10 Things I Learned About Canning from Sherri Brooks Vinton

Reader Contribution by Robyn Griggs Lawrence

This morning at the Mother Earth News Fair, home food preservation expert Sherri Brooks Vinton, author of Put ‘Em Up!, made canning look easy. I picked up the following tips from Sherry’s great workshop, sponsored by Ball Jar.

  1. Proper canning tongs are essential. You can cut corners with other aspects of the canning process, but the right tools are essential for pulling heavy, hot jars from boiling water.
  2. You don’t have to buy a special pot for canning. A stock pot with a tight lid (so the water will get hot fairly quickly) works fine.
  3. If you don’t have a canning rack, you can put a cake cooling rack or a layer of extra lid rings from the canning jars in the bottom of the pot. You want to raise the jars up a bit so water can circulate all around them.
  4. Prepare your jars before you start making the recipe. You never want your recipe to have to wait for your jars.
  5. You don’t have to sterilize your jars if the recipe calls for boiling for 10 minutes or more.
  6. Because the acid in lemons can be inconsistent, using bottled lemon juice will guarantee proper PH.
  7. If you don’t have a candy thermometer to gauge temperature, you can put a couple drizzles of your recipe on a plate from the freezer (or, if you forget to put a plate in the freezer, you can use the bottom of an ice cream carton). If the jam makes little wrinkles when you push on it, it’s ready.
  8. Add herbs to your preserves to spice them up. Sherry suggests blueberries and basil, cherries and black pepper or strawberries and vanilla.
  9. If you don’t have a special canning funnel to pour your preserves into jars, just cut off the bottom of a regular funnel.
  10. Store your cans (for up to a year) without the rings on the lid. The rings can cause humidity to get trapped and cause corrosion. Also, if something goes funky with your preserves, the ringless lid will pop off.