Now that you’ve plucked your garden, and gathered your equipment, it is time to get canning! Here is a general step by step guide of how to properly can your produce. More specific instructions will be particular to each recipe.
1. Start by sterilizing your jars – Wash your lids and jars in hot soapy water. Take your jars and keep them in a simmering (not boiling) water bath on the stove for at least 10 minutes to sterilize them. Do the same thing with your lids. Keep the jars and lids warm until you’re ready to use them. (Alternatively, you can wash your jars in the dishwasher and keep them on the “heated dry” cycle until you’re ready.) Don’t worry about the bands, there is not need to sterilize them.
2. Slice and dice – Prepare whatever fruits or veggies that you are planning to can. It is best to can your produce immediately after you harvest them, which allows for the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals. To prevent your fruits from browning, ascorbic acid can be added to the fruit before canning. You can find this in a health food store or near the canning supplies.
3. Fill your jars – For jams, jellies and sauces, its easiest to use a funnel to help fill your jars. It is important not to fill your jars all the way, as the produce will expand during the boiling process. A general rule is to fill the jar to the neck where the band screws on.
4. Get rid of the air bubbles – Using the non-magnetic side of your jar lifter, or a butter knife, gently dip the knife into your jars to release any air bubbles. It’s ok if you don’t get all of them, but try to get your jars as bubble free as possible.
5. Wipe the rims – Using a damp paper towel, wipe the rims of the jars to remove any food particles. Any food left on the jar can prevent the jar from sealing properly.
6. Top it off – Use the magnetic side of your jar lifter, or a pair of tongs to carefully remove a lid from the hot water bath and place on top of your jar. Gently screw on a ring, just until resistance is met.
7. Process your jars – Fill your stock pot or canning pot with water, and bring to a boil. Use your jar lifter to carefully add your jars to the water, being careful that they don’t touch. The water should be an inch or two above the tops of the jars. Place the lid on the canner. Processing time will be dependant on the individual recipe, and your altitude.
8. Remove your jars from the water – Use your jar lifter to carefully remove each jar and place on a kitchen towel. Let your jars cool completely for 24 hours. While your jars cool, the jars will start to pop, creating a vacuum seal. After they have cooled completely, check your jars. Press down on each lid, and if any of them spring back, the jar was not properly sealed. No worries – just place that jar in the refrigerator and eat it first.
9. Store your food – Label your jars with the contents and the date, then store in a dark, dry cool place.
10. Enjoy your hard work all winter long!