water bath canning

5 Rules for Home Canning

home canning red cabbage drain the cabbage

Preparing cabbage for canning.

Home canning is easy enough to do.
If you are just starting out, here’s a little information to help.

1. Measure headspace from the very top of the jar down to the top of the food.
Having the right amount of headspace is very important. Too much headspace and the jars may not seal properly. Too little, and your food could expand to the point that it leaks out, preventing a seal.
Once you are canning for a while, you will get the hang of it visually. You can also use your finger, I know that from the tip of my forefinger to the bottom of the nail is 1/2″. No ruler needed.

2. Be sure everything is clean.
Perhaps this goes without saying. Wash everything before you start, from the food to the jars and lids.
Be sure the cat won’t be jumping up on the counter, and don’t let anyone lick the spoon until you are done.

home canning food

sauce, soup, sauce, snack, snack

3. In the beginning at least, don’t change the recipe.
You can water bath process whole tomatoes, but if you go and start adding things like celery to make stewed tomatoes, you will need to pressure can.
High acid foods such as tomatoes and pickles have the acid in them to help preserve the food. The same is true for high sugar foods like jams and some juices. When you add other ingredients, you change that acid or sugar level.
While it doesn’t hurt to add a little spice, otherwise stick to the recipes.
Likewise, stick closely to the processing times.

4. After the jars seal, should you leave the rings on or take them off?
There is a lot of bizarre misinformation out there, like ‘if you leave the rings on, bacteria can grow under the ring and get into your food’.
Whether you leave them on or not is optional. We remove them for 2 simple reasons:
A. We are cheap and do not want to invest in a ton of rings.
B. You should take them off to wipe the jars anyway, especially if you pressure canned as there is likely some residue on the outside of the jars. May as well leave them off.

5. Label and date your food.
Is that salsa or stewed tomatoes? Hmmm….
Don’t leave it to your memory. Just use a Sharpie marker to write on the lids, you’ll be throwing them out anyway.
Be sure to add the month and year, to make rotating your supply easier.

Yes, You Can! by Daniel Gasteiger

Get your hands on a good canning book.

Preserving food really isn’t difficult.
Here’s a short video to show you more.


Categories: How to Store, pressure canning, water bath canning



How to Make Jelly

Although these instructions could apply to many different flavors of jelly, we are going to look at grape specifically.

The garden entrance, before jelly making time.

The garden entrance, before jelly making time.

As we mentioned recently, the difference between jelly and other ways to preserve fruit is you only use the juice.
Technically, you could buy fruit juice and make jelly from that, but then you would also be getting all the corn syrup and other junk they add.
Kind of defeats the purpose.

So for a batch of jelly you will need about a gallon of fruit, we harvested a little more than that and ended up with extra juice. That’s about 3-4 pounds before they are cleaned.

Bringing in some of the grapes.

Bringing in some of the grapes.

After you have cleaned the berries and removed the stems, put them on the stove with about 1/3 cup water for each 4 cups of berries. Crush them a little as you go with a potato masher.

Bring them just to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes.
This makes getting the juice out easier.

Of course if you have a juicer you can let the berries cool, and remove the juice using that device.
Our concord grapes have tiny seeds that clog our juicer, so it’s off to the jelly bag we go.

Gravity will pull the juice through the jelly bag.

Gravity will pull the juice through the jelly bag.

This is a simple device with 3 screw in legs and a ring that holds a rewashable jelly bag made for this purpose. They are not expensive at all.
You can also use 2 layers of cheesecloth. I have even heard of people using coffee filters, though I think that would take a long time.

Anyway, add the fruit pulp to the bag and let it do its thing.
After it slows down, we do squeeze it a few times to get as much juice as possible. Why waste, right?

Now the Ball canning book directs you to ‘set aside in a cool place for 12-24 hours, then strain again to remove any crystals that might have formed.’
We did, but did not have any crystals, so we’re good to go.

From here there are two ways you can make jelly: with and without added pectin.
Pectin is a natural substance made by boiling down apples, and it helps you to get a more reliable set to your jelly. You can find it in powdered and liquid form, and with types that are either ‘no sugar added’ or regular.

We have used both, and made jelly with pectin and without.
Honestly, we get the best results with pectin and added sugar.
But that’s just us, it is fun to experiment and find your own way.

To make jelly without pectin:

NOTE: Do not double the jelly recipe.
Trust me on this.

