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Growing and preserving food is an important part of preparedness, and it’s essential for self-reliance. Canning is a time-honored tradition that is coming back into style as more people understand the value of growing food. While canning can take some time to learn, it is a valuable skill to have, especially during hard times.
Everyone seems to have their little variances when it comes to canning. You can choose either the water bath or pressure cooker method. Ask anyone a few generations older than you, and you will hear stories about past canning debacles as well as the best recipes.
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Canning can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be if you are prepared. We’ve compiled this list of canning hacks to help you save those juicy tomatoes or ripe peaches for a cold winter’s day.
1. Buy Used
Visit any yard sale or estate sale in a rural area, and you are bound to find a box of old glass canning jars. These jars are great to use, as long as they aren’t cracked or damaged.
While you can canning jars brand new from the store, picking up any and every canning jar from these sales will help you stock up on jars for the future.
2. Buy the Right Size
You will find a large number of canning jars that seem to come in every shape. The most popular sizes include half-pint jars, pint jars, and quart jars. There are some other variations like 4-ounce jars and larger jars that measure a half gallon.
It’s important to purchase the canning jar that you will use the most. It won’t do you any good to have a bunch of half-pint jars when canning peaches as you won’t be able to get many peaches into the jar. Know what you will be canning and buy the right jar to fit the product.
3. Buy the Right Mouth Size
Canning jars come in either narrow or wide-mouthed sizes. This means that the top of the jar is either small or wide to help fit in larger foods.
While most people have a size that they prefer to work with, the mouth size doesn’t matter for the most part. However, each size takes a different lid, so you could run into issues when canning something without having enough of the right-size lids.
4. Check Labels
When buying used canning jars, it is essential to check the box to ensure that the jars are top quality. It is common to find old mayonnaise jars or even pickle jars that were bought from the store. While these are okay to use for other purposes, it is best to stick with manufacturers like Ball or Kerr when canning.
5. Look Out for Older Logos
One of the best canning hacks for saving time and money is to look for older labels on canning jars that could be worth a lot of money. There are those mason jars that are so old and unique that they are worth much more than you would pay for them at a yard sale.
You can often date the jar is by its shape (round or square) and different parts of the logo that hint at its age.
6. Don’t Pay Extra for Color
You may have seen a lot of different colored mason jars in stores today. These colored jars are often more expensive, but they are still just glass jars. To help save money, stick with clear jars that cost less.
1. Always Buy New
While you may feel the urge to reuse a canning lid, it is essential to only use the lids once. Otherwise, you could jeopardize the food within the jar as well as your health, so always use new canning lids.
It’s okay to reuse the bands as long as they are not damaged, but always buy new lids when canning. Mark used lids to ensure they aren’t used for canning, but feel free to use them in other clever ways around the house.
2. Inspect Before Using
Most lids that you purchase from the store will be in excellent condition. However, there are a few that may not pass inspection when you look at them closer.
Ensure that each lid doesn’t have a dent and that the seal is perfect before using it. If you ever have doubts about the quality of a canning lid, throw it out.
1. Prepare Recipes Beforehand
Some people find the canning process very stressful because they try to do too much. Try making your recipes beforehand so that the canning process is easier to manage.
You can prepare batches a few days before and store them in the fridge until you are ready for canning. This will cut down on time and can be much more of an enjoyable process.
2. Sterilize in Batches
Sterilization is a key part of canning, and it is important to have plenty of items ready to go when you need them. Make sure to keep the oven hot to sterilize empty jars as they wait for their turn.
Keep a pot of water on the stove that is simmering with the lids and bands as well. Don’t get caught with hot food only to have to wait for the water to boil or the oven to heat up.
3. Funnels are Your Friend
You’ll save a ton of stress and time if you stock up on items to help the canning process. Funnels are a great way to keep your kitchen clean and not waste the precious food you’ve worked so hard to preserve. Have plenty of funnels on hand in different sizes to help as well.
4. Understand Headspace
One of the top issues that newbies have with canning is, they don’t understand the importance of headspace when filling the jar. Every recipe is different, but many call for about an inch of headspace, or empty space, between the product and the lid of the jar.
This air space allows the can to seal properly and is vital to canning success. As tempting as it is to cram as much into a jar as possible, make sure you leave plenty of headspace.
5. Start With a Stack of Hot Pads
Canning is a hot process, and you’ll likely suffer a burn or two if you’re not careful. Make sure you have plenty of clean hot pads to use throughout the process. When one gets dirty, choose a clean one to keep the area free of contaminants. Have plenty of kitchen towels on hand as well.
6. Label, label, label
While there are plenty of attractive label options out there, you don’t need to buy fancy labels for your canning jars. Using a sharpie on the lid is perfectly fine! It is essential to label your jars once they are cooled. Mark the year that you processed them as well as what is in the jar itself.
1. Don’t Do Too Much
It’s easy to get excited about canning only to have way too much work to complete at one time. Spread out your canning so that you can complete each batch without getting overwhelmed. Focus on just one recipe or product instead of having multiple recipes going at once.
2. Invite Others To Help
When many people work together, canning can be a fun experience that also stocks up the pantry. Invite others who can come over to help you get through a batch of tomatoes or veggies from the garden.
Working as a group will create more cans that can be spread out evenly among the families. You may even learn a tip or two while working with others.
3. Time It Right
When there is an overflow of produce from the garden, it can be tricky to know what to process first. Understanding your food is vital in processing items that have a shorter shelf life.
While root vegetables can wait their turn awhile in the fridge or root cellar, other items like fresh fruit need to be processed as soon as possible. Knowing when to time your canning right is important for cutting down on waste.
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