I’ve had a few recent requests for advice on how to start canning. Now, I’m certainly no guru in the canning realm, but I use kitchen pieces as art and am always first to suggest potlucks, so I think people assume that my cooking experience is much more than it is. That being said, I have tried my hand at canning and really do enjoy it. The following resources are a start, but you’ll find you have the most fun joining an experienced canner in the kitchen.
1. Your tools
You’re going to start with some basic stuff that you can buy as a kit, borrow from someone else, or cobble together DIY. You’ll need:
- A large, deep stockpot with a lid (either use one you already have, find one secondhand, or buy in a new nifty set that comes with…)
- A canning rack that keeps the jars from resting directly on the bottom of the pot (again, buy as part of a set or DIY one from old canning lids)
- A magnetic lid lifter to get lids out of the boiling ass water
- A jar lifter (see above)
- A wide-mouth funnel (to get hot substances into your jars)
- A jar wrench to work out bubbles
- A goodly amount of small or large Mason jars
Depending on what you already have, the random tools you probably don’t have (jar and lid lifter, funnel, and wrench) will only set you back about $10 to $15. You can find these kits at most retail stores or online at Amazon. If you’re looking at a completely new pot and rack, you’re only looking at another $20 to $30, though putting together what you could have can mean free money for this portion. Otherwise, start hoarding Mason jars as these will be your largest expense after start-up. (i.e. Don’t give them ALL away to relatives to never see them again. Get stingy. Keep the jars and buy new sets of lids for every new canning adventure.)
There are, of course, other tools you may need as you get started, such as another pair of tongs, a stainless steel funnel, or a pressure cooker. For the newbie though, start easy. Get good at canning and then make your way up to those larger ticket items. This is supposed to be a FRUGAL hobby remember?
Canning isn’t as easy as throwing your favorite recipe together, dunkin’ it, and sealing the cans. This can lead to, erm, BOTULISM which I expect isn’t on your most wanted list. You’ll need a certain processing (i.e. heating) time for each type of food and you’ll have to use specific canning recipes to ensure correct pH levels in the food.
I recommend starting simple and using foundation texts as you learn. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has great information to get started. I also recommend springing for Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving because it combines straightforward instructions with plenty of recipes.
3. Your inspiration
Once you’ve moved past the foundation texts, you’ll want to start canning like a bad ass, amirite? Punk Domestics has some incredibly fun canning recipes, think cinnamon whiskey jelly and peach bourbon jam, that will make everybody jealous of your canning skills. There’s also the beautiful Food in Jars blog (she has a fantastic in-depth Canning 101 series of posts) and the user-submitted recipes over at Tasty Kitchen and All Recipes. Go. Explore. Be inspired.
What other canning resources do you know about for the beginning canner? What am I missing? What are your favorite sites for inspiration?
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