Measure 4 cups juice (just 4 cups, not all the juice you have) and add 3 cups sugar. Place is a deep pan and heat until sugar is dissolved.
Then bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. You will see the jelly begin to get thicker.

What you want is a mixture that, when put on a teaspoon and tilted, will slide off the spoon in one ‘sheet’ not in dribs or drops. This is the hardest part to get right, and I admit I have a tendency to cook it a little too long.

To make jelly with liquid pectin:

Again measure only 4 cups of juice and add 7 cups of sugar. Place in a deep pan, and stir over heat until sugar dissolves. Have 1 liquid pectin pouch open and ready.
Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, and add the pectin.
Bring back to a full rolling boil, and boil hard for a full minute.

In both cases:
Remove pan from heat. Skim off foam if you want to. Ladle hot jelly into hot, sterile jelly jars until the jelly is 1/4″ from the top of the jar.
Wipe off any spills on the rim with a clean wet cloth.
Add a new jar lid that has been held in hot water.
Screw on a rim, just enough to close it. Do not tighten the rim.
Place in a water bath canning pot and be sure the water covers the jars, boil (process) 10 minutes for half-pint jelly jars. If you are making pints, process another 5 minutes.

Remove from heat using a jar lifter, and let cool on a hand towel. You will hear the jars seal ::Pop:: ::Pop:: ::Pop::
What a wonderful sound!

Ta da!

Ta da!

Don’t worry if the jelly does not look thick for a while, it can take as much as a week.

After a day, be sure all lids have sealed, by pressing down on the lid. If it gives back and forth, place that jar in the fridge to be used up.

Otherwise, you can remove the rims and store your beautiful new jelly!

Jewel-like colors.

Jewel-like colors await.

If you are new to canning, here is a look at some of the items mentioned in this post.

Portions of this post and recipes reprinted with permission.Recipes provided by BALL BLUE BOOK(r) OF PRESERVING. Copyright (c) 2009,
Jarden Home Brands, marketer of Ball(r) and Kerr(r) fresh preserving
Jarden Home Brands is a division of Jarden Corporation (NYSE: JAH).

Categories: How to Store, water bath canning


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Jam, Jelly and Marmalade- Oh My!

And preserves, conserves, butters and sauces.
In the world of ‘putting up fruit’ there are a lot of options available to you.

As a prelude to our next post on How to Make Jelly, it might be good to look at what the difference between these are.
Oh, but if you’re looking for a fancy-schmansy definition, you won’t find it here.
We’re keeping it simple.

Sauce and butter.

Sauce and butter.

On a scale of easy to difficult, I would list:
1. Preserves
2. Sauces and Butters
3. Jam
4. Conserves
5. Jelly
6. Marmalades

Preserves are the easiest as there is little prep involved. You are basically holding the fruit, either whole or in large pieces, in a syrup of some sort.

Sauces and butters are grouped together because there is little difference in how they are made. Whether you make applesauce or apple butter is really just an ingredient thing, and a matter of how thick you want the end result.

Two jams and a sauce.

Two jams and a sauce.

Jam is one of our favorites, as you need only chop the fruit, or squish it as in the case of berries. You then continue on with the sugar and pectin, if desired.

Conserves are a little more involved, bringing in additional ingredients and spices.

Marmalades are the most difficult, but they are also the best to give as gifts in our opinion. We used to make an Orange-Lemon Marmalade that, although relatively time consuming, was worth the effort.

Jelly is the one we will be looking at in detail. What makes it a little harder than most is that you need to extract the juice first, then continue with the process.

For those that have a juicer at home, this is made easier. It depends on the fruit though. For example, our Jack LaLane juicer can not handle the tiny pits found in the concord grapes we grow.

Assorted jellies.

Assorted jellies.

So our next post will be an in depth look at making jelly.
And just perhaps, if you are interested, we’ll make a batch of that marmalade too.

If only for old time’s sake.

Categories: water bath canning


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Can What Veggies You Can Can

So, you put in a garden and are getting a wonderful harvest- that’s great news.
Or, you went to the market or farm market, and they had a deal on a bushel of whatever veggie is in season- a good way to save money.

Perhaps, though, you are wondering what to do with it all.

Previously we looked at what can easily be frozen, no blanching needed.
Of course most vegetables can be frozen, but maybe you don’t have enough space to freeze everything.
That’s when canning comes in handy.

Yes, You Can! by Daniel Gasteiger

Get your hands on a good canning book...

There are two ways to can food at home:
1. Pressure canning- uses, well, a pressure canner to bring food temperatures well above the boiling point.
2. Water bath or Steam canning preserves foods at the boiling temperature of water.

