Canning 101: Jars and Everyday Supplies.
So, we’ve covered a basic introduction to canning, and the specialized items you’ll need to get the job done. Lets talk about the stuff you’ve already got at home, and the jars to put your yummy creations into.
Lets start with the supplies you have around your home.
In this picture are the basic supplies you need for most canning endeavors. Not only do you have the specialized utensils we talked about last time but you’ll also see a representation of the everyday items. First, you’ll need a cooking spoon to stir your pot of jelly, jam, salsa, chili or whatever else it is your cooking to put in your jars. Then you need a ladle or deep spoon to scoop the cooked mix into your jars with. Here I show three different options that I’ve used for various items, I use the ladle to scoop jams and jellies into small jars. The deep semi-clear spoon is good for things like salsa that you’re scooping into slightly larger but still pretty liquid things. Also I have a big deep spoon (it actually holds a full cup) that I use when I scoop things like chili that are thicker and going into large quart sized jars so that they fill up a bit faster.
You also need various measuring cups and spoons for measuring your ingredients, the jars you’re putting food into. Last but not least, you need a small damp dishcloth, a couple of towels to put down on your work counter to both protect the surface from the heat of your jars and such, but to contain some of your mess (it’s much easier to just toss the towels in the wash after your done with everything then it is to try to scrub solidified jelly off your counter). You also need a large heavy towel like a beach towel or old bath towel to set on your counter or table to put your jars on after you take them out of the canner. When you set up, put this towel down in an area where the space it takes up can be left undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours.
All that’s left, is the pots and pans you need in addition to your canner.
You’ll need three things, 1) your canner. Here you can see my pressure canner with its flat medal disk like rack. 2) a small sauce pan that you’ll put your jars lids to simmer them in water prior to putting them on your jars. 3) a large sauce pan or dutch oven that’s large enough to hold all your ingredients while you’re cooking as well as when you bring them to a hard boil like when you make jam or jelly. For some recipes, you can also do the cooking in your slow-cooker. I have a mega batch of chili going in mine as I type this. Not only will it be dinner tonight, but it will get canned to serve later as well. I like this method of cooking for food like chili, because it prevents overcooking that can happen if you make chili in a large pot, then heat process it in your pressure cooker. Our first batch of chili that we ever made, we ended up having to toss all 6 quarts because they tasted burnt because of over heating and processing between actually cooking the food and the intense heat of the pressure canner.
I realize some of what I’m saying here, or have talked about before may sound confusing out of the context of an actual recipe and canning process, but I hope that will get cleared up as we move forward. As always though, ask questions!
That is really all you need for most canning. You may need some other small things like a spoon or bowl or something here or there, but, again, you should have all that on hand.
Lets talk about jars now.
Standard canning jars are made by two companies (which are actually owned by the same company, but that’s unsurprising these days) Ball, and Kerr. The jars that many of us call Mason jars, which is actually the equivalent of calling all tissue Kleenex. The canning jars were invented and patented by Mason, which is why they still carry his name. Modern jars are composed of three parts, a lid, jar band, and the glass jar itself.
The rest of this paragraph is somewhat debatable depending on which “expert” you ask. When storing your jars some sources will say that you should not leave the bands on your jars, other say that there isn’t a problem with leaving them in place as long as you don’t over tighten them. Personally, after the requisite 12 – 24 hour rest period after canning, I remove my bands, wipe down all my jars and lids with a damp cloth with a little bit of vinegar sprayed on it to remove the massive amount of mineral build up in our water that’s left behind on the jars after canning. While I have the bands off I examine them for any rust that may have developed during canning. If I can’t find any rust then I put the band back on and only loosely tighten it by hand. I do this, so that when I’m ready to open the jar and use the contents, particularly with something like jam, jelly which will be closed and placed in the fridge for storage for repeated use, I already have a jar band there and I don’t have to look for one. Now on things like pasta sauce, or chili which are one time use items I don’t bother with the bands, simply because I’m not going to need them when I use the jarred food.
For sanitation reasons, most sources say not to reuse a lid once it has been used during canning or a jar band if there is any rust present on the band. I follow both these practices.
The jars come in standard sizes 4oz, 8oz, 12oz, 16 oz (or 1 pint), 32oz (or 1 quart), 64oz (or half-gallon). Once upon a time apparently they made a 24oz or pint and a half but that is no longer made. the 4, 8 and 12 ounce sizes are all considered to be jelly jars and often come with a “quilted” pattern or texture to the glass. You can buy 8, 16, and 32 ounce jars in a regular width mouth, and the 26, 32 and 64 ounce sizes in a wide width mouth jar. You can also buy “jars” that are actually plastic which are specifically designed for freezer jam which come in sizes 8oz, 16oz, and 32oz.
Jars come in both regular and wide mouth jars in the “larger” sizes (16, 32, 64 oz). These jars are great if you are preserving something like cinnamon apple rings that look pretty when they are stacked in a jar but they circumference of the ring is larger than the circumference of the regular mouth jar. Otherwise, with the use of your canning funnel you should be able to use a regular mouth jar for anything you want, and it becomes a mater of preference. This may be one of those topics where someone with more experience could chime in and give a bit more information. Below are pint-sized jars on the left a regular mouth and the right is a wide mouth jar.
You can also buy (I’ve only ever found them online) canning jars that use a rubber ring and a glass jar that is clamped shut using a metal clamp. I have absolutely no experience with these jars what so ever, other than to say in the couple posts The Pioneer Woman has done on canning, she has used them and they look pretty.
I think that about covers all the supplies needed at this point. I think we are ready at this point to actually get into canning. I have a great recipe for a SUPER simple, yummy, and easily diverse recipe for jelly to start with. It really doesn’t involve much it’s more of a “semi-homemade” recipe, but it’s a great beginning point.