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How hard is canning?  RSS feed

 
kamila Batista
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Hello Everyone,
I m thinking to start the family tradition of canning this year and would like to get some opinion before
I start digging a hole, I m Spanish and Italian so canning is in me but the BIG QUESTION IS HOW HARD IS TO CAN,
Time? Equipment Cost? can someone in here guide me through.

 
 
Mike Jay
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It depends on a few things.  Would you be water bath canning (applesauce, tomatoes, jam/jelly) or pressure canning (meat, low acid food, beans, soup)?  The equipment is much cheaper for water bath.  If you have to buy all the gear new you're probably talking $100 for water bath and an additional $100 for a pressure canner.  Most of the equipment can be shared between the two methods (funnels, grabbers, etc).  You can get gear cheaper from garage sales or grandma's attic.

Time wise it seems to take a couple hours to do a batch of anything.  With water bath canning, most of the time is in preparing the food/jam for canning.  Then you just have to heat the canner up to boiling and process the jars for a little while.  With pressure canning the processing times are often longer and the heat up and cool down time is much much longer.  But when you do a batch with either method you end up with 7 pints or quarts of finished product.  And if you do several batches the overall time improves. 

My efficiency record was with four people and two water canners we turned 7 bushels of apples into 140 quarts of applesauce in 8 hours.

Canning goes faster but is hotter work if you have a gas stove.  I like to can outside on a wood fired unit.

Ideally you have a friend that you can help out to learn the techniques.  I'd buy a Ball Blue Book for sure to learn the official basics and get some safe recipes (Ball  Blue Book).  "Grandma's old venison recipe" may not be up to current food safety standards.  It may work fine nearly all the time but these Ball recipes work all the time.  Also there are some great videos on youtube of how to do it.  I like the videos from "imstillworkin".
 
Andrea Redenbaugh
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If you are generally comfortable in the kitchen, canning is not difficult. I learned from my husband a few years ago. We do both water bath and pressure canning.

What kind of foods are you wanting to preserve? That will determine your method and expenses.
 
K Putnam
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Waterbath canning is very straightforward as long as you follow the very simple rule that the food needs to be in a high-acid environment.

The National Center For Home food preservation is an essential, free resource:  http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_home.html

As far as books go, I use this:  Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

The Blue Book is the other standard reference.  Also get to know www.foodinjars.com

Fair warning, it's easy to get carried away with jams and preserves the first year.  Nothing wrong with having a lot around, but the savory side of things often proves more useful for daily eating, i.e. tomatoes, pickles, and condiments. 

I haven't done much pressure canning, but that opens up a lot of doors and comes with its own basic set of rules.

Invest in the basic tools right off the bat.  I spent the first two years trying to do everything with a pair of tongs and burned myself repeatedly, all for about $20 of basic tools that last for years.
 
r ranson
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Canning is pretty easy if one is good at following directions.  In a nutshell: you cut up some stuff, cook it a bit, cook the jars a bit to sterilize them, put together, boil stuff in jars.  That's what they call 'water bath' method.  Pressure canning is about the same, only the jars full of stuff are boiled in a pressure canner. 

Matching the right method to the food one wishes to can is the difficult part, but there are loads of instructions on how to do this.


For me, the thing that makes canning difficult is the safety concerns.  Canning is a relatively new method of preserving food (developed in the late 1700s, but not something that the general public really embraced until the 1920s-1940s), so we don't have the thousands of years worth of tradition to draw on like we do with fermenting, drying, salting, curing, and the like.  There are some bacteria that can grow in canned foods that is pretty well unique to this style of preserving (botulism is the main one).  IF one follows the scientifically tested instructions for canning like what comes direct from the company that makes canning jars, then one can feel confident that the food will be safe to eat.  This doesn't leave much room for creativity.

Lack of creativity is where canning is difficult for me.  What if I don't like sweet peppers, but want to make hot pepper jelly?  Finding a recipe that doesn't include sweet peppers is pretty difficult.  What if I don't have all the ingredients I need in the house to make such and such a chutney?  Normally I could improvise, and I would if it were a normal recipe, but because canning is a scientific method of preserving food, any changes to the recipe I make can be dangerous.  There is a lot of information out there about the science of canning, but not enough to make me feel confident creating my own recipes or adapting existing ones to the ingredients I have on hand.  A creative, make-do person in the kitchen like myself can find canning to be very difficult.  But one who can dutifully follow instructions, I imagine, will find it easier than baking a cake.
 
Dan Boone
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R Ranson wrote:For me, the thing that makes canning difficult is the safety concerns.


Just for another perspective, I'm not trying to argue with you, just explain why it looks different to me: we have 100 years of broad experience with home canning.   And it's been done in vast volume under primitive conditions by not-very-well-educated people who were juggling a houseful of demanding children, in high summer without air conditioning.  We pretty much know what the outcomes are that are likely enough to worry about.  Basically a jar might fail in an obvious way (no seal and it rots/ferments/molds) so you don't eat that one.  Or you can get botulism in a jar -- there really isn't another failure mode worth worrying about.  Botulusm is the big thing to worry about, but the critical fact about it is this: the botulism toxin itself is destroyed by heat.  So if you put everything that comes out of a jar through a cooking process, you've got an additional safety net on top of the canning-safety rules you followed when you did the canning. 