Foods preserved with the water bath method are either highly acidic, such as pickles and tomatoes, or sweet, such as jams.
Well do I remember my parents simply pouring melted wax over a jar of jam as a way to seal it. This method is no longer recommended, though I’m sure it’s still practiced.

The whole idea of canning is to prevent any nasty micro-organisms from having a party in your food.
Let’s look at green beans as an example:
If you want to water bath can them, you need to add something acidic, like vinegar, to prevent the growth of micro-organisms. So, pickle them- Dilly Green Beans are wonderful.

If you’re not into vinegar then you need to pressure can them. This will bring the water inside the canning jar to the hotter temperature it needs, much hotter than the temperature water boils at.

Ball Canning Books

...or two...

Let’s also look at tomatoes, because this is one that gets just a little more complicated.
Red tomatoes, and more so the heirloom tomatoes, are quite acidic (some of the new yellow hybrids are not acidic enough).
So you can water bath can whole or peeled tomatoes. If you want to make Salsa, Catchup, Juice, or Marinara (meatless) Sauce, you can also water bath can.
On the other hand, if you want to can Stewed Tomatoes or Tomato Soup, you need to pressure can it.
“Why?” you may be wondering, or “I was told I had to pressure can Marinara.”

The difference is acid. All of the recipes that get water bath canned have vinegar or lemon juice (citric acid) added to them, the others don’t.
And if you don’t want vinegar in your Marinara then you need to pressure can it.

Better Homes and Gardens Canning Issue

...and and get inspired.

There’s also a really good reason to learn to can your own food- convenience.
Just today Mandolin took out a jar of homemade Bean Soup and heated it up.
“I made lunch” he called out to me.
“Thank you” I replied, “but technically, I made lunch; last October.”

National Center for Home Food Preservation has tons of info and free guides to help you can safely.

Categories: How to Store, pressure canning, saving money & time, water bath canning



National Can-it-Forward Day

What a wonderful idea for a way to teach others about canning!
Today is the second annual National Can-it-Forward Day when the Ball Canning Company encourages those that do can to share what they know and help others learn.

home canning is easy

home canned goodness

Back in our restaurant days we were licensed Food Processors, meaning we could sell what foods we ‘put up’ – our most popular was the Pear-Raspberry Jam.
Now we can for our family and friends and still love trying new recipes and sharing the old ones.
In fact, the Ball Canning Company was gracious enough to let us share some of their recipes that we love so much- find them in the Recipes Page.

home canning juice

sunshine in a jar

So in celebration of the day, here are a few things I’d share with new, and seasoned, canners:
1. It’s easy, really; and once you get the hang of it, it’s a lot of fun.
2. Home-canned food, like homegrown, tastes way better.
3. There is a small initial investment- but you can also find used equipment for sale and save some cash. Eventually it will pay for itself.
4. Look at what you are buying to determine what you should can- we eat a lot of soup, for example, maybe you prefer pasta with marinara sauce.

home food preservation

freezing berries now for jam later

5. If you grow your own food and/or buy from the farm market, know that much of what is in season can be frozen until you have the time to can. As I harvest berries, peppers, onions, and tomatoes I freeze them. Then on a cool fall day when I’m no longer in the garden, I make jam, salsa, soup, etc.

Also to celebrate the day, and to help those new to canning, we made a How-To Video- check it out, let us know what you think!

Have you tried canning yet?
If no, I hope this post helps.
If yes, what do you like the most about it?

Free label templates and more on National Can-it-Forward Day

Categories: How to Store, pressure canning, water bath canning



Zesty Lemon Cucumber Pickleish

cucumber seed varieties

pick a few, any few

This is not quite a pickle nor a relish, hence the name.

A little history:
I was looking for seeds last winter for my every-other-year planting of cucumbers.
As I’ve mentioned, we don’t eat pickles much or a lot of relish.

When we do eat relish it’s usually with seafood, as in a crab salad for example.
So when I saw Lemon Cucumbers I immediately thought “what a great lemony relish that would be- perfect with fish and seafood!”

My mind was reeling and I guess I never stopped to read the description, lemon cucumbers look like lemons, but don’t taste like them.

Oh well, they do have a very sweet taste and are easy enough to eat as is- I do like fresh cucumbers.

Still, I could not get the lemon relish idea out of my mind (stubborn, I know).

