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Step-By-Step Canning

Canning is no more difficult than many other types of food preparation, and it allows you to enjoy the delicious flavors of fresh produce all year long. Grow your own, or buy locally; you'll be able to lower your grocery bills, support sustainable lifestyles, and manage your family's nutrition all at the same time. It's a great way to be creative in the kitchen as well! In just a few easy steps, this guide will teach you the simple art of canning.

In this document, you will find information about:

  • Preparing the Jars
  • Preparing the Canner
  • Preparing the Recipe
  • Filling and Capping the Jars
  • Heat Processing
  • Sealing
  • Storing

PREPARING THE JARS

  • Visually examine your glass preserving jars and two-piece caps.
  • Wash the jars, lids, and bands in hot soapy water. Rinse well. Dry bands.
  • Heat the jars and lids in hot water until ready to use (do not boil). Jars need to be hot to prevent breakage when hot food is added. Lids need to be hot to activate the sealing compound. However, boiling lids will cause seal failure.
  • Leave bands at room temperature for easy handling.

PREPARING THE CANNER

Boiling Water Canner (for high-acid foods such as tomatoes, fruit, and pickles)

  • Fill half full with hot water.
  • Keep water at a simmer, covered with lid, until ready to use.

Steam Pressure Canner (for low-acid foods such as vegetables and meats)

  • Fill with 3" to 4" of hot water.
  • Keep water at a simmer until ready to use.
  • Follow manufacturer's instructions for further information.

PREPARING THE RECIPE

  • Always start with a current tested recipe.
  • Prepare recipe as stated - do not make changes. Adding or changing ingredients can affect pH and heat penetration. However, you can safely add dry spices or flavored oils.

FILLING THE JARS

  • Ladle the hot food into hot jars, leaving the appropriate headspace as specified below. Headspace is the space between the top of the food product and the top of the jar.
  • 1" for low-acid foods (vegetables, meats, seafood, and poultry).
  • 1/2" for high-acid foods (fruits, tomatoes, pickles, and salsa).
  • 1/4" for fruit juices and soft spreads (jams, jellies, marmalades, etc.).
  • Incorrect Headspace: Too much headspace will result in less vacuum. Too little headspace may result in food being forced under the lid.
  • Fill jars one at a time to maintain correct Initial Temperature. Initial Temperature (IT) is the temperature of the food when it is ladled into a jar and immediately capped. IT is a factor for heat penetration and is critical for product sterility. Filling and capping jars in an assembly-line fashion causes the product to drop below the required fill/cap temperature. Insufficient IT could lead to an unsafe product.
  • Remove air bubbles. Run a nonmetallic spatula between food and jar. Press back gently on food to expel air bubbles. Repeat 2 to 3 times around jar. Air bubbles around food pieces may not be readily visible. Failure to remove air bubbles will increase headspace and cause insufficient vacuum.

CAPPING THE JARS

  • Wipe rim and threads of jar with a clean, damp cloth.
  • Center hot lid on jar, allowing sealing compound to come in contact with the jar rim.
  • Apply band and adjust until fit is "fingertip tight." Bands only function to hold the lid in place. If band torque is too tight, the lid will not vent properly. If band torque is too loose, the lid will not be held tight enough to the jar to make a proper seal.

HEAT PROCESSING

  • Place filled, sealed jars on rack.
  • Place rack into canner.
  • Process for method and time indicated on current, tested recipe, adjusting for altitude. Correct time and temperature are important to ensure a safely preserved food product.

Boiling Water Canner Method

  • Lower rack of filled, sealed jars into water.
  • Be sure jars and caps are covered by 1" to 2" of water.
  • Bring water to a gentle, steady boil.
  • Process for the time indicated in recipe.
  • Upon completion of processing, turn off heat and remove lid.
  • Let jars stand for 5 minutes.

Steam Pressure Canner Method

  • Lock lid into place.
  • Bring water to a boil.
  • Once a steady stream of steam is escaping from the vent pipe, vent for 10 minutes.
  • Place weight on vent.
  • Bring pressure to 10 lbs (at or below 1,000 feet altitude).
  • Process for time indicated in recipe.
  • Upon completion of processing, turn off heat.
  • Let pressure return to 0 naturally, then wait 2 minutes.
  • Open vent and remove canner lid.
  • Let jars rest for 10 minutes.

SEALING

  • Remove jars from canner and set upright on dry towel to cool. Do not retighten bands - it may interfere with the seal.
  • Let jars cool, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours.
  • Check seal. Lids should not flex up and down when center is pressed.Remove bands and try to lift lids off with fingertips. If the lid cannot be lifted off, it has a good seal.

STORING

  • Clean jars and lids.
  • Remove bands for storage.
  • Label each jar.
  • Store in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 1 year.

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