them out of boiling water safely.