Home Canning Guide: 
Learn How to Can Your Own Food

Canning Jars Rainbow

Why Do We Can?

We looked to our readers to find out why home canning is experiencing a modern revival. Their answer: Canning produces flavorful, high-quality food that saves money, builds self-reliance and creates lifelong memories. Check out some of their responses and get inspired to start stocking your pantry with home-canned food: Putting Food By The Old-Fashioned Way.

How Canning Works

The Science. The more you learn about food science, the more confident you’ll be in the kitchen. This is true for all kinds of cooking, but is especially helpful with food preservation. When you preserve food, you are either trying to freeze time or to encourage specific bacteria to proliferate and crowd out harmful bacteria. Canning is all about freezing time.

With the simplest method of canning — water bath canning — you fill jars with acidic food such as tomatoes, berries or cucumbers in vinegar, cover them with lids and boil them in an open pan of water until a seal forms under the lid. This action forces air out of the food and out of the jar and creates a vacuum in an acidic environment in which bacteria will not thrive.

Water bath canning can provide you with a number of delicious foods, including jams, jellies, whole tomatoes and pickles, and it’s a great place to start. A more advanced method is pressure canning. It requires a little more skill and some specialized equipment, but it will unlock a wide world of food and flavor options. If you want to put up the main ingredients for many meals, rather than just supporting players and condiments, you’ll need to get into pressure canning. To read about these methods in more detail, check out Learn to Can For Homegrown FlavorWater Bath Canning and Pressure Canning: Explained, How to Can Using the Boiling Water Bath Method and How to Home Can: Raw-Packing vs. Hot-Packing.

The Equipment. You can get by without all of the fanciest canning-specific equipment, but you’ll need a few inexpensive basics, most of which are widely available used. A pot that holds enough water to cover whatever size jars you want to use with a little extra room for boiling water is key. Jar lifters are also extremely handy, and of course the jars are a necessity. If you’re serious about putting up a wide range of foods, you’ll also need a pressure canner. New ones can be pricey, but shop around for used options. Your local extension agency should be able to test old pressure canners to make sure they’re still functioning safely, and it’s a good idea to perform this test once each canning season.

The Ingredients. Use only the best, freshest and blemish-free produce, spices and herbs. Buy seasonally to find the best deals. Talk to farmers at farmers markets to see what they’ll have when, so that you can plan your canning time accordingly. Consider making bulk purchases with other canners in order to save even more money. 



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