Canning your own vegetables, pickles, sauces, preserves, and other goodies is an enjoyable and creative hobby. Using fresh produce from your garden or the market, you can preserve its freshness and flavor year round.
When you get started, you'll need to stock up on some basic supplies. Depending on what types of food you wish to preserve, the list looks something like this:
- Canning jars (also called Mason jars) and lids
- Sealing rings
- Large pot for hot water baths
- Pressure canner/large pressure cooker
- Jar lifter
- Lid lifter
- Canning funnel
Some other equipment and supplies to consider:
- Tomato press (for making tomato-based sauces, soups, and juices)
- Pectin (for setting jams and jellies)
- Cheesecloth (for making spice bags)
- Spice kits (specifically for the type of food you want to can)
- Recipe books
Before you go out and buy all of the equipment and supplies you'll need, do a bit of research and see what types of canners and other items will work best for your needs. Here are some tips to get you started.
- Mason jars come in a variety of different sizes. Take a look at a few recipes for the things you want to can, and see what size jars are recommended. The most common are the half-pint and quart sizes.
Some preserves require pressure canning, while others only call for a hot water bath before sealing. Once again, look at some recipes and see which style of equipment you'll be needing before investing in both.
If you purchase a pressure canner or pressure cooker and have not used one before, do a dry run test before using it for canning. This way you'll be sure that you can tell when you're at the right pressure and your preserves will be safely canned.
Investing in a recipe and/or how-to book on canning before you purchase your equipment is strongly recommended. Read through the book rather than just skimming the recipes - this will give you a taste of the work involved in home canning, and perhaps save you some money when buying supplies.
You can sometimes save money by purchasing home canning kits that come with all of the small items you'll need for canning, like jar and lid lifters, thermometers, funnels, etc. Always price the kit against the individual items to make sure you're getting good value for your money.
Aside from the usual canning items, make sure your kitchen is equipped with sharp knifes, a vegetable peeler, and, if you really want to save some time, a food processor.
While canning equipment is a bit of an investment at first, you'll find that over time, the money you'll save by making your own preserves, sauces, pickles, and other items will more than make up for the initial expense.