I looked through my canning books and on the Internet, but could not find a recipe.
“Aha!” I thought, “I wonder if I can substitute some lemon juice for vinegar?”

More research and a lot of conflicting info, basically coming down to
Don’t Do It.
The one thing you do not want to change in a canning recipe is the acidity level- this can become very dangerous as far as the safety of the end product is concerned.

I considered a refrigerator pickle relish with the lemon juice, but there’s not enough room in the fridge-
you see, the seeds turned out to be quite prolific.

“Hmm…” I thought, “I could add lemon juice each time I open a jar.”
“Well,” I responded to myself “for that matter you could just add lemon juice to whatever you’re making.”

Suddenly my baking experience came back to help- don’t add lemon, flavor it lemon- the same way I’d use Butter Flavoring to make Pure White Butter Cream Frosting (instead of adding butter).

cucumber varieties

the tip of the cuke-berg

So, here’s what I did-

I chopped into fairly big pieces:
6 quarts cucumbers, assorted kinds
1 cup of red onions
8 hot red peppers
1 sweet green pepper

I covered them with 1 1/2 cups canning salt, and let it set a spell (a few hours- this draws out excess moisture).
I rinsed them well then made a basic brine recipe for sweet relish (you could also use a sweet relish packaged mix).

10 1/2 cups sugar
3 Tbl. mustard seed
2 handfuls of dried celery leaves, crushed (or celery flakes, about 3 Tbl.)
6 cups white vinegar

NOTE: How much brine you’ll need depends on how closely packed your veggies are. If you need more, forget the spices and just heat to dissolve 1 3/4 cups sugar/cup of vinegar and add to your jars. If you have leftovers, let cool and refrigerate- it’s perfect to use for refrigerator pickles.

Once the brine was boiling, I added the veggies and let them simmer for 15 minutes.

Now I’ve seen recipes online that tell you to just pack this in jars, seal, and let set.
Don’t believe them!
Well, I don’t anyway.

At least, I’d never recommend it- if you want to really be safe-
Use a slotted spoon to fill your hot, sterilized canning jars.
Add 1 Tbl. of Lemon Extract to each quart jar- 1 1/2 tsp. to each pint.
Add more brine if needed, try to get any air bubbles out; leave 1/4 inch headspace (measured from the top of the jar).

Cover with hot lids and rings, process them in a boiling water bath for 10-15 minutes (more for quarts than pints).

a mix of cucumbers

there is seafood in my future

Mandolin really loved it- we got into a bit of a contest to see who could name the most ways to use it.
Of course, he won… (but only after a *cough*cough* good fight) so he gets to cook with it first.
Yipee! :-)

Categories: How to Store, Recipes, water bath canning


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Waste Not…

home canned vegetable juice

mmm... goodness

Vegetable Juice is far away my favorite juice each morning, homemade especially! Although it takes a little extra work, there is a delightful byproduct. (Just wait-you’ll see)

This is not any official recipe, just what I made with what was in the garden:
Garden Blend Vegetable Juice
15 pounds tomatoes
1 colander-full swiss chard and spinach
15 med. ribs and leaves celery
2 handfuls dried parsley
1 pound carrots
1 cup onion
1/2 cup green pepper
2 tsp. salt
1 shot lemon juice per quart jar

home canned vegetable juice

juice the juice

Wash veggies, chop into chunks. Combine all ingredients except lemon juice in a pot and simmer about 1/2 hour.
Remove from heat. Juice in a juicer or food processor. Heat back up.
Add 1 shot of lemon juice to each quart jar. Fill the jars to within 1/4 inch head space.
Process in a water bath canner about 45 minutes.

home canned vegetable juice


home canned vegetable juice

give 'em a shot

home canned health

home canned healthiness

Now here’s the good part. Take the stuff that is left in the juicer or strainer and put it into a sauce pot. Add water and simmer for a while.
Now you have some wonderful vegetarian soup base!

strain the juice

strain the pulp for soup base

Pack into freezer jars and freeze. Use as you would any soup base.

home canning

the aftermath

Now clean up your mess!

Our Recipe Box

Categories: freezing, How to Store, Recipes, water bath canning



Onions Onions Everywhere (and not a tear to drop)

So I’ve admitted I’m a gardening maniac and, like any obsession, there is always a price to pay.
I’m not quite sure how I ended up planting 600 onions (I must have been on a planting euphoria that prevented memory retention) but that is what happened.
And it was a very good year.
I’ve already written a bit on what to do with onions, and have a few jars of dehydrated and a few bags frozen.
But it was time to bring in the rest of the crop, and time to deal with it.

mmm onions

mmm onions

Until this year I didn’t know you could can onions (it must have been on a Need-To-Know basis, and I didn’t need)…I always just froze, dried and kept fresh in the fridge.
This year, there’s just not enough room.

