Learning how to can your own food is one sweet survival skill. Whether you want to preserve food in preparation for any upcoming zombie apocalypses or are simply interested in learning more about this important skill, use the following beginner tips to get you started.
Equipment & Sterilization
Necessary equipment includes jars (duh), lids and a canner. Water bath canners are recommended over pressure canners when you’re starting out, though you’ll only be able to can certain types of food with the former (more on that in a bit). You may also want to procure tools, such as jar-lifting tongs and a ladle. Once you have all of your equipment, sterilize the heck out of them. Sterilize the jars, rings, and lids by first washing them in warm, soapy water. You’ll then need to boil them to ensure total sterilization. Leave the lids in the hot water until you’re ready to can to avoid contamination.
The Golden Rule
The golden rule of canning is “acidity is everything.”
“Foods that do not have acid require pressure canning. These are foods such as green beans, peas, corn, potatoes and many others,” notes Dr. Jean Weese, professor and extension specialist at Alabama’s Auburn University. “When you place food with no acid in a jar and seal it with a vacuum, you have created a great place for Clostridium botulinum to grow. This organism, when placed in the vacuum environment, can start growing and create the deadly botulinum toxin, which causes an illness known as botulism. If a person consumes even a small amount of this toxin it can result in death.”
Eeesh. If intimidated by the thought of using a pressure cooker to can assorted foods, Weese recommends starting with jams and jellies, as the recipes are easy and you won’t die if you make a mistake.
Water Bath Canning
Since we’re discussing the basics of canning, it would be silly not to mention the mechanics of water bath canning. Once you’ve filled your clean jar with food and applied the lid and threaded ring, you’ll submerge the jar in boiling water. How long said jar must remain in the water depends on what you’re canning. Removing the jar from the water allows heat and any air to escape, creating an airtight seal that will keep for at least a year.
Remember to let the jars cool fully before labeling and storing them. Add the date to every label as well as the recipe, if so inclined.
Have any canning tips to share? Leave them in the comments section!