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Beginner’s guide to canning jars (with 4 starter recipes)

Urban homestead staples canning food Zolo

Interested in trying your hand at canning? It’s not as intimidating as it sounds. 

In fact, to learn how to properly store, seal and save your food in sterilized jars — a process known as canning — you just need a few basic items.

Homesteading Guide 2020

Here’s what you need to know as a beginner. 

Equipment Needed for Canning

Canning Jars

Consider investing in those made by reputable companies, like Ball and Kerr. Only use glass jars. These can be reused multiple times – just make sure you check for cracks and dings. 

Lids and Bands

You can reuse bands (the round piece or “ring”  that screws on after you attach your lid) but do not reuse lids. These need to be thrown out after each use as you may not get an effective seal the second time around. This can increase the risk of food poisoning.

Pressure or Water Bath Canner

There are two types of canning processes that you can use: a water bath canner and a pressure canner. Anything that can be canned in a water bath canner may also be canned in a pressure canner, but not the other way around. 

Only acidic foods (such as jams, fruits, pickles, and tomatoes) can be canned in a water bath canner. The temperatures do not get high enough for safe food preservation otherwise. All vegetables and meats should be canned using a pressure canner only.

Some people wonder if they can use a slow cooker or Instant pot to help with canning. This, along with canning in the microwave oven, open kettle, or convection oven, is not recommended for food safety reasons. These methods have not been formally tested and approved – so invest in a basic water bath or pressure canner instead. Turns out these methods are deficient in properly sterilizing canning jars. 

If you don’t want to spring for a water bath canner, do keep in mind that you can use any stockpot for this purpose. 

Other Tools

There are a few other tools you may want to have on hand, although they certainly are not necessary. For example, a jar lifter, canning funnel, and timer can all be helpful as you are beginning your canning journey. 

4 Quick Canning Recipes to Get You Started

Staple urban homestead red currant jam Zolo

New to canning? Here are some quick recipes to get you started.

For each, you’ll begin by preparing your jars. You’ll want to get rid of any that have visible damage. Wash both the jars and bands in hot water (ideally, you should sterilize them in your dishwasher). You also need to sterilize new lids by dropping them in a pot of boiling water for five minutes. 

Keep the jars piping hot until you are ready to fill them and put them in the canner. 

1. How to can green beans correctly?

Green beans must be canned in a pressure canner, and they must be washed first. Trim each end so that every bean is about an inch and a half long. Fill your canning jars, loading green beans to the rim.

Add boiling water to finish filling the jars, as well as salt, if desired. Clean the rim, then add your lids and bands. Process your green beans at 10 lbs pressure for 20 minutes when processing pints.

2. How to can applesauce or apples?

Cut your apples into chunks and remove the cores, seeds, and peels. Cook them in a saucepan until they are soft. Add any spices, if desired. 

Next, ladle the hot applesauce into jars. Add your lids and bands, then can in a water bath canner for 20 minutes. 

3. How to can tomato sauce?

Wash and sort your tomatoes. For one jar of sauce, you’ll need roughly six tomatoes, depending on the size. Place them in a saucepan and boil them over medium heat. Crush the tomatoes to release their juices, stirring constantly. When the tomatoes are soft and juicy, remove them from the heat. 

Then, press them through a food mill or sieve to remove the seeds and skins. Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring it to a boil. Before filling your jars with tomato sauce, add a bit of lemon juice (¼ tsp per pint). 

You can add salt and dried herbs if desired, too. Ladle your sauce into the jars, leaving half an inch of headspace. Wipe the rims and put the lids and bands on your jars. Process them in a water bath canner for 35 minutes (40 for quarts). 

4. How to can carrots?

Carrots must be canned using a pressure canner. Begin by preparing your carrots – they need to be peeled, washed, and rinsed. Cut them into rounds or strips. 

Pack your carrots into jars, leaving about an inch of headspace. If you want salt in your carrots, add half a teaspoon per jar. Then, ladle boiling water into the jars. Keep the inch of headspace. 

Remove any air bubbles, attach your lid, and wipe down the rim of the jar before screwing on your band. Process your carrots at 10 lbs of pressure for 25 minutes. 

Canning: Final Steps for Beginners

Staple urban homestead canning pickles Zolo

For all of these recipes, your job doesn’t end when the timer has elapsed. You need to remove the jars from the canner and allow them to cool. 

Use your jar lifter (or a pair of tongs – just don’t use your bare hands, since the jars will be hot!) to remove the cans. Put them on a towel on your countertop. They should be placed out of the way of a breeze, as this can cause your jars to crack as they cool. 

Let the jars cool for 12 to 24 hours. You may hear popping noises as the jars seal themselves. Check for a seal after 24 hours. The lid should not flex but instead, stay in place. 

Store your jars in a cool, dark place for up to 18 months. That’s all there is to it! Congratulations on your first try at canning as a beginner. Knew you could do it!

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Romana King

Romana King is an award-winning personal finance writer, real estate expert and the current Director of Content at Zolo. Romana has contributed to business and lifestyle publications including CBC.ca, Toronto Sun, Maclean’s, MoneySense, Globe & Mail Custom Content Team, and The Toronto Star. Among her achievements, Romana won silver for her annual Where to Buy Now real estate package in the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. In 2015, she won a SABEW Business Journalism award. When she was editor of CI Top Broker, Romana helped guide her team to obtain its first KRW Business Journalism nomination, and in 2011, she was part of a small team that helped MoneySense win Magazine of the Year at the 34th annual National Magazine Awards.

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