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Your Grandma’s Guide to Canning

Maybe the jam on your toast or the pickle spear on your burger plate brings back fond memories of your grandma’s homemade jams and pickled cucumbers. Perhaps it’s a craving for the fresh salsa she used to make. Whatever it is, there’s something special about those feelings and tastes. Use the below tips and turn those thoughts into realities.

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You might think of World War II as the historical beginning of home canning, but the history goes further back than that. In fact, it goes back as far as humans being able to comprehend that the cold months offered fewer food options. However, it wasn’t really until the Napoleonic Wars that canning and preserving food became a priority. A new method of preserving food was necessary so that Napoleon could keep his troops fed and healthy while out waging war. Needless to say, canning has evolved many times since then.

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There are two types of home canning methods: water bath canning and pressure canning. The method you choose will depend on the food you are trying to preserve. So what’s the best method for you?

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Ideal for highly acidic foods, like salsas. This is a lower temperature canning process. The combination of time and temperature destroys mold, yeast and enzymes that cause spoilage while creating a vacuum seal.

  • Fruits
  • Jams and jellies
  • Salsa
  • Tomatoes
  • Pickles and relishes
  • Chutneys, sauces, pie fillings
  • Vinegars

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This method reaches the high temperatures needed to safely preserve low acid foods. The combination of time and temperature will destroy foodborne bacteria and create a vacuum seal necessary to prevent spoilage. This process is best for:

  • Meats
  • Vegetables
  • Chili
  • Seafood

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Before you get started, make sure you’ve gathered all the necessary supplies:

  • Canning kettle: These large pots have a rack inside that allows water to circulate around the jars
  • Tongs
  • A wide-mouth funnel: This funnel makes for clean, easy filling
  • Measuring cups
  • Jar lifter: This clamp like tool safely lifts hot jars out of boiling water
  • Jars: Use only jars made for canning, which come with lids and bands

Look for a canning kit, which will include all of these pieces and more!

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Wash your jars, rims and lids! First wash them in hot, sudsy water and rinse them well. If you’ll be using a recipe that requires you to boil filled jars for 10 minutes or more, you might not need to sterilize them beforehand. However, if your recipe doesn’t call for a 10-minute boil, you’ll want to sterilize your jars before filling them. Simmer them for 10 minutes. The jars should be hot when they’re filled.

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While your jars are sterilizing, get going on preparing your recipe. Depending on the recipe, you’ll need to leave a quarter to a half an inch of space between the surface or the product and the top of the jar. Wipe the rims of the jar with a paper towel and apply the lid.

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You’ll need to return your pot to a boil to process your newly filled jars. The length of processing time will vary from recipe to recipe. Once your timer goes off, remove the jars from the boiling water, place them back on a towel-lined counter-top and let them cool! The jar lids should begin to ping soon after they’ve been removed from the pot. This means you’ve done it correctly and the seals have been formed.

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Store your jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year and enjoy!