The fruits and veggies rolling into our kitchens this summer are so phenomenal … we wish this harvest would never end! Outside of building our own greenhouse for winter growing, we’ve been exploring the best ways to keep those fresh, local summer flavors at our fingertips all year ‘round.
This week, we’re taking a look at a nostalgic method of preservation—old-school canning! It may have fallen out of favor for a few years, but your grandma’s favorite way to store her garden veggies is back, big time.
What is canning?
Boiled down to basics, canning is a way of preserving foods in an anaerobic (oxygen free) environment, typically a sealed glass jar. This storage method works best with high-acid foods, like jellies, salsas, and pickles, which will keep fresh for at least a year when stored in a cool, dark place.
Why DIY instead of buy?
Even if you have to purchase some specialized equipment to get started, overall, it costs a lot less to preserve your own than to buy pre-made.
By canning locally grown produce, you reduce your carbon footprint—there are virtually no transportation-related emissions or pollutants from an industrial processing facility. By supporting local agriculture, you help to decrease reliance on factory farms and produce imported from overseas. Plus, jars can be reused during your next canning sesh instead of thrown away, cutting down on waste!
It Just Tastes Better!
Fresh, local, and heirloom always tastes better than industrially-grown, commercially processed, big agriculture products. You control what goes in each jar, so you can customize everything to your exact tastes. And you don’t need to wonder or worry if your containers have BPA linings or if the food inside is stabilized with chemical preservatives
You’ll need a few things to get started—many well-appointed kitchens will already have some of this equipment on hand. Don’t worry if you need to make a shopping run—it is all easy to find in local stores or online, and it is generally pretty affordable.
A Large Pot for Water Bath Canning
This is what you’ll use to boil the filled jars. Make sure it’s big enough to hold several jars at once and has a lid. You’ll also need a canning rack (or baking rack that fits inside the bottom of the pot). The rack keeps the bottoms of the jars from touching the pan directly, ensuring that you don’t get any hot spots or jars that crack from direct heat. Specialized canning racks also have handles, which allow you to easily lift the jars from the water.
A Pressure Canner
If you’re using the pressure canning method, you’ll need to pick up one of these. Essential if you plan on canning meat, these can reach much higher temps than a water bath.
Jars, Lids, and Rings
You can find these at most grocery stores in the baking aisle.
This is an invaluable tool for filling jars with jams, jellies, or sauces.
These are used to remove jars from the water bath.
Clean Kitchen Towels or Cloths
You’ll need these to wipe down jars and lids.
Nice to have (but not essential):
A wide-mouth funnel makes filling the jars easier and cleaner.
This tool is used to take your lids and seal rings out of boiling water when you are sanitizing them.
This is a specialized set of tongs with wide, rubberized ends to make it even easier to pull jars from their water bath.