Home Canning Series: I
An Introduction To Home Canning
Unsure what to do with that bumper crop of vegetables and fruits from the garden this summer? Southern States will guide you through preserving your fruits and vegetables by canning them to enjoy year round.
Canned food stays fresh due to the heating and sealing process. The heat involved in the canning process eliminates microorganisms and enzymes that cause decomposition and food spoilage. The vacuum sealed jar prevents contamination by microorganisms present in the air.
There are 2 methods you can use to can food in jars: the water bath canner and the pressure canner.
Use the water bath canning method for foods high in acid content such as most fruits, fruit juices, tomatoes, sauerkraut, pickles and relishes. The water bath canner is a deep pot with a metal rack for holding the jars. It should be deep enough to leave 1 or 2 inches of water boiling vigorously over the tops of the jars.
Use the pressure canner for most vegetables and all meats and fish. The pressure canner looks like a huge pressure cooker. It also has a rack for jars, but its lid locks down tightly with a gasket. It has a pressure gauge (usually a weight) and a safety valve. The pressure canner is needed to maintain 10 pounds of pressure for a specific period of time depending on recipe and altitude. This ensures the food is processed at 240° F which kills heat resistant microorganisms.
To withstand that kind of heat and pressure, John L. Mason invented mason jars in the nineteenth century. They are made of tempered glass to withstand the extreme conditions inside the pressure canner. They also freeze very well. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Flat metal lids that vacuum seal onto the jars with the aid of metal bands is the most popular and readily available way to seal the jars. Once the lids are securely sealed, the bands can be removed before storage. Decorative lids featuring various holiday themes are now available and make giving your home canned foods as gifts very easy.
Never attempt to can food in glass jars purchased from the grocery store, such as mayonnaise jars. The glass may break during processing. Since the lids and bands are not made for them, a good vacuum seal will be impossible to achieve as well.
For more information on home canning, visit Jarden, the makers of Ball® and Kerr® brand canning products at homecanning.com.