As for being creative, it's important to remember that prolonged high heat degrades food, so most recipes are trying to walk the tightrope between enough heat for long enough to guarantee safety -- but not too much heat for too long because you don't want the food to get mushy and turn brown.  It's not my opinion that one needs to slavishly follow approved recipes to be safe; rather, one needs to make sure there's a safety margin in your cooking temps and times.  If you want to be creative, you can do it with stuff like jams and jellies and chutnies and purees where you're basically making lumpy mush anyway, so you can afford to heat it twenty degrees extra for an extra ten minutes to nail down the safety. The place to be slavish about the recipes (again just in my opinion) is when you're canning certain fruits and vegetables where the goal is to preserve as much color and texture as possible.

Canning safety is important.  But I don't see it as hard.  Obviously there's lots of room for differing views!

 
Brie Robb
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And check where you are, for your altitude above sea level. The instruction manual will explain the changes you need to make in processing time and pressure.
 
kamila Batista
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Growing up canning was so fun, smashing tomato in the garage, now I feel like why didnt i pay more attention to parents.
thank you everyone for all your advice I will continue reading about canning and doing lots of research before i fully start canning
I see there's lot of safety issues and i think i should be very careful. I can also see tools are not that cheap i check a few site online they
all have all this milling machine way to high. canning was fun for me in the 90s but now its going to be a lesson that i should learn back then.
all your answer were great thank you everyone if you guys know a good site where i can start buy a feel tools guide book and stuff like that please feel free to pass them over.

Thank you all again. 
Good day!!
 
Bill Erickson
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Kamila,

The posts up above by Mike Jay and K Putnam both have links to free guides that are the "standards"for canning. Canning is a lifestyle choice and you will need to gather things as you can over time. The most expensive tools will be the pressure canner and then the water bath canner. After that will come all the jars, lids and rings, which will then be followed by the tools to handle said jars, lids and rings during the canning process. Don't forget the funnels, pitters and mashers for the finish.

My best advice is to start with the basics - tools, jars/lids/rings and the type of canner you will use the most. Fruits, pickled vegetables and tomatoes were the most common for my household, so the Bride has a pretty extensive water bath setup up - but we are extending into the low acid food types and are working on the pressure canner. Believe it or not, the tools used are exactly the same, even though the canning processes are significantly different in heat and time.
 
Rebecca Norman
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As long as you want to preserve acidic things like tomatoes or fruit or vegetables in vinegar-brine, then the boiling-water bath system is very easy and safe. Botulism is not a risk with acidic foods.

You don't need to spend $100 to start canning with the boiling water bath system. I've done it using only pots and tools that were already available in our school. We make hundreds of jars of apricot jam, apricots in syrup, tomato puree, and chutney using only this equipment:

1) A pot to cook the stuff in. I prefer stainless steel but any pot is fine.

2) A flat-bottomed pot to stand the jars up in and boil them after they are closed. It has to be deeper than the jars are tall, and needs a lid.

3) Rubber gloves with thin winter gloves inside, for standing jars in boiling water and taking them out. I find this easier than special canning tongs.

4) Empty glass jars from commercial jam, chutney or pickles that we already ate. The glass must be in prefect condition with no hairline cracks and no small chips. The lids must be in perfect condition with no dents. Typical commercial lids are good for 2 or 3 re-usages in my experience, but eventually the plastic gasket gets mushed out of shape. The jars last for many times. When we only made a few dozen jars of jam per year, we just re-used old jars. Once we started making several hundred every year, we bought sacks of new lids and a few cases of jars. India and Europe seem to use a standard type of jar and lid for most products, which makes it much easier than the US, where every product you buy has a different type of jar and lid.

5) Assorted spoons, ladles and maybe a funnel. Just use whatever you've got.

6) Very important and most likely to be forgotten: a clean cotton cloth for wiping the mouth of the jars before closing.

That's it, no purchase necessary. The methods for open boiling-water bath method are all over the internet and in all the books mentioned by people above.

Our basic method is simple:

1) Clean your jars, lids, pots, and the cotton cloth ahead of time. Check in sunlight and reject jars with hairline cracks or chips.

2) Get your foodstuff boiling hot. It has to be somewhat acidic such as fruit or tomatoes, and you can add a little vinegar or lemon juice if in doubt. It has to be somewhat liquidy so it will not leave airspaces.

3) Boil some water in the bottom of the flat-bottomed pot. Put some jars and lids in the boiling water to sterilise them for 5 minutes.

4) Fill the sterilised jars leaving 1 cm headspace of air in the top. Wipe the mouths with the clean cotton cloth moistened with water. Close the jars, being careful not to leave food between the jar and the lid that could be a path for bacteria. Close them gently, not very tight, because the air in the headroom has to expand and escape.

