I will add more canning tips to this as they occur to me, but for now here are some of the basics!
To sterilize your jars:
Clean and sterilize your jars, lids and rings, a ladle or heat-proof measuring cup with a handle, and a chopstick or butterknife. You can do this one of two ways. Either wash in your dishwasher and use the heat dry cycle or immerse jars and rings, ladle and butterknife in boiling water for five minutes and hold in the hot water while preparing whatever you’ll can. To sterilize the lids with boiling water, place them in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. I opt for the dishwasher. Getting a dishwasher changed my canning life!
There are really only three things you need to do to ensure successful canning.
- Keep everything clean.
- Use the freshest produce available.
- Keep your hands impeccably clean. As in Howard Hughes clean.
Why not fill the jar to the top?
- That empty space between the top of the food and the rim is called headspace and it is important in creating the seal that stands between your delicious food and nasty bacteria and mold.
- When you process the jars in boiling water, liquids IN the jars boil or simmer, too. If you fill it to the top, you will lose some of the contents of the jar as it forces the air out while boiling.
How can I tell if the food has gone bad?
- Store jars with rings removed from lids. If the seal has broken or gas builds up in the jar (both signs of something having gone bad) the lid will either pop off or loosen itself.
- If there is mold inside the jar, discard!
- If the contents of the jar have grown hair or are discolored, discard!
- If the contents of the jar smell bad, funny, funky, foul, or otherwise nasty, discard!
- When in doubt, discard!
…But don’t freak out about this. I’ve only lost 3 jars of food to spoilage over the years and they were all obvious cases. Don’t sweat this too much. If you start with good, fresh ingredients and follow basic precautions you’re not likely to have any problems. And if you DO have a problem, you’re more likely than not to know it right off the bat when you open and smell that food!
- I’m going to keep using the phrase “non-reactive” during canning season. Basically, all you need to really know about this is that you should use stainless steel, glass or enamelware. Anything else (aluminum, etc…) can chemically react to the food and create off-flavors during the process of preserving food. That is most assuredly to be avoided.
Processing how? Whatchoo mean?
- To process your jars, make sure first that you have clean lids and rings in place on your jars. Place jars in a large pot that comes to at least 3 inches above the tops of your jars. Cover the jars with at least 1-1/2″ of fresh tepid tap water. Place pan on the stove, cover with a lid, and turn the heat to “HIGH”. When water reaches a full rolling boil, begin timing. Process your jars for as long as each individual recipe specifies. It will be different depending on the size of the jar and the type of the recipe used.