Home Canning 101 – Ultimate Guide to Can Your Own Food

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In the last few hours, you might probably have toast with jam for breakfast or a chicken sandwich for lunch or diced tomatoes in your salad for dinner. All these foods probably came from a can.

Cans are the most durable, convenient and effectively transported manifestation of nourishment bundling today. Commonly, canning is one method to preserve food, where the food and all of its substances and contents are sealed and compressed in an airtight container.

In this guide, we will focus on giving you the basic process to can and preserve your food at your very own home.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Why CAN YOUR FOOD?

canning-fruits-jar

For as long as know, people have the need to somehow preserve food. The process probably would take a considerable amount of time and energy, but it definitely worth it rather than starving in the winter.

Earlier centuries used the methods of consumable items preservation in various numbers of ways; smoking, fermenting, drying or cooling/freezing foods, although methods vary given the type of environment and surrounding.

From a modern perspective, it is highly debatable that several of the usable methods tend to be unhealthy in the end. Either the process itself causes harm to the food such as smoking it or the process involves adding more amounts of unhealthy and dangerous mixtures, salt, and sugar for instance.

Canning is commonly used to conserve food from spoilage by storing inside a heat-sterilized container. Originally, a can consist a sheet of tin-plated iron that rolled into a cylinder, which appears to be the body.

And the top and bottom part were manually soldered. This particular method is later replaced in the early 20th century where the fundamental parts are put together by interlocking folds that are curly, or pressed together.

A polymer sealing compounds are applied to the end, and the body layers can be sealed on the outside by soldering. Nowadays, the modern tin that we usually see in the grocery store is made of 98.5% steel layer with a thin coating of tin.

And it is manufactured by completely automatic lines of machinery, at a rate of hundreds of cans per minute.

Commonly, foods like the green vegetables you find in your kitchen, fruits on your dining table, meats in your freezer and milk in your fridge are stored in tin cans. But most soft drinks and soda are now normally stored in aluminum cans. It is preferable due to it is lighter and do not rust.

Aluminum cans are mainly made by impact extrusion where the middle part from the can is pressed outward from a simple metal sheet by the factory machinery.

This seamless piece will have a round bottom. It will be capped with a second piece as its lid afterward. The tabs used in pop-top cans are also made of aluminum.

The process for canning is quite simple where a glass jar or tin can basically hold food and liquid in it, usually water. After sealing, the containers are normally heated and usually put under weighted pressure.

By doing this process, it kills any microorganisms that could cause illness or resulting to the food to spoil. When the can or jar is removed from the boiling water, the air inside will compress the component inside and seals the contents off from the outside completely.

The seal acts as a protector for the food and preventing new microorganisms from entering and also to isolate it from oxidization. The food can be conveniently stored and consumed at any time in the future.

Canneries

Some people prefer going to canneries. Canneries are usually located close to the areas where the product is being produced due to the fact that it is highly suggested to can foods as quickly as possible after harvesting.

The process consists of several stages: cleaning and preparing the raw ingredients; filling and shutting the containers tight; sanitizing the end products; and put a custom label on the finished goods.

The cleaning itself usually involves passing the raw food through water tanks or putting them under high-pressure hot water sprays after the basic ingredients are cut, minced, peeled, cored, sliced, grated, and so on.

This process thus softens the vegetable tissues and makes them pliable enough to be packed tightly, that will also prevent inactivate enzymes that can cause undesirable changes in the food before canning occurs.

Tools and Equipment You Need to Can Your Food

A nice roomy stock pot is the first thing you will need. You are going to want something that can contain at least 12 quarts and tall enough to allow the jars to be fully immersed in the water with some space left at the top of bubbling water.

You also need a rack to place the jars slightly in the bottom of the pot. The rack should already come with one of the canners but occasionally, a rack will rust easily and eventually need to be replaced.

You will need a good, solid seal. Therefore, you need to simmer your lids in a small pan of water prior to placing them in the jar. Any little pan will do.

Use a blancher to steam vegetables or to remove the skins.

Have enough variety of measuring cups, measuring spoons and knives.

Wide mouth funnels are could prove to be helpful; it will prevent you from spoiling the food all over the table while pouring them into a jar.

The jar lifter is useful prevent burns.

Mesh skimmer would come in handy when you are making foamy jam.

You will definitely need jars, obviously. The jar does not have to be brand new, although the lids have to be.