5) Stand the jars in the boiling water up to the shoulder (it rises as you put the jars in, so start with only a little), and close the pot lid over them so their lids are bathed in steam. Or let the boiling water cover them with 5 cm of boiling water. I always have the tops of the jars out of the water and just in steam, and we have very little spoilage, but all the books say to have the boiling water over the top of the jars. Boil the closed jars for as long as the recipe you looked at tells you to. For acidic liquidy food that was filled hot, 5 minutes may be enough; other conditions take longer. If in doubt just err on the longer side.

6) Pull the jars out with your protected gloved hands. Isn't it fun? Stand the jars with some space between them to cool. Admire their lovely colors. Think of a way to label them that expresses your pleasure.

Yay!

 
kamila Batista
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OMG I Dont know how to thank you all, Honestly thank you so much.
Special thank you to Rebecca Norman your post rock.
I just order the book: Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving 
and about buying some canning tool  i will hold done i check a few place like www,ebay.com, www.amazon.com and also a few canadian site like Consiglios kitchenware , Simply Canning and Canning Supply I ask my mother to help me on picking what i need so I save all links but on the mean time I will study and study the book and I promise you guys will be the first to see my first box of jars. Cant wait so excited )))

Thank you Everyone
krose
 
kamila Batista
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Have Anyone here used this ( Simply Canning book ) book before?   should I order this one too or the one you send me Rebecca is good enough. Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
 
Annie Lochte
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The ball canning book has all the info you need... Your story sounds just like mine! Spent all my growing up years helping prepare an can all kinds of stuff... Couldn't wait to be done with that!!! Now, 30+ years later I was thinking I shoulda paid closer attention!! BUT.. I bought a pressure canner and been canning away for 2 years now with no disasters! Yet! it was scary at first but I had used an autoclave before an said...Heck! I can do this! Time consuming? Yes! Hard? Not at all...
 
K Putnam
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The Ball book is plenty to get you started.  And there is an endless supply of free recipes on the internet if you need inspiration once you've got the hang of things.  Food In Jars has a pretty extensive recipe list available.  Once you've made a couple of batches of things, you'll find this is all very straightforward.
 
kamila Batista
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thank you! Annie Lochte
 
Jennifer Fox
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I would say water bath canning is not difficult. I taught myself from reading and looking at videos online.  As people are saying, water bath canning is the least expensive and easiest to start with.  I waited until I felt confident water bath canning before I bought my pressure canner. My best tip would be this: be as organized as possible!  Carefully read through the entire recipe (from a reputable source) and have everything sterilized, laid out and ready to go before you begin making your product. There's nothing like having hot jam and hot jars waiting while you scramble to find the darned canning funnel!
 
John Weiland
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Debated whether or not to add the following to this thread since I can't vouch for its safety, only that it has worked pretty well for jam/preserve items that get eaten relatively quickly....I have not deliberately left a jar of jam processed in this way at room temperature as a test of the shelf-life of the item.  I also have not tested this with any veggies and would stick to acidic conditions if I were to venture a try.  I will be using the method this weekend to make chutney from the apricots on the front yard tree that decided to produce abundantly this year and have already nearly consumed the cherry jam from a Bali cherry tree on the property. 

For jam/preserves, the procedure still involves making a hot mix of the fruit to be preserved and adding thickening agent (I use the quick pectin preparations) to the desired amount.  The modification is in canning-jar prep:  A rinsed jar (water still on surface of container) is microwaved on high for 1 - 2 min.  While this microwaves, take the jar (canning) lid and work up a light lather with dish-soap of your choice on the inside surface of this lid, then leave it soap-side up on the counter.  When microwave is done (but leaving door closed), rinse the lid under hot tap water, then pop open the microwave door and plop the lid onto the empty jar still in the microwave (no screw-ring at this point).  Inside the jar is a pretty clean environment at this point.  With a hot pad, transfer the jar with lid to a surface where you can pour the hot preserves:  Rather quickly, take the pan of preserves from the burner, lift the lid from the jar with the other hand, and pour preserves in the jar to near-full, leaving a bit of head-space.....then immediately place the lid back onto the jar.  Place screw-ring loosely onto the jar and let cool.  Tighten ring when cooled.  Using this method, I've made several batches of jam and jelly that last weeks in the refrigerator without contamination.  If it's something I really value, it either goes into the freezer for longer-term storage....or I use the more time-tested methods already indicated in the thread.  

A version (not mine) of this form of sterilization can be found here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W58mZaJCArA

