The first, and most essential step to enjoyable and effective canning, is planning and preparation. I did not grow up canning, I grew up being told that home canned food would kill you, quickly, violently, and mysteriously. This is absolutely true, poorly canned food can kill you. Thankfully, canning isn’t an art, it’s a science. If you follow the correct procedures you will make safe food.
Several years ago I stopped in an antique store out in eastern Oregon. I stopped because of the lace in the windows. I like lace. I was recently engaged, finishing my degree, and getting ready to move across the country again to start my family and another school. The woman at the shop and I talked for a while and I told her how badly I wanted to learn to can. She took me into her kitchen and gave me a Kerr Canning Book from the 60’s (I think) “for an early wedding present” she said.
I used that book, and now my Great-Great Grandmother’s Ball Blue Book from 1944 when I plan all my canning. I check the two books against each other for recipes, and times, but I also check the USDA’s recommendations. Canning isn’t a mystery, or a secret. The USDA puts out a Complete Guide to Home Canning every few years with the most current recommendations. You don’t need a bunch of homemaker’s blogs, you don’t need this blog. The USDA tells you everything you need to know, and is the source we should all be referring to anyway. But anyway, here’s how we do it.
First, know how much you plan to can. I especially like the Ball Blue Book for this table to help plan how much your family in particular needs for the year. We are aiming to put up about 50 quarts of green beans for our family this year. So how many pounds of green beans do you need for that? The USDA guide says 14 pounds of green beans will make 7 quarts of canned green beans. So to meet our goal we need about 100 pounds of green beans. Using that information you can decide approximately how many jars you need.
Now for the one and only canning rule I break… I reuse lids. The husband doesn’t really like it, but he lets me go ahead with it anyway. I check to make sure the lids are damage free, then clean them in hot soapy water. If there is a problem with the seal on the lid you will know because it won’t seal. So the only real risk is that your jar won’t seal and you’ll just have to put it in the fridge and eat that jar for supper instead of putting it up (or your can re-can it with a different lid).
Next make sure your equipment is present and functional. Check your pressure canner, make sure you don’t drop the weight in the laundry and lose it for a day, check that the seal is still good. Get your bowls and baskets ready, and then clean your kitchen. It is so much easier to work and clean, clutter free kitchen.
Check back with us tomorrow when we start sorting, and stringing the beans!