Home canning has been around for centuries. It remains one of the best methods for preserving food for the future. I hold many memories of my mother and grandmother spending hours in the kitchen and creating jars upon jars of jellies, preserves and many other foods. Although I could never make real sense of it in my younger years, I now find myself just as caught up in the process.
There are many reasons why people take up home canning. For some, it’s the health side of things. Whenever I buy store-bought cans, I often wonder about the person that put that food together. Were they hygienic?
Did they use the freshest ingredients and clean them thoroughly? What materials are in the container holding my food?
3 Home Canning Methods to Choose From
If not health, maybe it’s to preserve your own produce. Many home gardeners grow an abundance of healthy fruit and vegetables. But once the produce ripen, they only have a limited amount of time before they drop to the ground and spoil.
Depending on how many plants you have, it might mean you need to eat a lot of boiled carrots.
Home canning offers a cheap and simple alternative to losing all of your fresh produce. It helps with eliminating the questions you have about the food you buy from the shops.
Canning the food yourself gives you the ability to choose what goes into the food, keeping healthy food healthy for when you are ready to eat it.
Method #1: Water Bath Canners
Probably the oldest method of all, home canners have used the water bath method for a couple of centuries now. It is as simple as placing a rack inside a large saucepan, filling it with water and heating it until it boils.
There are dedicated water bath canners on the market, designed to lessen the burden. The key point to remember with water bath canning is to place a rack beneath the jars to ensure the water properly heats the underside of the jars.
The water will also need to sufficiently cover the jars by at least a couple of inches to ensure the tops of the jars receive enough heat. The water transfers the heat into the food which then kills any harmful bacteria.
There are different requirements for different types of foods, with not all of it suitable for water bath canning.
Water bath canning is suitable for fruits, tomatoes, pickles, jams, jellies and other preserves. High acid food, those with a ph of less than 4.6, contain enough acid to effectively destroy the most common bacteria in preserved food.
One point that is worth mentioning here is that both tomatoes and figs have a ph level very near 4.6. Because of this, it is highly advisable that when they are canned, to add some form of citric acid, such as lemon or lime juice, to the jars.
Method #2: Pressure Canners
The second most popular form of home canning is the pressure method. While most of the normal fruits and vegetables can be safely canned in a water bath, there are other foods that must never be canned in anything other than a pressure canner.
All vegetables, seafood, poultry and meats must be canned using a pressure canner. No other method will raise the temperature inside the food enough to kill botulism spores. Botulism is one of the most common food-borne illnesses associated with home canning.
Pressure canning is the only method capable of raising the temperature to 240 degrees Fahrenheit (115.5 degrees Celsius). Jars are placed in the pressure canner in 2 to 3 inches of water, then heated. There are a number of pressure canners available, like this.
Method #3: Atmospheric Steam Canning
One of the newest methods for home canners, atmospheric steam canning is growing in popularity. The reason for this is because atmospheric steam canners have a number of distinct advantages.
They use far less water than a regular water bath canner. They also use less energy and reach their optimum operating temperate much quicker than other methods.
The foods approved for atmospheric steam canners are similar to water bath canners, such as most fruits, preserves, jellies and pickled vegetables. But do not use them for low acid foods like meat and vegetables.
The jars never actually touch the water in an atmospheric steam canner, remaining on a rack above the water line. The water is then heated to steam temperatures, transferring heat to every part of the jars.
Your own method of canning comes down to what foods you intend to preserve. Each type of canning works particularly well, as long as you use the appropriate style. It’s a truly unique way to preserve food, often reminding me of a time long ago before our lives were ‘made better’ by modern convenience.