I am sure at some point you have looked into preserving the food that you are growing at home and I am also sure that if you have, you will have seen articles written about home canning. During this post we are going to be looking at some of the top home canning tips that can help you make your own food preservation a success.
1. Test and Understand Your Equipment
Before you ever need to actually use your equipment, it is important that you take it all for a test-drive and fully understand what you’re doing and how it works. Depending on your chosen canning method will depend on how you do this but if you’re using a pressure canner you can:
- Bring 3 inches of water in the canister to the boil.
- Check the accuracy of the pressure display of dial gauges as per your owner’s manual. You also need to check that the seal is steam-tight.
- Check the sealing gasket and make sure that it’s still soft and pliable enough to create a proper seal, and inspect any other rubber gaskets on vent tubes and overpressure plugs as well.
- Use a pipe cleaner to clean all the vents to ensure that there is no materials trapped.
- If your model has a cover lock with a piston in the lid or handle, ensure that it activates when the kettle is pressurized, and that it releases when the pressure dissipates.
- If your model uses clamp-down wing nuts with no sealing gasket, use a drop of vegetable oil to lubricate the nuts and make sure there are no cracks or damage of any kind. Lightly lubricate the lid and kettle edge to help form a complete seal.
2. Feel Free to Go Frozen
If you grow your own fruit then there is a good chance that during the summer months you will always have plenty to preserve. The good news is that you can actually use frozen fruit to make some absolutely amazing jams and preserves. So, if you can’t keep up with the amount that you have got to deal with, put some in the freezer to sort later and nobody would be any the wiser.
Start off by spreading the berries or fruit onto a baking sheet and place it in the freezer for a couple of hours before gathering them up into freezer bags. This will keep them from clumping together which would happen if you just put them straight into the freezer in bags.
3. Use Enough Water
Pressure canning requires less water than water bath canning but you still need the correct amount in order to produce the steam that creates the pressure. Not all recipes state how much water to add in which case you should add around 2-3 inches of water.
You can also spread up the process slightly by pre-heating the water. If doing hot-pack jars you can pre-heat the water to about 180°F or if doing raw-pack jars, pre-heat to about 140°F but make sure that you use a little more water than you need because of evaporation.
4. Free the Bubbles
When canning, you are bound to get some trapped air bubbles which will need to be removed before you seal the jar. If you fail to remove the air bubbles, you canning will almost certainly be a failure as the seal won’t be right.
You can use anything at hand really to sort the issue but we find that chopsticks are perfect for the job. If nothing else, you can use a butter knife but you must be careful that you don’t etch or crack the glass of the jar.
If you want to purchase something specifically for the job we would recommend the Ball® Bubble Freer which is pretty inexpensive but in my opinion you will have other things already laying around that you can use.
5. Don’t Forget About Altitude
This is something very important but also something that new canners don’t take into consideration and wonder why they are failing. High altitude canning doesn’t mean that you increase the cooking time, it means that you’ll need to increase the amount of pressure.
To compensate for the loss of atmospheric pressure at higher elevations, the pressure is controlled in one of two ways:
- Dial gauge – burner needs to be adjusted to raise or lower the pressure
- Weighted gauge – weight is increased and will release any pressure above the desired amount.
Now, obviously not everyone will know exactly what their elevation is but with the help of Google it is usually pretty easy. Just type in your “location + altitude”.
6. Get Your Timing Right
You need to get your timing spot on in order for your canning attempt to be successful. You need to ensure that the correct pressure is evenly maintained for the duration of your process time, in order to can your delicious harvest properly. Do the following:
- Begin the processing timer when the dial gauge indicates that the recommended pressure has been reached.
- If using a weighted gauge model then begin when the weight begins to jiggle, rock, or spin, as described by the manufacturer.
If the pressure should drop below the desired level, bring it back up to where it needs to be, and begin the process time again. Not only are high, 240°F temperatures required to kill pathogens, they also need to be maintained for precise lengths of time in order to be effective.
7. Don’t Try to Speed the Process Up
One major problem that a lot of people have is that they try to speed the release of pressure up which you just can’t do. You must allow the kettle to cool naturally so just turn off the heat and have a little patience once the processing time is complete.
The fact that you can’t open a pressure canner until the pressure is released is a safety feature. Some people try to use cold water to speed this process up which must be avoided. For safety, the jars and their contents need to remain level and stable to depressurize at the same rate as the kettle. Forced cooling can cause loss of liquid from the jars, and seal failure.
If you use a dial gauge method then be sure to tilt the weight away from you when removing from the vent pipe so that any remaining steam can escape before competely removing it.
What about you? Do you have any pressure canning tips or insights you can share with our readers? Leave your ideas, or any questions, in the comments below… your thoughts are always appreciated!