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Canning 101: Recipes & Tips

| Sunday September 27, 20099 comments
My official conversion to canning came when I realized the pickles I was buying were made in India.  Why on earth would those delicious little green things have to travel the across the globe when cucumbers, dill and garlic can all be grown in my own backyard?  I decided to try and make my own-- and I realized I loved it.  I enjoy perusing farmers markets to find the freshest of the fresh, and then take them home to make something delicious to enjoy throughout the year.

I know it might all seem complicated, but I promise you'll catch on quickly. Read carefully and plan ahead – You can do it!

How To Can

Before you start, plan properly - both of these recipes require extra brine time. While the active part of these recipes is minimal, there is some waiting involved.  Next, you need to know how to seal the jars properly.  It is very important that your jars seal properly so you may enjoy your harvest all year long.  Your Canning 101 basics:

1. Place clean jars in the oven and turn heat to 200F.  Keep them there for at least 10 minutes.

2. Fill a smaller pot with water and bring to a boil.  Once water is boiled, remove pot from heat. Place rings and lids in pot. This process softens the rubber on the lids and helps the rings to fit the hot jars.

3. Fill jars with the homemade goodness you just made, leaving an inch of space at the top of the jar.  If anything splashes on the rim of the jar, wipe with a clean damp cloth. A non-metallic funnel can help with this process.

4. With a fork or tongs, fish a lid and ring out of the pot, wipe off excess moisture with a clean towel, and place on jar opening while still quite warm. Screw the lid on as tightly as you can and repeat with remaining jars.

5. As the solution cools, the jars will seal (meaning the lids will not pop if pressed).  If some jars do not seal once jar is completely cooled, you can place those jars in a pot, add water, heat, and let gently simmer for 10 minutes, then cool again.  If it still doesn't seal, don't despair - simply store pickles in the fridge and eat within two weeks (or in the case of pickles, two weeks after they are ready).

6.Store in a cool place and enjoy!

Now that you understand how to can, you need something delicious to fill your jars:

Garlic Dill Pickles
Just like my grandma makes!  This recipe is from Canadian Living Magazine, and yields seven 500 mL (1 pint or 16-ounce) wide-mouth pint jars.

Combine ice, pickling salt and water in a large bowl.  Scrub the cucumbers (4-inch long or smaller) and drop in salt water solution (aka brine).  Let sit for 4 hours or more.  If the cucumbers float to the top, fill a few ziploc bags with water and place on top to weigh them down.  This process gives the pickles their juicy but crispy texture.

In a large pot, combine vinegar, water, pickling salt and pickling spice.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.   This is your pickling solution.

Distribute evenly between jars, making sure there is an inch of free space at the top of the jar: mustard seeds, dill, garlic (trim points off for maximum flavor, add more garlic if desired), and drained cucumbers.  Now pour in the pickling solution, leaving that inch of head space.  Follow sealing directions above to lock in the flavor.

Important: Let stand for three weeks before opening and enjoying for best results!

Zucchini Relish
A really unique flavor, perfect on sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers.  From the cookbook Simply in Season.

In a large bowl, chop and combine vegetables and salt.  Let stand overnight in fridge, drain and rinse twice.

In a soup pot, combine the vinegar and spices, then add the drained vegetables.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes while stirring frequently. It is now ready to can!

Canning Dos and Don'ts

* When you are first starting out, read recipes carefully and follow the given proportions.  I have often thought I was smarter than the recipe and ended up with runny jam or uber sour pickles!

* Don't can under or overripe fruits and vegetables.  If you wouldn't eat it now, you won't want to eat it later.

* Do buy new lids every time.  The rings can be re-used as long as they aren't rusty or dented, but even undamaged, used lids can lose their ability to seal.  Jars can be reused over and over again, but make sure they don't have any funky smells, cracks or nicks.  Best are the canning jars you purchase; reusing old spaghetti and jam jars from grocery labels may be a good eco saver, but the glass is not strong enough to be safely heated and reused over and over again.