A stack of clean towels and hot pads sure will keep things clean, tidy, dry and burn-free.

You could use food mill when processing tomatoes.

Measuring bowl just in case you need them.

Finally, you need to prepare your main ingredients and recipes.

Canning for High-Acid Food (Water Bath)

canning-food

What is a High-Acid Food?

The level of acidity in foods or other substances are measured by the pH value that each food has. Acidic substances have a low level of pH value, thus, making the lower the pH level, the more acidic the substance is.

While food with higher pH levels of 7 or above are considered to be basic and neutral. Basically, the human body has a pH balance that determines the amount of acid present in your system.

A body that is being highly acidic may not necessarily be life-threatening, but it can cause various unwanted symptoms.

For examples of these include declining physical energy, fatigue, irritability, headaches, recurring infections and dry skin.

Consuming food that contains high acid can worsen the symptoms listed above, and knowing what and how to avoid it can be helpful.

Foods with High Acid Level

Vegetables such as corns, winter squash, and olives are the type of vegetables with high acid level.

For example, corn has a pH of 5.2, while lentils and olives have pH levels of 6.3 and 6, singly.

Indeed, they still have fiber and other beneficial nutrients, but they are not exactly the best choice if you are trying to lower the levels of acid in your body.

Currants, blueberries, glazed fruits (the ones you would often see in grocery stores), cranberries are all examples of fruits that contain the high intensity of acid. The glazed versions are a lot more acidic due to the sweeteners and preservatives that have been added and mixed into it.

Processed fruit juices and canned soft drinks are also high in acidity. Blueberries have a pH of 3.3 while cranberry juice weighs in with a pH of 2.3 which is quite high.

Processed grains and baked goods are high in acidity. The products of those include noodles, white bread, white rice, biscuits, pasta, donuts, pastries, and crackers.

Also, these are low in fiber and nutrients. White bread has a pH of 5 while white rice has a pH of 6.

Dairy products in all forms of milk, cream cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream, are all known to be very high in acid.

A carton of milk contains pH of 6.4 while American cheese has a pH of 5. This includes the non-fat versions all the way up to the whole-fat type. Eggs also contain acid, with egg yolks at a pH of 6.1

Nuts that are high in acid include walnuts and pecans, pistachios, cashews, with pH of 5.4.

This includes also the butter products that are made from them. Oils that are high in acid include sesame, olive, avocado, corn, and canola.

The Water Bath Canning Process

Foods with high acid intensity level are easy to preserve, and foods that contain high amounts of acid are a highly popular and makes preferable choice for fresh preserves.

These kinds of foods allow you to experience and to prepare and enjoy a wide range of choices from fresh home canning recipes; from eye-catching side dishes to mouth-watering desserts.

Things you will need

  • Tested recipes for preserving.
  • ​Boiling water bath canner, and/or deep saucepot with a lid and rack (only necessary while making jams, juices, and pickles)
  • ​Glass jars containers (new, clean and sterilized)
  • ​Fresh ingredients
  • ​Jar grip handler/ lifter
  • ​Jar funnel
  • ​Clean cloths
  • ​Other common kitchen utensils such as knives, spatula, testing spoons, timer, pads, cutting board.

​How to Can Your High-Acid Food

Firstly, you will need to read through recipe and instructions and follow as guided. Prepare the equipment and ingredients, and then follow the guidelines for recipe preparation, the selection of jar size, preserving method and processing time.

Second, check the jars, lids and bands for proper functioning. Jars with nicks, cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges may hinder the sealing or causes breakage. The underside of every lid should not have scratches or uneven sealing compound because this may prevent the sealing process. Bands should fit on jars, not too wide, not too small. Wash the jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water.

Next, heat the canning jars in hot water, but not boiling. Fill a large saucepan half-way with water. Place jars in water. Set it to medium heat.

As stated above, you would want to keep the jars hot until it is ready for use. For more convenience, you may also use a dishwasher to wash and heat jars. Keeping the jars hot prevents them from cracking or breaking when sudden hot food is added.

After that, prepare boiling water bath canner by filling half-full with water and keep water simmer while covered with a lid until jars are placed in the canner. Make sure that your rack is resting on the bottom.

A boiling water bath canner is a common large saucepot, usually comes with a lid and a rack. A boiling canner pot have to be large enough to be able to fully fit and dip the jars in water by around 1 to 2 inches while allowing the water to boil quickly with the lid on.