Edit:  From the CDC---
"Microwave. Microwaves are used in medicine for disinfection of soft contact lenses, dental instruments, dentures, milk, and urinary catheters for intermittent self-catheterization925-931. However, microwaves must only be used with products that are compatible (e.g., do not melt) 931. Microwaves are radio-frequency waves, which are usually used at a frequency of 2450 MHz. The microwaves produce friction of water molecules in an alternating electrical field. The intermolecular friction derived from the vibrations generates heat and some authors believe that the effect of microwaves depends on the heat produced while others postulate a nonthermal lethal effect932-934. The initial reports showed microwaves to be an effective microbicide. The microwaves produced by a "home-type" microwave oven (2.45 GHz) completely inactivate bacterial cultures, mycobacteria, viruses, and G. stearothermophilus spores within 60 seconds to 5 minutes depending on the challenge organism933, 935-937. Another study confirmed these resuIts but also found that higher power microwaves in the presence of water may be needed for sterilization932. Complete destruction of Mycobacterium bovis was obtained with 4 minutes of microwave exposure (600W, 2450 MHz)937. The effectiveness of microwave ovens for different sterilization and disinfection purposes should be tested and demonstrated as test conditions affect the results (e.g., presence of water, microwave power). Sterilization of metal instruments can be accomplished but requires certain precautions926. Of concern is that home-type microwave ovens may not have even distribution of microwave energy over the entire dry device (there may be hot and cold spots on solid medical devices); hence there may be areas that are not sterilized or disinfected. The use of microwave ovens to disinfect intermittent-use catheters also has been suggested. Researchers found that test bacteria (e.g., E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Candida albicans) were eliminated from red rubber catheters within 5 minutes 931. Microwaves used for sterilization of medical devices have not been FDA cleared."

-- https://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/Disinfection_Sterilization/13_10otherSterilizationMethods.html

 
Rebecca Norman
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John, if your jam contains abut 50% sugar like the traditional recipes say, then your method will be fine and the jam won't go bad on the shelf. That means equal weights of fruit and sugar. If you want to use less sugar than that -- and I do use much less -- then it's best to close the jars and boil them in water for several minutes. If the lids stay airtight, and if the contents are acidic and not too dry or stiff, then the jars will stay fine at room temperature on the shelf for a year or several years. I don't use a thickening agent with our jam -- we just chop the apricots and cook them without sugar first, then at the end add sugar to taste, but it's not nearly enough to activate the natural pectin nor to poison all the bacteria or mold. So our jam is only good till you open the airtight jars, then it must be eaten soon or refrigerated. And it is lumpy preserves, with a very fresh strong fruit flavor, not a jelly.
 
Steve Boyd
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Try this book first - its free and very comprehensive - I use it as my 'Canning Bible"  - its the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, 2015 revision - http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html,
I've combined all the files here so you can down load the document all at once .... https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_-71rpjqoYSMDJqazZKNmhDbDA
I use a American 921 pressure canner that I imported - at some expense at the time!
 
Dana Jones
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After 30+ years of canning, I am finally getting my dream pressure canner. I bought a pressure canner that didn't have the weighted pressure regulator, it only has the pressure dial, showing how many pounds of pressure. This means that I had to regulate the heat and keep an eagle eye on the pressure dial so I could maintain the proper pressure. What a PITA! The All American has the pounds of pressure dial, and it has the weighted pressure regulator that fits over the steam vent. As an added bonus, it does not have a rubber gasket, which deteriorates over time and must be replaced.

This is a purchase that you will use all your life, so don't go cheap and get something to just "get by". This is an important purchase, so do it right the first time and you will never be sorry.

https://www.amazon.com/All-American-921-2-Quart-Pressure/dp/B00004S88Z
 
C. Letellier
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PS someone mentioned canning over a wood fire.  Extreme care needs to be taken when doing this with a pressure cooker as you can't "turn down" a wood fire.  If you have a wood stove with a large top you can slide the cooker sideways away from the heat to regulate it.  But over an open wood fire  you need to be able to move the pressure cooker out of the fire quickly no matter what the fire conditions.  Water bath over a wood fire is mostly no problem.  But pressure cooker needs good planning to be safe.  Finally if you are doing it over a wood fire have a bucket of cold water handy so if something does go wrong you can quickly through a large bucket of water on the cooker to cool it while suppressing the fire.  Be aware this can wreck the pressure cooker through warping from uneven cooling.  It is the final fall back for safety.
 
Danette Cross
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It's not hard at all, whether you hot water bath can or can foods that require a pressure canner.  It's all very straight forward, but it can be time consuming.  The Ball Canning Book is the best first timers reference to get, at Walmart around $10.  The hot water bath canning method is for foods that are high acid, like tomatoes.  Jams, jellies and preserves are also hot water bath canned.  That means you pack you fruits  or veggies into the jars and basically boil them for a certain amount of time depending on your elevation.

Pressure canning is a bit more complex, but the results are great and well worth it. Meats, stews, soups, stocks (vegetable or meat stocks, like chicken stock etc) also require pressure canning.  The canner itself is the greatest expense initially.  And of course jars, but if you can enough food, you will, in the end, save a ton of money!

Youtube.com has some great canning videos that are well worth the watch;

BexarPrepper has a ton of canning videos:   [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSWgxRyQNYx7qDooweyjVtA[/youtube]
And Katzcradul:   [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFms2hJ8MvJBIegLmQNggKA[/youtube]
HomesteadingGirl has a video on the pressure canner:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-fFAlldDKM

I could list hundreds!

Again, there are great canning books out there, and once you get your supplies lined up, recipes picked out, fruits and veggies, and even meat and cheese, you are ready to go. My one big tip is to have everything you need all set up and ready, because once you get going, things can move fast, and having to hunt something down is a drag!
 
Ernest Kestone
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Yeah, my first instinct also was to go with the scientifically proven  method.  As they say, live and learn.

