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If you are lucky enough to have a garden that is producing more than your family can consume, home canning is a really wonderful opportunity to keep the extra produce from going to waste. At first canning can seem intimidating, but with a little preparation you can be ready to save your garden's harvest for after the days of fresh summer veggies have passed.
Supplies you will need:
- Large pot or pressure cooker
- Canning jars with lids
- Wide-mouth funnel
- Jar lifter
- Magnetic lid lifter
- Kitchen timer
- Clean cutting board and knife
Steps to preserve:
- Sterilize jars and lids. Wash your canning jars and lids in hot, soapy water, rinse them clean and then place them in a boiling water bath for at least 10 minutes to make them completely sterile. If you prefer you can run the cans through the dishwasher to sterilize them. Tongs and the magnetic lid lifter make it easy to remove the hot jars and lids from the boiling water without burning your hands.
- Begin prepping your fruits and vegetables. It is always best to can your produce when it is at its peak freshness. Any produce that you wouldn't want to eat fresh should be kept out of your canned foods as well. Wash your fruits and veggies then slice, dice or chop them however you desire.
- Follow a trusted canning recipe. As you prepare your food to can, it is important to follow a recipe specifically for canning. Canned food requires a certain pH to keep bacteria from growing, which often involves adding lemon juice or vinegar to recipes. Following a trusted canning recipe will ensure that the food maintains the proper acidity so that it is safe to consume down the road.
- Fill the jars. After your food is prepared according to the canning recipe, it's time to fill the jars. Use a clean ladle and a large-mouth funnel to transfer the food to the jars. It's important to leave headspace (the distance between the top of the food and the top of the jar) so that the food has room to expand and contract while it is canned. Headspace of 1/2 inch is usually recommended.
- Process your jars. Make sure the rim of every jar is clean, then tighten a lid on each of the canning jars. Bring your pot of water or pressure canner to a boil, then carefully add the jars to the water, making sure the jars are completely covered by the water. Allow the jars to process in the boiling water for the amount of time indicated by your canning recipe.
- Cool the jars. Use the jar lifter to carefully remove the jars from the boiling water, then place them on the counter to cool. As the jars cool, you will start to hear popping sounds as the jars seal themselves. If any of the jars failed to seal, put them in the refrigerator and use them right away — they won't be safe for long-term storage.
- Label everything. Clearly label the contents of the jars along with today's date on the lid, then store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight until you are ready to use them.