Canning with a water bath canner is fairly simple and the best place to start if you are a new canner.
The water bath method is used for high acid foods like Fruits, Jams, Jellies or Pickled Foods where you add acid. Low acid foods MUST be processed (canned) in a pressure canner. Water boils at 212 degrees whereas a pressure canner will reach 240 degrees which is needed to kill the microorganisms in low acid foods that cause botulism.
I realise that many of our parents didn't got through all the steps of processing some of their foods the way it is recommended today, but times have changed and so has our food sources. To have a safe pantry, you must follow safety meassures when processing your food.
Basic Steps to Water Bath Canning:
1: What you will need.
Jars (Sterilized by boiling or using your dishwasher if it has this setting)
Lids and Rings (always use new lids, rings can be used over again)
Wand type Magnet for lifting lids from hot water
Note: Always check your jars for nicks and cracks before using them.
2: Fill the boiling water bath canner half full with clean,hot water. Center the canner over the burner and preheat water to 140 F for raw-packed foods and 180 F for hot-packed foods. The purpose for having the water a certain temperature is so that the processing time will be correct. Recipes are tested using these temperatures and if jars are placed in the canner and the water is already boiling then the processing time may not be long enough for the food to be shelf stable. Place an extra kettle of water on the stove burner should additional boiling water be needed to cover the jars in the canner.
Keep lids & rings in simmering water, not boiling. Update: Ball says lids no longer need to be heated in simmering water. Directions now are to just wash in hot, soapy water and set aside until ready to use. You may still simmer if you choose. Wash your jars in hot, soapy water and check rims for nicks and cracks. If your recipe says to process for more than 10 minutes then you won't need to sterilize the jars, but they will need to be kept hot. You should always put hot food into hot jars. If you put hot food into cold jars it can cause them to crack. You can put the jars in the canner and let them boil to sterilize them. I do this even if I am processing for more than 10 minutes since they need to be kept hot anyway.
3: Prepare your food according to recipe. (The Ball Blue Book is a must if you want to learn how to can food. It has over 400 recipes)
4: Place food in hot, sterilized jars leaving proper head space and use a spadula or something similar (no metal) to slide around the inside and remove air bubbles. You can pick up a nice little bubble remover tool with a headspace checker on the end for around $3.00.
5: Wipe tops of jars clean with a paper towel or cloth dipped in white vinegar to ensure a good seal.
6: Place lids on jar, put on ring and tighten finger tight, place jars in canner rack.
7: Lower rack into canner and put on lid, bring to a vigorous boil and boil for time required in recipe. Start timing after it starts boiling. You can reduce heat, but keep at a steady boil for allotted time. Add more boiling water if needed to keep water 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the jars at all times. Remove lid and wait 5 to 10 minutes before taking jars out of canner.
8: Use jar lifter and towel (towel is to steady hot jar as you move to counter) and remove jars from canner. Place on towel on counter for 24 hours. Jars will seal (you will hear them pop) as they cool.
9: Check you seal by pressing thumb in center of lid, if it doesn't pop up, you have a good seal. Store unsealed jars in refrigerator and use within a couple of weeks.
10: Lable and Store in a cool, dark room
I have given you the basic steps to Water Bath Canning. You can get more information and recipes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
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