I'm really new in the world of canning and thought that maybe others would be interested in it too. It's a great way to take advantage of your own garden or the cheap in season produce at a farmer's market or something.
Here are the basics that you will need to start canning at home:
- A canner, or, a very large stockpot
- Tempered glass canning jars
- Jar rings
- Disposable lids
- A wide-mouth funnel
- A large slotted spoon
- A large ladle
- Measuring spoons and cups
- Jar tongs and/or waterproof oven mitts
- A stick with a magnetic tip for fishing metal lids out of hot water
- A gravy spoon for removing excess liquid from jars
- A reliable scale
With the exception of the disposable lids, you can look at getting all of these things from garage sales or by dropping hints around people who are likely to have them in their attics. A lot of older women have canning kettles they haven't used in years, and a lot of people hang onto Mason jars from gifts of jam in the hopes that someday they'll use them. Trust me, they will be only too happy to be rid of them. They are likely to give you a lot of old commercial jars as well, such as mayonnaise jars, but it's best to decline: if you put these in the canner they are much more likely to break. There are some types of store-bought foods, such as Classico pasta sauce, which come in jars made for home canning. These will clearly be marked with the jar-maker's stamp so will have "Mason" or "Ball" or "Bernardin" on them. They are quite often funny sizes, such as 3/4 litre, but that's all right. Anything one litre or smaller is fine.
You can buy jars, rings and lids three ways:
- New jars are always packed with lids and rings
- Sets of 1-dozen rings and lids
- 12-packs of lids only.
You might be tempted, if you pick up a lot of second-hand jars, to go out and buy as many rings as you have jars. You don't need to. The rings are not there to hold the lid on, they are there to steady it in the canner until the lid seals to the glass. Once they've come out of the canner and "popped", you will be able to remove the rings and use them on the next batch. You only need as many rings as will fit in your canner at one time. After two or three uses, though, the rings tend to blacken and rust, so you will need to replace them from time to time.
If you are going to buy a canner, go for the biggest pressure canner you can find. It's more expensive than a hot-water cannner but has so many advantages that it is well worth it:
1) The big one - you can process almost anything in a pressure canner. A hot-water canner, or a big stockpot, can ONLY safely process fruit, pickles and tomatoes.
2) You can use the pressure canner as a hot-water bath for things like pickles that you want to keep crisp.
3) A hot-water bath needs to be completely full of boiling water, to two inches above the surface of the jars. A pressure canner only needs about 3 litres (quarts) of water, which it turns into pressurised steam. There are multiple advantages to this:
- It's MUCH easier to lift the canner!!!
- You save on water
- It takes vastly less time to bring to the boil, so your canning goes faster
- You can stack the jars in the pressure canner and process twice the number of jars at once
- You're less likely to get extra water in the food
There is no reason not to buy a pressure canner second-hand so keep your eyes open at garage sales. The rubber gaskets are easily and cheaply replaced, which makes the canner as good as new.
There are two kinds of pressure canner:
I strongly recommend going with the weighted gauge, for everyone except the hearing-impaired. Here is the difference between the two: The dial-gauge has a little dial and a needle that swings around to show you what the pressure in the canner is. The weighted gauge comes with a number of weights, and you put on the weight for the amount of pressure you want. Let's say you put on the 10-lb weight. When the pressure reaches 10 lbs, the amount of steam rising up under the weight will make the gauge go: Ga-chunk. Ga-chunk. Ga-chunk. If the pressure gets too high, it goes: CHUNKITY-CHUNKITY-CHUNKITY-CHUNKITY and you know to dive under the couch turn the heat down. If the pressure gets too low, the gauge falls silent and you know to turn the heat up.
It's tempting to say, "but a dial sounds more accurate! Who cares if I have to watch it like a hawk?". But in fact, dial gauges go out of whack and need to be regularly taken to a professional for testing. So the reliability is actually higher with the weighted gauge, not to mention that you can wander around and do whatever you like (I favour a glass of sherry and a spy novel) so long as you stay within earshot
Borrowed from: http://www.livejournal.com/community/pantry/457.html