Both my mother and my grandmother were avid preserve makers. As soon as the end of summer and early autumn produce hit the market stands, they’d be out and about buying flats of whatever fruit or veg was in season. Then they’d don their aprons and commandeer the entire kitchen and set to making their tomato sauces, fruit chutneys and relishes, peaches in brandy and all kinds of fruit jams and jellies! The best of all was their black current jam. I’d give anything to have some of that right now, but it seems black currants are a rare phenomenon nowadays. Too bad.
Now is the perfect time of year to take advantage of local fruit and vegetable harvests. And it’s also a great opportunity to get the kids and grandkids involved in what can become a fun family tradition!
There are numerous websites full of amazing canning recipes if you haven’t already got your own favourites or those handed down over the years through family and friends.
Here’s a primer for canning high acid content produce to help the novice get started – from the equipment you’ll need to the techniques to employ that will ensure the best results.
The Boiling-Water Technique
A simple technique when it comes to canning is the boiling-water technique. It’s the ideal method for preserving produce with relatively high acidity (with a pH lower than 4.2), such as:
- cherries, peaches, and pears
- relishes and pickles steeped in vinegar
- tomatoes (see special information about canning tomatoes here)
Essential Tools You’ll Need:
This is a basic list of cooking utensils you’ll want to have on hand when using the boiling-water method of canning:
- Large pot: Preferably a thick-bottomed pot that’s large enough to support the jars.
- Canning rack: Make sure the rack fits inside your pot; essential for keeping jars from bumping into each other during sterilisation.
- Mason jars: Make sure they’re chip and nick-free before starting.
- Lids and rings: The lids must be new to ensure a proper seal. The rings can be washed and reused. Speaking of the rings, they should be removed from the jars after the preserving process is finished and the jars have reached room temperature. Yes, I’m serious! Read why here.
- Canning jar lifter: Essential for a secure grip when lifting your jars out of the boiling water.
- Large, wide mouthed, non-metallic funnel: For ease in transferring your produce into the jars.
- Long plastic spatula: Used to get rid of any air bubbles that have formed inside the jars once filled.
- Magnetic lid wand: A must have for removing metal lids from water without touching them.
How to Instructions – from Sterilising to Storing
- Jar lids should be brand new to ensure proper sealing. They should be soaked in hot (non-boiling) water before use.
- Sterilise the empty jars by placing them on a canning rack inside the large pot and let them sit in low-boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Once you remove the jars from the water, let them dry.
- Once dry, fill them with your already prepared ingredients, leaving a 1 cm (½ in.) space, using a non-metallic funnel. Wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth if necessary.
- Remove any air bubbles using a non-metallic utensil, such as a plastic spoon or spatula (metal utensils, such as a knife, can potentially cause the glass jars to crack).
- Remove the lids from the hot (not boiling) water using your magnetic lid wand and place them on the jars. Secure the lids by applying the rings and don’t over tighten them. Finger tight is enough.
- Immerse the filled and sealed jars in boiling water seating them on a canning rack, not touching each other for at least 15 minutes.
- Remove the jars from the water with the help of a canning jar lifter and let rest for 24 hours. The lids should be depressed and make a small popping noise: this is the sign that the jars are well sealed. Once jars are room temperature, remove the rings and label and date the contents.
- Preserves can be stored for one year in a dark, dry, cool place.
- Once jars are opened be sure to refrigerate them afterwards.
Low Acidity Food Preserving – It’s Not For Me
You may wonder why I don’t mention canning low acidity produce and products. It’s for one reason. I’m afraid to. But that’s no reason for you to not try it.
Low acid produce such as asparagus, green beans, cauliflower, corn, peas, pumpkin and squash require a different technique to ensure food safety and it involves using a pressure cooker.
I’m neither experienced nor brave enough to master that machine and I am also aware of the (potential) health issues related to the discipline of low acidity food preservation. However, if you want to find out more about canning these types of foods, the following sites offer great information for the novice and the seasoned canner alike: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Spruce Eats.