Then remove the hot jar from the water, using a jar lifter, emptying water inside the jar. Fill jar one at a time with prepared food using a jar funnel leaving a space on the top like what exactly is mentioned in the recipe.

If it is told in the recipe to remove air bubble, do so using the Bubble Remover, or if you do not have one, a Rubber Spatula would be just fine. Slide in the spatula between the jar and food to release the trapped air bubbles to make sure the space is enough during processing.

Repeat around jar 2 to 3 times. And prepare preserving recipe using fresh produce ingredients while at it.

Clean jar rim using a clean, damp cloth to remove any food residue.

Apply band and adjust until it is fingertip tight, and then place filled jars in the canner until the recipe is used, or the canner is full. Place the lid on the water bath canner, bringing the water to a full rolling boil to begin processing.

Afterward, process the jars as indicated in the tested preserving recipe. When processing time is complete, turn off the heat and remove the lid, and let the jars stand in the canner for about 5 minutes to be adjusted to the temperature out from the canner.

Then remove jars from canner and set it upright on a towel to prevent jar breakage that can occur with temperature differences. Leave jars for 12 to 24 hours to let it adapt to the temperature and cool down, and the bands should not be retightened as this may affect the sealing process.

Lastly, check jar lids after sealing. The lids should not be flexing up and down when the center is pressed.

Try to lift lids off with your fingertip; if the lid is immovable, the lid has a good seal. If a lid does not seal well within 24 hours, the product can be immediately reprocessed or refrigerated.

Canning for ​Low-Acid Food (​Pressure Canning)

canning-food-jar

​What is Low-Acid Food?

​Vegetables, meats, poultry, and seafood are such a common part of meal planning that preserving these low-acid foods ensures highly reasonable and supports balanced diet throughout the year.

Food with low acid intensity levels is easier to preserve, but then it requires a special treatment to reduce the risk of spoilage.

(Caused by the Clostridium botulium bacteria and its spores that produce toxin). In order to prevent decay, heating at the temperature of 115 degree Celsius is a must for low acidic food.

Foods with ​Low Acid Level

Due to their high pH level, many fruits can be classified as low-acidic foods. Peaches, apples, and orange juice, have a pH of 4.96 or higher, meaning they are low in acidity.

Blackberries, bananas, coconut, cranberries, mangoes, grapes, pineapples, raspberries, strawberries and every other kind of melons are among the fruits considered to be alkaline, with a pH over 7.0.

Most protein foods, including beef, pork, lamb, chicken and dairy are very acidic. There is a certain type of nuts and seeds which also contains high protein are considered to be low in acidity.

Most vegetables are considered to be alkaline foods. Some vegetables with a 4.6 pH or higher are artichokes, cabbage, celery, garlic, pumpkin, spinach and raw tomatoes.

Canned vegetables are typically higher in acidity level than fresh or frozen vegetables, and it is highly recommended to limit it in a low-acid-foods diet.

​The ​Pressure Canning Process

Pressure canning is the only way to fresh preserve where it includes boiling at 115 degree Celsius; because Clostridium botulinum spores do not grow in the presence of acid, high-acid foods can be safely processed in a boiling-water canner.

Things you will need

  • ​Recipe for preserving
  • ​Pressure canner
  • ​Glass jars container
  • ​Fresh vegetables, meats, seafood and other ingredients
  • ​Jar grip handler/ lifter
  • ​Jar funnel
  • ​Clean cloths
  • ​Other common kitchen utensils such as knives, spatula, testing spoons, timer, pads, cutting board.

​How to Can Your High-Acid Food

The first step is the same as the water bath procedure on chapter three. Read through recipe and instructions and follow it, prepare the equipment and ingredients, and then follow the guidelines for recipe preparation, the selection of jar size, preserving method and processing time.

Check the jars, lids and bands for proper functioning. Jars with nicks, cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges may hinder the sealing or causes breakage. The underside of every lid should not have scratches or uneven sealing compound because this may prevent sealing process.

Bands should fit on jars, not too wide, not too small. Wash the jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water.

Next, heat the canning jars in hot water, but not boiling.

Fill a large saucepan half-way with water. Place jars in water. Set it to medium heat. As stated above, you would want to keep the jars hot until it is ready for use.