Canning by the book is absurd. Foods will be either acidic, or overcooked until they're  very poor nutritionally . Yes, botulism is always a possibility.  But you have to nearly incinerate the food or leave it swimming in vinegar or citric acid.

My solution? Simple water bath canning. If it's naturally  acidic,  you're done. For low acid foods, make sure to boil before eating. That's it.

If you're still thinking to follow the canning jar company or USDA recipes, you might want to consider the following. Not all ingredients are the same. For example we assume tomatoes are high acid. But some varieties are sweet,  and do not qualify as high acid. So, even following the recipe exactly is not a guarantee. One would have to test the acidity of each batch, something not available for most households. Also, acid ultimately is unpalatable, akin to salting.

That still leaves most foods which are low acid. I have a pressure canner and I tried going by the USDA instructions. (Most recipes, 30 minutes at 10+ pounds in my altitude.) To start with, 30 minutes of high-pressure cooking is quite a bit. Considering what it probably does to the nutrients. But to that you have to add the time heating up the pot, could be another half an hour. The amount of cooking gas or electricity used. Then more time to cool down before you can even open the pot. And additional time when the jars are set out to cool. It takes at least an hour for a quart jar. So the food has actually cooked at boiling temperature or higher, for a total of about 2 hours. Not to mention jar breakage and seal failures inside the pressure pot. Quite a mess.

Better to go with grandma's simple boiling water bath method. And then just heat thoroughly before eating. You can tell that to the scientists at the USDA!


 
Joe Ruben
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Several people have mentioned hot water bath canning.  Please be sure of your elevation before you do this!  I live at 6,200 feet and it is never safe to hot bath anything at this elevation.

I started canning in 1976 and it's a great way to store SOME foods.  I'm sure you'll figure it all out!
 
r ranson
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Ernest Kestone wrote:Yeah, my first instinct also was to go with the scientifically proven  method.  As they say, live and learn.

Canning by the book is absurd. Foods will be either acidic, or overcooked until they're  very poor nutritionally . Yes, botulism is always a possibility.  But you have to nearly incinerate the food or leave it swimming in vinegar or citric acid.




I agree, canning can really diminish taste, texture, and nutrition of the food.  Personally, I feel canning is something to be used lightly and only when there are no better means of preserving the food like fermenting, drying, salting, curing, and a whole host of food preservation methods our ancestors enjoyed.  I put canning down there with freezing; they are both energy intensive and almost always unnecessary.  Canning is a useful tool to have, but it's like a specialty wrench, not something I use every day or even every year.


Most of what we talk about here on permies have been done by humans for thousands of years.  Build houses, growing food, felling trees.  Lots of different ways have been tried over time, so we have lots of ideas on what works no matter what the modern officials tell us.

Canning food in a home setting didn't really enter the public mind until the 1920s, and even then, in most of the West, it wasn't popular until after the second world war.  I still have relatives alive who remember when canning 'began' in earnest.  Right from the get-go, canning has been manipulated with a keen bit of propaganda and marketed as a 'traditional' skill.  It isn't.  It's a cunning bit of science developed in a scientific age which needs scientific tools to know just how safe a recipe is to eat.  Unlike felling the mightiest tree in the forest with a haddock, with canning; we can't trust our own senses to know when something has gone wrong. 

I'm confident that the regulations by the FDA or whoever does that sort of thing, are far stricter than necessary.  They must take into account that in the West, most people have very few traditional skills on how to keep food safe.  These skills have been replaced by the new scientific method - which in my opinion isn't for the best.  Without this common sense that comes with experience, or a microscope, as a population, we no longer have the skills to know when food is safe and deviating from the official guidelines is done at our own risk. 


Better to go with grandma's simple boiling water bath method. And then just heat thoroughly before eating. 


Personally, I'm not going to try this as I think it's a really bad idea.  If botulism was the only thing that could go wrong with canning, then maybe it would be fine.  But there are other bacterium and toxins, some of which are not killed at mear boiling temperature (at sea level - above sea level is a whole 'nother matter).  Grandma was useing very different ingredients than we have access to now.  Many of the veg have had the acid bred out of them, and other factors that affect the safety of canned food.  This is one of the reasons why the official guidelines are constantly being revised.

Then again, you've got me at a bad time as I'm just coming off a rather nasty bit of food poisoning from commercially canned food - that was boiled before being consumed. 

 
Judith Browning
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Better to go with grandma's simple boiling water bath method. And then just heat thoroughly before eating.


Older canning books used to list this as a method for green beans and other non acidic foods, but the boil/simmer time was hours.  I think for green beans it was three hours.  I used to do it because I had no pressure cooker and was canning on a wood stove outside and had a lot of food to put up.   It did work, but nutritionally I think I totally killed the food along with bacteria, etc.  

I haven't canned in a long time now, I much prefer drying and fermenting and growing things that store easily, like sweet potatoes and pumpkins.  We eat fresh green beans all summer and can't wait for the next summer to eat them again.  I don't miss canned green beans at all.
 
