The process of canning has been around since the 1800s when a French confectioner and brewer named Nicolas Appert found that food cooked inside a jar didn’t spoil unless the seals leaked. He developed a method of sealing food in glass jars, and the canning revolution began!
Canning really hit its stride during major wars when rations would be canned and shipped to troops overseas and on ships. Fresh food tended to spoil too quickly in the field, so canned foods were substituted.
Continuing the tradition today, lots of homesteaders and basic gardeners can their excess crops to ensure home grown food through the winter and reduce waste.
It’s a shame to let all the fruits of your labor spoil, right? But if you don’t know the first thing about canning, where do you start? You start here:
What is Canning?
Canning is the method of preserving food by placing food into jars and processing them, which seals the jars. When you process the jars by boiling them in a canner, it kills microorganisms and bacteria. This also eliminates any oxygen from inside the jar. When the food cools, it creates a vacuum seal preventing any air from entering.
Have you ever heated something int he microwave in a plastic container with a lid? Naturally you open the lid a little to let it vent so it doesn’t explode. When you pull it out of the microwave, if you don’t take off the lid, it will pull itself tightly onto the container and start to sink in a bit. It’s the same concept as canning. But don’t try to can anything using a microwave!
There are two ways of canning, both of which you’ll need to learn if you want to can both fruits and vegetables.
Water bath canning is the method of submerging your jars of food in an open pot filled with water, and boiling them for a certain amount of time. This method is to be used for canning fruits, including jams and jellies.
Pressure canning is processing your jars by using temperatures higher than boiling. The pressure canner is specifically designed to hit 240ºF, which kills microorganisms and botulism spores. If you are going to can meats, vegetables, or beans, you must use this method.
Sharon @ The Trailer Park Homesteader has a great article on canning including some charts for adjusting processing times for different altitudes.
Jenny @ Blackfox Homestead shares their First Experience With a Pressure Canner.
Why Should I Can?
It’s Economical – In many cases, canning your own food is definitely a money saver! If you grow lots of fruits and veggies – more than your family can eat in one season – there’s no need to let it go to waste. Plus, if you’re making a pot of chili, soup, or stew, you could make double the amount and can half of it.
It’s Healthier – For example, store-bought canned soups are laden with sodium and other chemicals and preservatives to make them taste good and last longer. If you can your own soups, you know exactly what goes into them and won’t have to worry about all that added junk.
It’s Good Emergency Back-Up – A good deal of my audience is from the prepping community, so this is no shock. The more canned food you have put up, the better off you are in case of an emergency. Whether it’s a power outage, a winter storm, or a medical emergency, having a good supply of home-canned foods is a good idea. It’s wise to be always moving more towards self-sufficiency – and canning your own food is a great way to do that!
It’s Fun – What could be more fun than giving away cute little jars of jellies and jams to friends and family? Canned goods make especially nice gifts… it’s straight from the heart!
What Do I Need?
There are several things you will need to buy before you begin to can. You will need:
- Water bath canner – If you plan to only can fruits and jams, buying a water bath canner will meet all your canning needs. You can buy one for anywhere from $30 – $50; however, if you have a large stock/soup pot, that will work as well.
- Pressure canner – This is for canning meats and vegetables. However, most pressure canners can be used for water bath canning as well; just leave off the lid. Most pressure canners sell new for around $70 – $80.
- Canning jars – this depends on what size you want to can with. (Click here to learn more on canning jars.)Along with your canning jars, make sure you have plenty of lids and rims (also called bands or rings).
- Canning accessories – it’s helpful to purchase this group of canning accessories, as they provide a lot of help when you’re actually doing the canning.
Angela @ Food Storage and Survival has a great post on Canning Tools that breaks it all down.
Laurie @ Common Sense Home also shows you what you need to Get Started with Home Canning.
As with anything else you do in the kitchen, there are safety precautions. Aside from just the basic food safety issues, there are also concerns with the equipment. If you follow procedures and pay close attention to food preparation, there isn’t anything to worry about. Common sense will help you get through it all.
Sharon @ Simply Canning can help you clear all your worries about Home Canning Safety.
Kristi @ The Mind to Homestead also has some Smart Rules for canning.
Get Started Now
With the approaching Spring season, the time to get your gear and get organized is now. Once you start growing your garden, you should have everything ready to go so that when your crops start coming in, you’re prepared to can them before they go bad.
Amy @ Mom Prepares has some great tips on getting organized in her article The Canning Season Begins NOW.
Have you ever canned your own food before?