There was a time during my childhood where I would see my mother and grandmother constantly cooking in the kitchen. And I’m not talking about the day’s lunch or dinner requirements. They were canners, although I hardly understood the concept. Back then it amounted to rows and rows of jars filling our pantry for months at a time, sharing them with family and friends.
Today, I understand the reasons for canning. The process uses a couple of variations, both simple and easy to do. There are a number of methods people use and their reasons might differ a little, but the principle behind the idea is the same. To save food from today for a later time in the future.
Why Are People Canning?
There are many reasons for people to can their foods, but essentially, it’s to save it for another time. My grandmother loved cherries. She could eat them all day long and never get sick of them.
But the problem was that cherries weren’t available all year round. So, she would prepare the cherries into their assigned recipes and can the food for use throughout the year, or until she could get her hands on some more.
It might also be to save money. Buying your produce in bulk is often cheaper, but not if the food spoils before you have a chance to use it. That’s why using it all in recipes today and canning it will preserve it for when you do eventually need it. Some of the other reasons include health, to create gifts or even to keep a link to a historical method.
A quick point to make here is the reason canning is so important and how it preserves food without spoiling. The answer is heat and oxygen. Bacteria are the reason food spoils over time. In low acidic food, it’s the botulism spores that are the most common.
They take time to grow in your food, but once enough numbers exist, quickly turn any food bad. The bacteria thrive in warm conditions, but canning raises the temperature above their survival point, killing them before the food seals airtight to prevent more bacteria entering.
The 3 Types of Canners
There 3 main methods of canning currently approved by the scientific community. They include pressure canning, water-bath canning and atmospheric canning.
Method #1: Pressure Canning
A pressure canner uses the principle of increasing pressure to create more heat. As the temperature rises within, so does the pressure which in turn heats the food further. Botulism spores survive beyond the temperature point of boiling water, making pressure canning a must for low acidic foods.
There are two different types of pressure canners, one being a dial gauge pressure canner. This uses a gauge to determine the pressure inside the container which then indicates the temperature. A weighted gauge pressure canner uses a weight that jiggles, indicating the temperature inside. This article explains pressure canning in much more detail.
Method #2: Boiling Water Canning
One of the most common forms of canning, water bath canning involves surrounding jars of food with boiling water that transfers heat to the food inside. There are a few points to consider with water bath canning, found in this article.
While many people use nothing more than a large saucepan for this method, others buy dedicated boiling water bath canners. They are designed for this job specifically and ensure the food reaches appropriate heat levels to kill bacteria.
The most important thing with water bath canning is to fully immerse the jars, including the underside. Simply standing the jars inside a pot isn’t enough. They need to sit on racks so the water runs freely under the jars as well. The water should also rise at least a couple of inches above the jars to ensure enough heat transfers to every point of the jar.
Method #3: Atmospheric Steam Canning
This type of canning is the new kid on the block and one also approved by the scientific community. Atmospheric steam canners use steam instead of water and achieve the same high temperatures needed to kill bacteria.
This type of canner uses a low base and high lid to allow enough steam to enter the pot. Two holes allow steam to escape, the method not using pressure. If you do happen to can food that requires longer than 45 minutes, don’t use atmospheric steam canning as the water will boil dry long before the 45 minutes is up.
Choose your Method
While atmospheric steam canning is still relatively new, the other 2 methods have been around for a very long time and are the 2 most popular methods for home canners. If you have never tried your hand at this method of food preservation, why not give it a try today? Who knows, you might just find yourself a little addicted.