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For the Book Recipes

4 Important Canning Basics No One Talks About

canning-jam-making-BASICS

 

Read more about my passion for canning: Orange Marmalade RecipePlum Jam Recipe  and Homemade Chicken Stock Recipe

The biggest challenge in canning is overcoming the fear that you are going to screw up. I remember reading a handful of articles that scared the daylights out of me talking about unsanitary canning and botulism. I didn’t want to can because I was scared I was going to poison my family or waste 20 pounds of tomatoes.

Canning on the surface seems like a great deal of work, but it’s a hobby that I enjoy. I like that I can experiment with recipes and try different things while saving a little money and lowering the amount of processed food and chemicals my family is eating and ingesting. One of the biggest myths about canning is that it is time consuming. If you are organized in your efforts and love to multi-task, canning might just be your thing.

I decided to write about 4 “canning secrets” that are often overlooked in blogs, articles and other resources. If you are new to canning, these are 4 areas that you need to pay attention to because they are used most every time you are canning. The recipes are really secondary.

 Step 1: Sanitize Your Jars, Lids and Rings

I sanitize my canning equipment with a pressure cooker. I picked this up years ago at Wal-Mart. Your local Ace Hardware, big box home improvement store or Wal-Mart should have these on hand. You can also use a pot. I like the pressure cooker because it seems to work faster and alerts me to when the jars are sanitizer by “whistling.”

Place about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of your pressure cooker. Place the circle rack in in the cooker that came with it. Add your jars, lids and rings to sanitize them. I suggest purchasing new lids for every time you are canning. You want your canning accessories to be clean prior to sanitizing.

You can add your kitchen tongs and funnel as well. Add your lid to the pressure cooker and slide to lock it in. For me, locking the lid is the hardest part of using the pressure cooker. Make sure you add your whistler top and ring the the cooker lid. Turn your stove top up on high. Once it whistles, you will slide your “whistler” to the side so the steam and pressure can leave the pot. Wait about 5 minutes. Slide to unlock and use your tongles to remove item. They are extremely hot!

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Step 2: Testing Your Jam

It’s really important to make sure that your jam or jelly has set. I’m not one to use a thermometer which you can absolutely do to determine if they have reduced enough to become jelly, jam or marmalade. Instead, I place 4-5 small plates in my freezer and chill them for 15 minutes. Once my jam has cooked for the recommended time, I pull my cold plate from the freezer and place a spoonful of my jam on the plate. I leave it for 2 minutes and then test to see if it has begun to set. If it doesn’t run off the plate or spread, then it’s time to place the jam in the canning jars. If it is runny, I cook my jam for another 4 minutes and test again.

The strawberry jam pictured below is almost ready. This is an important step for me when I am trying out new recipes. For example, I recently substituted 1/2 cup of honey for 2 cups of sugar and needed to make sure I got the consistency right. The cold plate test is the best way to make sure that your jam or jelly is done reducing and will set.

testing-jam-canning

Step 3: Seal Your Cans

After you fill your jars with jams, jellies or whatever canning goodness, you need to seal the jars. First, add the lid, ring and make sure they are extremely tight. This is key to making sure your canning goodies stay fresh. There are jar tighteners on the market that you can use.

Add your cans with the tightened lids back to the pressure cooker. Make sure there is enough water in the bottom to properly sanitize and seal the jars. I like to have a half inch. Slide your lid back on, place the cooker on a hot burner and wait for the whistle. The jars should make a popping noise when the properly seal. I like to make a mental note of how many jars are in my pressure cooker listening to make sure all the jars have popped. You can check them after you open the pressure cooker. Lids that are sealed should snap or bounce a little when you push the lid down.

 

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Step 4: Let Your Canning Sit

One step not to overlook is to let your cans sit and cool. I like to use a thick cutting board to set my hot jars on while they cool for about 24 hours before placing them in my pantry. This is especially important for jams and jellies. The sugars need time to cool so they can thicken. Otherwise, you have a bunch of syrup for your pancakes and french toast instead.

Read more about my passion for canning: Orange Marmalade RecipePlum Jam Recipe  and Homemade Chicken Stock Recipe

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