So I looked in my handy Ball Book of Home Preserving (25th. anniversary edition by the way… just saying) and found two nifty recipes.
Yes, I did just intentionally use the word ‘nifty’.

onions in Ball canning jars

onions in Ball brand canning jars

pressure canner and steam canner

pressure canner and steam canner

Honeyed Red Onions and Vinegared Red Onions. One Pressure Canned, the other Steam/Water Bath Canned.
I did mix white and red, I couldn’t help myself.

honeyed onions and vinegared onions

honeyed onions and vinegared onions

Canned Onions-kewl. (Yes, this must be lame expression time…I’ve been spending too much time with Mandolin).

I have contacted the Ball Home Preserving Company asking them if I could share these recipes with you.
I am still awaiting permission. In the meantime, get one of their books. You’ll be glad you did. They are full of kewl and nifty recipes.

So this is how I spent most of today…

onion aftermath

the onion aftermath

onions in the fridge

onions in the fridge


more onions

more on onions
Our Recipe Box
Did I mention I still have Leeks in the garden?

Categories: How to Store, pressure canning, Recipes, water bath canning



I Know You Can Can (Yes You Can Can)

Home canning in a water bath or steam canner is a fairly simple process. Home canned foods stay good for up to two years, and help free up some of the freezer space for other garden bounty. Home canned goods make delightful and thoughtful gifts, too.

The Basics
The two types of natural preservatives that can keep food safe using this method are acid and sugar.
Sugar is obvious in home canned jams, jellies and syrups. Acid is the mainstay in pickles, relishes and tomatoes.
All other types of home canned goods, such as plain vegetables in water, need to be pressure canned. This will be another blog.

The Tools
1. glass jars and lids specifically for canning, such as Ball Canning Jars
2. a Water bath or steam canner
3. additional small tools, such as a funnel, spatula, and jar lifter can make the job easier but are not required.

The Recipes
It is important to stick closely to a recipe, especially if you are a beginner. The Ball Book of Home Preserving has a wonderful selection. There are also recipes on their website.

I have been canning a long time and no longer use recipes for salsa, BBQ sauce and a few others I make yearly. But I know that I must keep a high acidity level to my sauces in order for them to remain safe to eat.
For example, Tomatoes are naturally acidic. If I’m adding to a tomato recipe, such as in making salsa, I compensate for the additional ingredients (peppers, onions) that lower that acidity level by adding some vinegar.

home canned vegetables fresh from the garden

keep lids and rings hot

home canned vegetables fresh from the garden

get the jars hot

Important points to remember
The most important thing about canning is to keep everything clean and hot.
Wash your vegetables and tools. Boil the lids and lid rings in water. Sanitize your jars either by placing in the water bath canner or steamer, or, if you are using a lot of jars, sanitize in your dishwasher.

home canned vegetables fresh from the garden

a canning funnel keeps things neat

Leave sufficient headspace in the jar, usually ¼ inch (see recipe). This headspace is measured from the very top of the jar.

home canned vegetables fresh from the garden

leave the right amount of headspace

 home canning steam canning method

wipe jar rim and cover with lid and ring

 home canning steam canning method

place in canner

Process according to the recipe. Different items and different size jars (pint, quart) require appropriate processing times.

Resist the temptation to press down on the lids to help them seal. Let them seal naturally.

If a jar does not seal (you will see the lid did not become sucked down in the middle) refrigerate after the jar is cool and use within a few days.
Once the jars have sealed, you can remove the outer rings and store. Be sure to label with a date.

home canning water bath method

let jars cool and seal

I have to say that one of my favorite gardening sounds is that of canning jar lids sealing (tink-tink-tink).

home canned food fresh from the garden

raspberry vinaigrette, mixed pepper salsa, spiced red cabbage

How to can video tutorial, recipes

To make the Homemade Raspberry Vinaigrette, I did a take-off on a recipe from the website. I made the vinegar using this recipe. Then dissolved an equal amount of sugar into the strained vinegar. I brought it to a boil, filled jars and processed 15 minutes.

Yes We Can Can – the Pointer Sisters
The Recipe Blog

Categories: How to Store, water bath canning



Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2009-2015 by Gardening Jones (tm), and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

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