For more conveniently, you may also use a dishwasher to wash and heat jars. Keeping the jars hot prevents them from cracking or breaking when a sudden hot food is added.

Prepare for pressure canning. Fill the canner with 2 to 3 inches of water then set medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer afterward. Keep water at a simmer until it is ready to fill the jars in the canner. Remember to always follow instructions.

Then remove hot jar from the water, using a Jar Lifter, emptying water inside jar. Fill jar one at a time with prepared food using a Jar Funnel leaving a space on the top like what is exactly is mentioned in the recipe.

If it is told in the recipe to remove air bubble, do so using the Bubble Remover, or if you do not have one, a Rubber Spatula would be just fine. Slide in the spatula between the jar and food to release the trapped air bubles to make sure the space is enough during processing.

Repeat around jar 2 to 3 times. And prepare preserving recipe using fresh meat, and vegetables from the recipe.

Then clean the jar rim using a clean, damp cloth to remove any food residue. Apply band and also adjust until it is fingertip tight.

Place filled jars in canner until recipe is used or canner is full. Place lid on water bath canner, bringing water to a full rolling boil to begin processing.

If a lid does not seal well within 24 hours, the product can be immediately reprocessed or refrigerated.

​Healthy Nutrition and Benefits of Canned Food

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1 - Canned Food Nutrition

Canned food is packed as quickly as possible after harvest; it also is packed at its nutrient peak. As foods age, they begin to shed away parts of their essential nutrients.

Fruits and vegetables have the highest nutrient content when they are ripest. Since canneries are located close to the place where it is cultivated, it is not much that the nutrients are lost in transit.

Some research shows that the canning process actually may help to enhance the nutrient profile of certain foods.

Canned pumpkin contains 540% of the Recommended Daily Intake of vitamin A while the same amount of fresh pumpkin has only 26%.

​2 - ​Safety

The canning process was originally established to safely preserve food for a longer time period. The can is heated to a temperature which kills all known microorganisms once the food is packed into jars or cans.

In addition, most of the processed foods are closely monitored using a system called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, or HACCP, a system that identifies areas of potential contamination within the food process and ensure that the highest safety standards are maintained at all times.

Modern processors are invented to closely maintain vision during the heating process, ensuring so that the end result of the preserved food which will reach the market is the safest possible product for the consumer.

​Overall Benefit of Canning Your Food

​Financially Beneficial

Food can be expensive. It is undeniable that as the economy grows, expenses rise alongside with it.

Buying fresh foods or picking foods while it is in its ripest season and preserve or can them to be consumed in the future can save you extra money, a lot more extra.

This is specifically true when you are highly considering the quality of the foods you are consuming.

The taste of canned food might actually surprise you as to how juicy it might be, and it is as good as any food that you freshly bought from the grocery store.

​Preserve Harvest

This is a common thing that gardeners will understand. Basically, you will need to wait patiently for a few months until your garden to start producing and ready to harvest.

But then you are suddenly flooded with far more harvest than you are prepared to deal with or contain. As a good person, you can always give some to family, relatives, friends, or neighbors, but somehow you will still have more.

This is where canning comes in handy, canning and preserving the extras is a practical way to avoid wasting and throwing away good fresh food. You can still keep and enjoy your harvest year-round without having to throw away any.

You can never know when dark times strike, you can always prepare for bad economic times. Indeed, many people are worried about the current times we are living in.

Let’s say if something is to happen toward the economy or the ability for most people to reasonably purchase food on a daily basis, people still will want to survive, and by canning, they are prepared enough to go on. Learning to can is just one of the things people should learn.

Canning also proves to be very eco-friendly. Canning your own food is an excellent way to reduce the environmental impact which has been a major concern for the world.

Especially when the food is home grown or is planted originally by you, you indirectly remove the distance of the countless miles that the food need to travel while it is shipped from the farm right after it is harvested, up to the factory, and then down to the distributor and local store or the grocery stores that you usually go to.

It is also a good thing to know that you actually reduce the cost it uses on packaging waste. Lids and jars are reusable and will last for years before you need to throw them away or recycle them.

​Canning your food could also be given as sentimental gifts. Throughout the years, there are people who can for the benefit of simplicity, and some people enjoy canning because it reminds them of less complicated times.

