Sunday, July 24, 2011

Water Bath Canning

“With all thy getting get understanding.” (Prov. 4:7.)

This week I will talk about canning in detail. Every where you turn people are offering produce from their garden. Now is the time to preserve it so that you will have food this winter. This week at church the donation boxes by the front door were filled to over flowing with cucumbers. Many took 3 or 4 to add to their salads. I took none because I already knew my own garden was over flowing.

What do you do with cucumbers? Make pickles of course! Pickles are easy to make and you only need a water bath canner to do them. Today I will just talk about water bath canning.

You can buy a water bath canner or you can make do with what you already have. I have a very tall stock pot I've used for years. I put a wire rack in the bottom and place my jars on that. The trick is, you have to be able to get the jars off the bottom and you have to have 2 inches of boiling water above the canning lids on the jars. You can use a wire rack in the bottom or use several of the lid screw bands set on the bottom. I use those lid screw bands with my Dutch Oven's too! Once something is canned and sealed I remove the screw bands so have quite a collection built up over the years.

Now if you don't have a pot big enough for canning then you'll need to buy a water bath canner. They have several newer ones that the top is bigger than the bottom. These are steamer type water bath canners. They work great and use much less water. So if water is an issue for you than you should buy this type of a canner.

Other equipment you'll need are canning jars with lids and screw bands, a jar lifter to get the jars out of the boiling water, a canning funnel, a ladle, a chop stick of butter knife to get air out of the jars before sealing and a lid lifter is nice to have. A lid lifter has a magnet in the end to pull the hot lids out of the hot water. I don't have one, I use a fork to hook a lid and pull it out of the water so I can grab it.

To start wash your jars and either boil for 10 minutes or run through the dishwasher. In the past you were able to find plain rubber rings and zinc porcelain caps but most of what you will find nowadays are flat lids that have a rubber seal compound on them. They have some that are reusable but most of what you find are one use only. They can be used to vacuum seal but that's another topic for another time!

Now while your jars are washing, start your water bath canner to heating up. fill it 3/4 full of water and start it heating up. I keep the lid on mine and let it simmer. I fill a smaller pan to put my lids in. They use to tell you to boil the lids but now they say to just let sit in hot to warm water. The rubber can become brittle if they are boiled. We just want to soften the rubber up to help it seal.Now you are ready to fill jars!

Now the things you can water bath can are: most tomatoes (there are a few low acid varieties that should be pressure canned) Fruits and fruit juices, beets, tomato juice and V-8 type  juices, pickled fruits and vegetables, chutney's, sauerkraut and jams and jellies.

Always be on the lookout for canning supplies at yard/garage sales, thrift stores or end of the season sales. Use common sense when deciding what size canning jars to invest in. I started out with quarts but now mostly use pints and half pints. I still use the quarts for vacuum sealing dry storage items like nuts, brown rice, ect but no use canning quarts when only 1 or 2 of us will be eating it! Remember a half pint is 1 cup or ½ pound, a pint is 1 pound or 2 cups and a quart is 2 pounds or 4 cups.

Happy canning to you!

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