Rebecca Norman
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I only use canning for acidic foods, and even though I'm at 10,500 feet, it seems to work. We have low rate of spoilage, and though we're feeding this stuff to hundreds of people, we have never had anything that seems like a possible botulism case.

Acidic food means apricot jam (definitely acid enough), tomato based ketchups or chutneys (I don't think our tomatoes are too bland), and for my personal use, pickles in vinegar. We don't use canning for preserving regular plain vegetables -- those we preserve by drying, root cellaring, and fermenting.

I really do think as long as you are canning something acid, the boiling water bath is safe. The govt guidelines against it seem to be based on not trusting people to make sure the material is acid enough.
 
Ganado Mage
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Canning is really easy, for most fruits and veggies.  The Ball Canning guide is the 'standard' for canning but it does go overly cautious on several things that you want to experiment with for yourself.

Some basic testing before you eat canned food
Check the seal, not sealed, don't eat
SMELL, if it smells even a bit off don't eat it.  (as a female have someone else smell it if you are pregnant.  Just a bit of advice)
Boil, or heat your canned goods when prepping food, if it foams after you open the jar into the pan,  dont eat it.

We have gotten away from some basic, trust your body and senses to know what is good for you.

Having said all of that a few comments about Ball and the thing I think they are overly cautious on.
you can can any kind of sour pickle, veggie etc with boiling water, vinegar and sun.  As long as the jar seals.  Sometimes they must be in the sun a week ans sometimes 2 weeks just until the jar seals
DO NOT use home made vinegar unless you use ph testing strips and get the correct ph in your vinegar.  (high acid is 4.6 or below)  IF you want to know more about this, this site has great info  Acid Bath Canning

Basic Sun Pickle Recipe
    6½ cups water
    3¼ cups white vinegar
    ⅔ cup canning salt (available on Amazon)
    4-6 cloves of garlic (you can add more if you really like garlic - I do about 3 cloves per jar)
    about 10 medium pickling cucumbers
    fresh dill, about 8-10 heads
    optional - jalapeno or onion slices

Instructions
    Wash and sterilize 3 or 4 quart sized mason jars and the same amount of two-part canning lids.
    Either slice or spear each cucumber. I like my slices to be about ¼ inch thick.
    Slice the garlic into small pieces.
    Prepare your brine and mix the water, vinegar, and salt together in a large mixing bowl or one gallon jar. Stir to dissolve salt.
    Place a head of dill into a one quart jar along with some chopped garlic. Add cucumbers, and onion or jalapeno slices if using, until about half full.
    Repeat layering by adding more dill, garlic, and more vegetables and pour water/vinegar mixture over cucumbers and place two part lid on jar.
    make sure to jot the date you made them on the lid so you can eat them in the order you made them.
    Set out in the sun for 3-4 days, (or upt to 2 weeks depending on how much sun they get

Ball Canning says you need to use water bath on all acid foods, not true as long as
1) jars and lids are sterile when you start
2) the jars seal  (I have a friend who does her pickles then turns jar upside down,  its a family tradition that says the jars seal better)  personally I don't think that is necessary but it works for her.

water bath canning heats up the food and the jar, this expands everything and drives the air out.  When the food and the jar cool they contract and this is what seals the lid in an air tight environment.  The sun works the same for this kind of canning

Now having said all that about acid foods

CANNING MEAT MILK BUTTER
Meats, milk etc are a more advanced canning technique.  Don't go there unless you are 1) willing to experiment and lose some food. 2) have the equipment to do pressure canning.  When doing this type of canning it is best to follow the BALL Canning book exactly.   Personally I think there are better ways to preserve meat than canning but I do can food for the dogs when I find chicken on sale. 

DOG FOOD
the pressure canner is running a batch of big dog jars now. The mix is as follows:

Per quart jar
2 drumsticks or 1 thigh/back, raw pack
Jars with thigh/back get 2 whole eggs, shells washed but still on
Pack all available space with pumpkin or carrot or sweet potato, OR, add 2 TBSP rice and 1/4 cup water
If I have organs available, I add the equivalent of a couple tablespoons to the quart
15#@ 1.5+ hours (1.5 hours is the minimum time listed for bone in chicken. I often let it run another 15-20 minutes, just to be on the safe side, since I raw pack cold)

This is the batch that's in the canner now... that's a green pumpkin. I got smart after this batch and shoved the whole thing through the food processor to shred it rather than sit there and dice all day long.

2 dogs totaling 175 pounds split 1 quart jar per meal, 2x daily. They get a multi vitamin a few times a week. They eat bones, skin, cartilage, eggshells and all. The pressure canner leaves the chicken bones and eggshells so soft they crumble under my thumb. The eggs basically hard-boil during the process. The dogs have never looked better. They've stopped farting and the arthritic one actually runs now. The amount of gelatin in the jars is crazy, and I toss a half a spoonful of it into Toothless's bowl to mix in with her food.

I get 10# bags of chicken quarters for $5... on sale the other day for .47 a pound. .47 a pound is basically all I'm paying because everything else came out of our garden or the chicken house, and if we can score a few deer this year, I'll use that and drop that $$ cost to nothing. Even adding the multi-vitamins only adds about $5 a month since I got them in bulk and on sale, and now the only real time involved is the time I spend working on something else while the canner runs. At last I can afford to put up a good supply of dog food for the big boys.