Perhaps it was somehow a heritage that their mother or grandmother used to do, and it goes down to the new generation. During the older times, people do not need expensive and classy gifts to present to someone on special occasions.

Back then, canned foods make great gifts. Even the work and care that went into a homemade jam or homemade pickles have high sentimental value, and somehow it is worth much more than the food itself.

​Quality Taste

It is a fact that homemade food simply and always tastes better no matter how. You will never able to beat a quality home-canned product made from fresh, locally grown ingredients.

In the closest store, anyone could easily pay double for the exact same canned product. Even if when the initial investment fails to save you money due to buying jars, a canner, and any other canning utensils and tools, you will have a healthier, tastier food stocked in your shelf.

Also, another benefit is that you will be able to nip the recipes to your tastes and even experiment with new flavor combinations in any way you feel suitable.

Many people are concerned about not having a healthy life and are worried about every meal they had. Why not try canning?

Maybe canning is not the exact healthiest method of food preservation, even freezing food at absolute zero degree preserves more nutrients, but still, it does have many benefits.

Because you canned it yourself, you obviously know exactly what you are eating. You can be assured that the food you consume is fresh and in high quality. You will also be enjoying the food that is free from harmful additives and preservatives substances.

It brings convenience as well; you can conveniently build a pantry of accessible foods that will fit your busy lifestyle and that you and your family will enjoy. Somehow it will give you a sense of relaxation and accomplishment as well.

Especially when you are highly confident in the ingredients that go into your food. For many people, working in the kitchen by yourself and creating food provides a sense of relaxation and pride, and watching your family, friends and acquaintances enjoys the results of your own hand efforts gives you a huge sense of accomplishment

​Best Practices & Common Mistakes When Canning Your Food

​Do's

​Keep An Eye on Your Work!

You do need to monitor your canner while it is building pressure during processing. Like a deep fryer, you do not just simply fill it with a sack of fries and go to the other room and read your magazine. Keep an eye often to make sure the pressure is not climbing past the pressure you are processing your food with.

​Cracking Jars

Hot jars that are put into a cool canner or cool jars that are placed in a boiling canner make the jars crack and break during processing. This usually happens during water bath canning. You can hold your jars in a different canner of boiling water, so they stay reliably hot.

​Make Sure It Is Not Spoiled

It is common when home-canned food is stored in conditions with too much heat. Canned foods should be stored in a dark and cool location such as a dry basement that does not reach freezing temperatures. The discolored food looks unappetizing and may go milder over time but as long as the jars remain sealed, the food is okay.

​Reprocess

Any jar that fails to seal can simply be reprocessed in a clean jar with a new lid. Reprocess within 24 hours to prevent any contamination. Generally, it is better to refrigerate the jar and reuse it within a few days, or it may also be stored in the freezer when the headspace is adjusted to 1-1/2 inches, to allow it to expand.

​Dont's

​Do Not Readjust the Pressure Inconsistently

Liquid is blowing out of jars; it happens during canning the first and most common reason is placing inconsistent pressure during processing. If you quickly turn off the heat then turning the heat back on for a few more times which lead the liquid to blow out of the jars.

​Do Not Throw it Away!

When your fruit is floating in the liquid inside the jar, there is nothing to worry about. Packing fruit in raw condition is generally what causes this, they wouldn’t float if you simply heat your fruit in their syrup or juice. Be sure to pack your fruit well without smashing it into your jars. The fruit will slightly shrink during the processing.

​Don’t Use Overripe Fruits

Do not use overripe fruit. Canning does not simply improve the quality of food. So the same thing goes if you start out with seemingly low quality, it will only get worse in storage.

​Electric? No!

Never process the jars in any electrical appliances like oven or microwave. Steam canning by far is also highly NOT recommended. You will find virtually no credible authorities who are actually recommending the use of it, for a variety of reasons, starting with a basic heat transfer components of steam against water.

​Conclusion

Canning is simply a learned life skill. Like every other thing, the more you do, the better you will get; and the more confident you will get as well.

Dealing with a lot of common problems over the years is normal, and it is a part of getting better.

I'm hoping that by reading this ​guide, you will be able to solve some of your own mistakes and avoid making others, and get better in what you do.

5 thoughts on “Home Canning 101 – Ultimate Guide to Can Your Own Food

  1. It seems like canning is such a lost art. I love to see it starting to come back again. I always think of my grandmother when I can or do any kind of preserving. Great post!

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