Updated Sunday, September 23rd, 2007
Tomatoes, green beans, corn, stew, sauce, jelly, pie filling... you name it, you can can it. Can meat; it's cheaper to store than operating a freezer. Can spaghetti sauce or chili or pie filling when the ingredients are cheap. Can vegetables, of course. If you've never canned before, or need more confidence, now's the time! It's one of the easiest ways to preserve food once you know some basic rules. Canning involves putting food into jars, heating them and holding them at a temperature high enough and long enough to kill microorganisms. Air is driven out of the jar and a vacuum seal is formed, keeping the food safe.
A magnet on a long handle works for lids, but can be awkward for rings. You can also tie a small magnet to the end of a large mixing spoon handle for this. Lint free cloths must be used to wipe the top of the jar from spills before seating the lid. Dampen the cloth and rinse in warm water occasionally while you're working. Racks usually come with regular canners of either kind, but if for some reason you don't have one, put a towel in the bottom of the canner. It won't keep jars from hitting each other, but it will keep them from bouncing against the bottom of the canner and perhaps save you a jar or two. Space the jars evenly in the pot, not touching. If you don't have a rack that you can lift from the water for your boiling water canner, look for a jar lifter, which is a tool that is simply a wide curving tong which will fit around a jar and lift it. You'll also need a towel placed on a table in an out of the way, draft free area on which to set the jars until they seal. Don't move them for 24 hours, unless you can see that they didn't seal, then you need to refrigerate them. When a lid seals, it will often make a popping sound. It will always indent. If a lid doesn't sink inwards, it hasn't sealed. Give all of your jars at least an hour to seal, but be sure to check them closely after that. If they don't seal, refrigerate the food and use as soon as possible. Be sure to follow the exact recipes and instructions for each food you can. Ball Blue Book of Canning is the recognized authority. You can find it in most libraries, but if you're going to can much at all, it's worth having your own copy.
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