Don't be afraid to can, just trust your sense when you open a jar to eat it.  Have fun because canning can be alot of work if you do it solo.
 
john mcginnis
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Mike Jay wrote:It depends on a few things.  Would you be water bath canning (applesauce, tomatoes, jam/jelly) or pressure canning (meat, low acid food, beans, soup)?  The equipment is much cheaper for water bath.  If you have to buy all the gear new you're probably talking $100 for water bath and an additional $100 for a pressure canner.  Most of the equipment can be shared between the two methods (funnels, grabbers, etc).  You can get gear cheaper from garage sales or grandma's attic.


Yes and no. Yes the WB equipment IS cheaper. No, because eventually people progress to pressure canning. One can always us a PC as a WB. So I went with using the money for what would have been the WB to acquire an American PC. Best decision I made (and one of the few over the years.)

As to difficulty.  Its really not IF you get religious with procedures and slot the time to do the job right. NEVER HURRY A CANNING JOB! It always seems to lead to errors on my part.

Good luck!
 
Tom Rutledge
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Cheat like a cheetah fox.   The easy way is so easy.


IFF you live at an elevation where what you are cooking can be pressure canned in an newfangled electric canner.

1) Cook dinner, more dinner than you normally would.

2) Hot pack the rest of dinner into canning jars and start a cycle in one of them new fangled automatic electric pressure canners (maybe ? http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/todays-tsp-amazon-item-of-the-day )    ( maybe cold pack the dinner before cooking, but you get the idea )  The key thing here is the canner doesn't need any oversight and doesn't make jiggly clanky noises.

3) Eat dinner.

4) Be lazy productive for a bit.

5) Unpack the pressure canner jars onto a wire rack to cool.

6) celebrate!


Most of the effort is amortized over the normal meal cooking and suddenly, a few hours later there can be 4 quarts or so of soup, stew, tasty beef bits, etc to go up on the shelf.   

To get a rough start : http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/canning/canning-quick-reference-chart/ , http://www.recipetips.com/kitchen-tips/t--1396/canning-temperatures-and-processing-times.asp  ; for elevations, times and pressures.

 
Tom Rutledge
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Tom Rutledge wrote:Cheat like a cheetah fox.   The easy way is so easy.



Here is my easy on ramp-trust me I play a doctor on TV, sort of plan. ( that I did, and do, and am not yet cancelled ).


( basicly http://prepared-housewives.com/canning-beef/ , and  http://prepared-housewives.com/canning-beef/ )


0) Check your elevation, and if you can do this with an electric pressure cooker.   Mine is around 11 PSI, and I hang out a fair amount of the time below 2000 ft. soooo, it works for me!

1) get a magical electric canner

2) get a little wire rack / steamer tray thing for the jars to sit on

3) get a flat of _wide_mouth_ quart jars (they come with lids!)

4) get some lean beef of some sort and cut it into 1/2 - 1 inch cubes.

5) cold pack the lean meat {beef,pork} into the jars, maybe 1lb / jar

6) close the jars and put them in the canner on the little steam tray with a few cups of water for steam.

7) press the go button for however long (70 minutes ?)

wait for a natural pressure release , take out the jars.

9) celebrate you have made food that will keep.


Open one up in a day or two and add it to pasta or rice or something.   Prove to yourself it worked.   It'll work, it'll be good.


This is not the best way to do it.  This is a simplest way to do it.




Next additional steps :
a) brown the meat and hot pack it.
b) add salt.
c) try something vegetable.
d) Spices!
f) try different jars for single servings / lunches.
g) add a layer of onions at the bottom before cold packing.






 
K Putnam
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I offer one exhibit in defense of waterbath canning:  TOMATOES.

All they need is a little citric acid to be preserved in a way that they can be used in a huge array of recipes year round.  Soups, stews, pasta, enchiladas, lasagne, you name it.   No sugar.  No vinegar.  Next week I will start the process of putting up 3-4 boxes of tomatoes for a year supply.  Tomatoes are pretty impossible to overcook, so the texture does not get ruined. 

After tomatoes, waterbath canning is an excellent way to preserve condiments that will make staples much more interesting year round.  Fruit preserves, sauces, ketchup, chutneys, etc.  Some of these can be fermented.  It is nice to be able to save some other things as is, like strawberry preserves. 

In the end, I think it's important to find the highest and best use of each item that you need to preserve, the most important factor being, are you going to actually eat it?  I tried playing around with apricots last week and confirmed my original belief after a lot of wasted effort that the highest and best use of apricots is simply as dried fruit...or making something with the dried fruit. For me, there's no better use of strawberries than strawberry preserves.  Cabbage?  Curtido.  Green beans?  Lacto-fermented dilly beans. And so on. 

I think canning has a place in a comprehensive kitchen.  It just needs to maximize the produce, just like any other technique.
 
