HI there, and welcome back to the Gubba Homestead Podcast! I’m Gubba, a first time homesteader following in the footsteps of my homesteading forebears. And today i wanted to talk to you about everything you need to know about canning. I’ve been doing a lot of canning lately with summer coming up, and I figured now would be a great time to dive into it.
What is canning?
Canning is another method of food preservation. If you haven’t listened to any of my other podcasts, then you know that I am all about food preservation. Canning allows you to store food on your shelf for long periods of time. I recently went to a canning class and the teacher who was a seasoned canner said that she’s had canned meat that she put up herself ten years old on the shelf and it tasted like she had just canned it. Isn’t that neat? Although canned meat doesn’t look too pretty, I had the opportunity to try some home canned meats and they were delicious.
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What are the types of canning?
There are two types of canning: water bath and pressure canning. To put it simply, water bath canning is for high acid foods and pressure canning is for low acid foods. So, water bath canning is commonly used for jams, jellies, sauces, and other recipes. Pressure canning is used for meat, broths, vegetables, and a plethora of other things. You can can chilies, soups (without the noodles), and so much! I’ve been on a roll with dandelion jelly with my water bath canner and this past week I have canned chicken meat and chicken broth—both delicious!
Here is the important takeaway with water bath and pressure canning: water bath canning is time adjustments based on elevation and pressure canning is weight adjustments based on elevation.
How do I adjust time for elevation for water bath canning?
So if you live 1000-3000 feet above sea level, you will have to increase your processing time for a water bath canning recipe by 5 minutes. So if the recipe calls for 20 minutes of processing time, you will do 25 minutes. The time you add varies on your elevation, so know your elevation! It’s easy to lookup online.
What weight do I use for pressure canning?
Pressure canning also depends on your elevation, but instead of adding time, you will add weight. My all-american pressure canner came with a weight that I put on a valve. Because I am more than 1000 feet above sea level, I add a 15lb weight gauge to a vent on my canner. Each canner is a little different but the pressure you use is totally dependent on where you live. Processing times are still the same, but the weight will change based on where you live.
What are the dangers of canning?
For the longest time, I was scared to use my pressure canner. I was nervous that I would do something wrong and it would blow up my house. That’s a little extreme but I guess if you didn’t seal your canner properly or let it build up an enormous amount of pressure that it could. I’m happy to say my few rounds with the pressure canner have not resulted in any explosions. Do you feel a little daunted by the pressure canner? It’s normal, but let me tell you: if I can do it, so can you! The risk of it blowing up is basically non-existent if you just follow the directions. The next danger would result from food spoilage.
How can you tell if your home canned goods have botulism?
Botulism is a bacteria that can grow in canned foods if your food is not canned properly. It can be deadly, but you can detect it. Always inspect your jars before opening them. Don’t open the jar if there is bulging, activity such as bubbles actively rising to the surface, or there is leaking. And inspect your opened canned goods as well. How does it look? Does it look normal? How does it smell? Does it smell okay? Your sight and smell test will most often detect if there is an issue. Our senses probably had to develop from cavemen trying to decide what was good or bad to eat. I don’t know really, but our senses are there to help you—use them.
How do I water bath can food?
I would suggest to start your canning journey with water bath canning. It is simpler than pressure canning, and it will help you get your feet in the water. Another thing to remember about water bath canning is that you will need to heat your lids in water for 10 minutes to sterilize them. Generally, while I’m preparing a recipe, I will put some water in a sauce pan and bring it to medium-high heat and put my lids in there. I don’t boil them, but they will sit in there until I am ready to can. Here is how the process looks: I start by filling my water bath with water and bring it to a boil. I place the jars that I will be using in there and allow them to sit in the hot water the entirety of my prep. Next, I will fill a saucepan with water and place my lids in there. I don’t bring this water to a boil, but I get it hot and keep the lids there until I’m ready to use them. I will make my recipe and then use my jar grabber to grab the hot jars and place them on the counter. I will ladle or place whatever I made into the hot jars then use a towel dipped in vinegar to clean the rims of the jars. I will use a lid grabber to grab a hot lid and place it on top. I’ll screw on the band and then it’s ready to go! I can according to the processing time and adjust according to my elevation. Super simple!
You will always want to use a cloth or paper towel dipped in vinegar to clean off the rims of the jars. Say if some jelly or salt got on the rim and you didn’t get it off, it could inhibit the seal and it won’t can properly. Always clean the rims and check for any chips as well. You don’t want to can with a broken jar.
Why did my jar break during canning?
If you didn’t inspect your jar and it had any fractures, this could potentially lead to the jar breaking during canning. This will leave you with a mess to clean up with the broken glass and the food mixed in. If you place the jars directly on the bottom of the canner, this will also lead to breakage—don’t do that! Besides a low chance of botulism and jars breaking, there isn’t much of a downside to canning! It can be time consuming, but if you have extra food to store, why the heck not make some homemade goods to line your pantry?
What are the benefits of canning?
The benefits way outweigh the risks of canning. One benefit is knowing exactly what is going into your canned food, so you don’t have to deal with any funky ingredients. Another is that home canned food can last a super long time! You can put jars into your food storage and eat the same goodies you’re eating now years down the road. And the satisfaction of seeing your pantry lined with your own glass jars is priceless. Being able to have homemade ready-to-eat goods makes life simpler especially if you are in a rush or don’t have dinner planned—just pull a jar of soup off the shelf or some canned meat and make some goods!
What do I need for canning?
To get started into canning, you don’t need much. For water bath canning, you can get a water bath canner that comes equipped with a tray or you can use a large stock pot of your own. You will want to have something to set your jars on though because you don’t want to put them directly on the bottom of the canner. You will also want to get a pack of canning supplies that includes like a jar grabber, lid grabber, funnel, and a head space measurer.
What is headspace for canning?
Headspace is the distance between the top of the jar to the top of whatever you are canning. The recipe will tell you how much head space is required.
You will use these accessories for pressure canning as well. For pressure canning, though, you will need to buy a special canner—an actual pressure canner. These can run up in price, but with the way things are going they won’t be getting any cheaper, so if you are thinking about it I would take the dive now. My pressure canner is up $60 dollars since the time I bought it last year. You will also need jars and lids. An important reminder for canning is that you are not suppose to reuse lids. There are special reusable lids and some canners you may see reuse lids, but general rule of thumb is to not reuse especially if they are dented in any way.
Jars and lids were hard to come by the past few years with the weirdness of the world and people rushing to get into canning. I would suggest buying jars and lids when you see them and figure out storage for them. Canning season is coming up so local farm supply stores and other stores will be getting in loads, so stock up while you can. I think I only had a few week window before all of the jars and lids were sold out. I went to the store and the shelves were lined with supplies then went back again and they were all sold out. Get what you can!
Canning is easy and you will find joy seeing the fruits of your labor lining your pantry shelves. Nothing like homecooked home canned goods! You can even give them away as gifts. I know I love to receive canned goods for gifts. I hope you enjoyed this podcast, and you learned a little about canning. Trust me, if I can do it then so can you. Thank you for listening! Don’t do anything a gubba wouldn’t do!