Fall brings cooler weather and a ton of fresh new vegetables to the farmers markets. This provides an excellent opportunity to take advantage of all the in-season locally grown fruits and vegetables and to fill our family’s plates with delicious, nutritious dishes. If you are looking for ways to leverage the bounty of the fall harvest and like learning near-forgotten skills, you might want to try your hand at canning. For budget conscious families or those who are trying to eat locally and in-season, canning can make it possible to enjoy the wide range of fall favorites well into the winter and spring.
Canning is a way of preserving food in airtight containers so that it can be stored at room temperature for long periods of time. From a distance, it can seem intimidating to those who have never done it but it really isn’t as complicated as it may seem. While you will need a few new tools and some jars specifically made for canning, most of what you need you will already have in your kitchen.
What Does Canning Mean?
If you think about the can of peas in your pantry, you get the idea of canning; the main difference is that you will be the one doing the preserving. Buying canned vegetables at the store is generally less expensive unless you are canning fruits and vegetables you have grown yourself. However, even if you are purchasing produce from the farmers market to can yourself, you will have the benefit of knowing exactly what is in your can.
What Do I Need?
There are a few things you will need to do some basic canning. First, you will need canning jars with two part lids. It is important to use the newer jars rather than the old mason jars with rubber seals in order to produce the safest result possible. You will also need a large stockpot or canning pot. This pot will be used to seal the jars once they are filled. Although not required, it will also be beneficial to purchase a small canning kit that contains a tool for measuring headspace, a jar lifter, and a lid retriever. This kit can be purchased anywhere canning jars are sold.
What Can I Can?
As long as you follow a recipe specifically designed for canning, you are able to can just about anything, including meat. However, some foods, like meat and tomatoes, require the use of a pressure cooker in order to can them safely.
Once you know what you want to can, look for a canning specific recipe that will provide the instructions you need. These recipes will tell you if you need to do any prep before packing your jars, if the jars can be packed cold or if they have to be hot, if you need to add anything else to the jars before sealing them, and how long they need to be processed in the boiling water canner. Most canning recipe books will also provide the basic steps you need to follow to safely preserve your food of choice.