S Tonin
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Canning is like any other skill.  There's a learning curve.  The most important thing when you're getting started is to follow the instructions in the Ball Blue Book or USDA guide to the letter.  Once you're comfortable with the procedure and understand why things are done a certain way to ensure safety, the most important habits become ingrained and don't seem like a chore.  At least, that's my experience. 

After you've done a few batches of the "beginner" stuff like applesauce, whole tomatoes, and more jams and jellies than you'll ever know what to do with, you can move on to the more fiddly stuff like peach halves (full disclosure: I've been canning for 13 years and have never been happy with a single batch of canned fruit I've ever done.  It was safe, seals never failed, flavor was passable, but the texture has just never been right no matter the method I use).  IMO, don't start with dill pickles or strawberry jam.  Both are tricky to get right (rubbery, too-salty pickles; jam that never sets no matter how many times you reprocess it or add more pectin or sugar) and failure can be the most discouraging thing early on.

Also, you'll find a lot of "well, my granny did it this way and we never died" on the internet.  Follow any of that at your own risk.  Not to try to scare you away, but people do still die in America from improperly home-canned foods (it just happened in Ohio last year, killing a few people who ate at a church potluck).  It's mostly from people waterbath canning low acid foods because they don't understand how Clostridium botulinum works.  Boiling doesn't kill the spores, even if it neutralizes the toxin after five minutes of exposure (*after* opening a jar of food; you shouldn't be canning anything that might already be spoiled in the first place).  Spores themselves are still bad news for infants, the elderly, the immunocomprimised, and possibly people with conditions that cause them to have very low stomach acid like gastric bypass surgery (I don't have a source for that, but I remember reading something about it years ago when a friend had it done and Google isn't helping right now).   

You'll see stuff too about people turning jars upside down, which is also not best practice.  The weight and pressure of the material inside the jar can cause the seals to break or loosen while the sealing compound on the lid is still malleable.  Food *can* leak out and get between the rim of the jar and the sealing compound, producing a weak seal that will fail in storage.  Make sure you read the instructions on the canning jar lids you buy; Ball/ Kerr just recently changed their sealing compound and they no longer recommend boiling the lids before putting them on the jars, which is in conflict with what a lot of books describe.  There are also reusable lids by the Tattler company which have their own special instructions but, as a beginner, I wouldn't bother with them until you know you're into canning and really want to start investing long-term. 

There are lots of other techniques you'll see in older books, too, like sealing jars with a layer of wax without waterbath processing them.  This one especially invites mold and other nasties.  Similarly, covering food with a layer of oil or fat (like a comfit) is a traditional way of preservation and still used in many places; I mention this because I've seen it in some older books as a hot-pack method of processing food in a jar.  Just be aware that this also creates the perfect environment for C. botulinum and that people in places where these techniques are still common do still die from botulism.  Traditional doesn't naturally equate to safe.  Botulism was so named after the Latin word for sausage; sausages were notorious in the past for being the source of outbreaks.  People still ate them, and some died; then we figured out what was causing it and more or less eliminated the threat of botulism from improperly cured meats through the application of a few simple safety measures.

Sorry for that little rant, and I don't mean to put people down who use these techniques, but I feel everyone should be as fully informed as possible when making any decisions about what they're putting in their bodies.  My personal feeling is that I invest too much time and money into the things I can to risk losing jars to spoilage of any kind.  There is some room for creativity in the recipes, but that's only after you have a firm grasp of how ingredients affect pH and food safety; there really isn't any wiggle room in the actual procedure of waterbath or pressure canning. 

Others have mentioned imstillworkin, BexarPrepper, and Food in Jars.  I'd just like to add the Youtube channels for Linda's Pantry and OurHalfAcreHomestead to that list for canning videos.  I don't always 100% agree with everything they do, but I've never seen any of them do things that could outright kill people and they explain what they're doing and why and they're all very well-versed on the topic of food safety and do their homework.

Basically, it'll take a little time to get to really know your tools and techniques, but they're not hard as long as you go slow, pay attention, and don't be afraid of it.  As long as you follow directions, you're not going to poison anyone or blow up your kitchen.

Good luck
 
Annette Marin
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Check with your local Cooperative Extension Office.. they may have a Master Preserver Course that you can take. Whether you are experienced at canning. freezing, preserving or not, you will learn something.. I took the course last year via the University of Maine and earned my Maine Master Preserver certification. I had been canning for over 30 years, and I came away with a whole new set of skills and knowledge.. Annette No View Farm Rumford, Me
 
Milo Jones
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S Tonin wrote:Botulism was so named after the Latin word for sausage; sausages were notorious in the past for being the source of outbreaks.  People still ate them, and some died; then we figured out what was causing it and more or less eliminated the threat of botulism from improperly cured meats through the application of a few simple safety measures.


Today I learned.

From Google:

bot·u·lism
ˈbäCHəˌlizəm/
noun
noun: botulism

Food poisoning caused by a bacterium (botulinum) growing on improperly sterilized canned meats and other preserved foods.

Origin
late 19th century: from German Botulismus, originally ‘sausage poisoning,’ from Latin botulus ‘sausage.’

I always knew Botulism was bad, but I never knew it literally meant ‘sausage poisoning’.
 
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