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Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer In A Jar

I love canning. No, I really do. It is something that wish for all of my friends to try. It is an amazing feeling when you open a jar in December that you packed back in July and the contents are yummy. Summer in a jar.

Most of my friends assume that it is some sort of voodoo or magic that is involved in canning and preserving food. However, there are just a few steps that require just a teeny weeny bit of science and some love.

The most basic method for canning is the Boiling-water method. All you need for this method is canning jars, new lids, rings, a towel, and a big pot of water. For your first canning experience use a simple jam recipe.

1. Sterilize your jars in boiling water. This is absolutely the most important part of canning. Have the towel folded in half next to your stove. Turn off the water. Using tongs or jar lifter remove jars from water and place on towel. Throw the lids in the water- do not boil these it will ruin the sealing compound.

2. Fill the jars with your recipe leaving a ½” of headspace(space from top of food to top of jar) at the top. Do this while the jars are still warm from sterilizing.

Wipe the rim of the jar so that you can create a tight seal. Top with hot lids and rings-do not screw on too tight.

3. Process your packed jars in your pot of water making sure that jars are covered with 1” of water. You can use a canning rack inside your pot or just place a few extra rings under the jars so that the water can circulate all around. Process your jars according to the directions in the recipe. Don’t tell the USDA but I do not process pickles. I don’t like the mushy texture of the pickles after processing and I feel very confident that they are safe because of the acidity and the salt. I am not recommending that you skip the processing step when canning pickles, just letting you know;)

4. Let the jars cool on the towel or move to a wire cooling rack. As the contents cool a vacuum is created in the headspace and the lid will make a ping sound letting you know it is sealed. When you press on the lid it should not move. If it does a tight seal was not created. Its okay though- just put the jar in the fridge and eat it in a few days. Label the jars immediately so that you don’t forget what is in that lovely little jar. Don’t tell the USDA but I do not process pickles;)

Once you get the hang of this you can start playing around and finding new and exciting recipes. The most important advice I have is DO NOT BE AFRAID TO FAIL.

This post was originally published as a guest post on Tightwad.

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