* Do save pickling spice for next year.  Freeze it in an air-tight container to keep it fresh.

A Last Word on Processing

ChickAdvisor member GingerCorsair brought a few more details to our attention that bear mention:

* All filled jars should be processed in a hot water bath to kill off any micro-organisms to avoid illness and food spoilage.

* Sterilize all jars before use.  Place in a large pot with water and bring to a boil for several minutes.  Carefully remove to a towel-lined countertop and you're ready to fill.

* Follow up by bathing the filled jars in boiling water for about 5 minutes for 1/2 pint jars, or 10 minutes for 1 pint jars. Allow to cool overnight, then check the seals in the morning.

* Not all foods lend themselves to canning by these methods.  Find a recent-edition canning book and note where a pressure canner will be needed for certain recipes.  Safety and your health come first!

by Pam Derksen
all images by Pam Derksen
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Facebook Comments


on January 18, 2012  takoda  28,648 said:

I was going to try to make jam last year, but I wasn't quite sure how to
go about it. My sister in-law gave me all of her canning equipment, so I
have everything but the good stuff to fill the jar's with and the right know
how to do it. I'd also love to try can sweet pickle's.

on January 18, 2012  AlexJC  50 said:

So I randomly came across this one today- how have I never seen this one before? Excited to try this out! I am pretty much a grannie at heart.

on July 07, 2010  Bren  25,446 said:

I have been canning for over 30 years now.I'm an insane canner.I will usually can like 300 pounds of Tomatoes at once.I start early and go all night.With the pickles there are so many varieties of things to add.I myself dont like the pickling spice.I use lots of dill and tons of garlic and about half I add hot peppers.Sometimes I add Grape leaves there is something in there enzyme that makes the pickles really nice and crisp.I love the overload of garlic and a good sour vinegar brine.Wow I cant wait to get started its just about pickling season!I also set my pickles in ice water to keep them crisp that idea works well!Also just always remember when opening your canning be sure to hear that pop and make sure they have been well sealed!Throw it out of they dont seal!You could get botulism if there not sealed properly.

on October 20, 2009  Ali de Bold  STAFF said:

Hadiyah, you're right canning is a huge trend right now. It's a funny, yet healthy one. I have several friends who are into canning and I am the lucky one who gets to benefit from it!

on October 13, 2009  Hadiyah  218 said:

I have been looking into canning methods for a year now. It's great to
know that canning can be chic! I plan on starting a garden in my
backyard in the coming spring and canning some of the food. Thanks for
this, very informative.

on October 13, 2009  Dudamingus  1,916 said:

What a good article. I love the layout with pictures. Next time you make pickles make sure to save a jar (or two) for me. Pickles are among my favs.

on September 29, 2009  pammy  562 said:

Thanks for the extra info, ginger! Everyone has their own method, and mine is definately old fashioned. I have canned this way for a few years and never had a problem, but your method is much more fail-safe. Happy canning!

on September 28, 2009  gingercorsair  971 said:

Great article but you left out a very critical step: the processing!

All filled jars should be processed in a hot water bath to kill off any micro-organisms to avoid illness and food spoilage.

You must also sterilize the jars before use--I'm not sure that a few minutes in the oven will kill off everything, again the hot water bath is a better idea. Just pop them in your towel-lined stockpot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes and carefully remove to a towel-lined countertop, then fill.

Follow up by processing the filled jars in boiling water for about 5 minutes for 1/2 pint jars, or 10 mins for 1 pint jars. Allow to cool overnight, check the seals in the morning.

Also, there should be a warning that not all foods (such as soups, sauces, most veggies and anything with meat) can be canned using either of these methods presented. They must be done in a pressure canner as they are not acidic enough.

The best thing you can do is grab yourself a canning book that was published or updated in the past 2 years and use the proper recipes and canning methods within. Our grandmothers canned before us, but newer, safer methods have been discovered since then. Follow them to avoid having any problems with your delicious canned goods!

on September 28, 2009  spotty  4,021 said:

Sweet! Very helpful. Thanks!

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