By ALLIE MYSZKA
Have you ever tried your hand at canning fresh fruits, vegetables, and spreads? It may seem old-fashioned, but there’s a reason your grandmother was a master of canning and preserving! It’s not difficult to do, and it stocks your pantry with delicious homemade goodies. Head to your nearest farmer’s market for fresh, local produce. Get the whole family involved and cook up a storm together!
For those completely new to canning and preserving, “starter kits” (like this one) can be an easy way to purchase everything you need at once. If you’d rather use some items you already have, here’s what you’ll need:
- a large stockpot (preferably with a lid)
- glass Mason jars, along with same-size lids and bands
- jar lifter or rubber-tipped tongs (must be able to grip around the tops of the jars)
- a funnel that will fit inside your jars
These supplies will get you started on a method called water bath canning—a technique that’s suitable for high acid foods such as fruits, vegetables, jams and jellies, and even homemade condiments.
How to Safely Preserve Foods
Once you’ve prepared a jelly or other recipe for preserving, it’s time to load it into jars and seal the lids for safekeeping on your pantry shelves. In short, water bath canning involves these steps:
- Wash and dry your jars and lids. Be sure your lids haven’t been used for canning before—always use new ones!
- Heat the glass jars, either in hot water or in the dishwasher. This helps get rid of any bacteria, and keeping the jars warm until you fill them prevents shattering. Heat the lids and bands to sterilize them, too, but give them time to cool before you’ll need to screw them on.
- Fill your stockpot half-full with water and let it come to a steady simmer while you prep your food (see below for recipes to try!).
- Using tongs, remove the hot jars from water, and use the funnel to fill the jars you’re your yummy creation. Leave about ½ inch of “headspace,” or space between the food and the top of the jar.
- Carefully wipe the top rims of your jars to ensure that no food remnants are left behind.
- Place lids on jars, then screw on the bands. Don’t screw the bands all the way in to their very tightest point—aim for about 75% of that tightness.
- Using your tongs, carefully place each jar into the simmering water in your stockpot. Put the lid on, and let the jars sit for the time indicated in your recipe.
- After the indicated time is up, set the jars on top of a towel on a flat surface, and leave them to seal. You will likely hear a small “pop” from the lids as they seal—this is a good thing!
For more detailed instructions and tips, see Ball’s water bath canning guidelines here.
Recipes to Try
Ready to try your hand at preserving something homemade? Check out a few recipes below for inspiration and easy starting points.
3-Ingredient “Choose Your Berry” Jam
This recipe couldn’t be easier to prepare, making it great for first-time canners. Take advantage of fresh berries in their peak summer season (you could even go pick them yourself with the kids!) or purchase frozen ones from the grocery store. Click here for the recipe.
You can easily find instructions on the internet for canning just about any type of fruit, but peaches are an easy fruit to begin with. Plus, canned peaches will last for months (or even years) on your pantry shelves. Click here for easy step-by-step instructions.
Easy Tomato Salsa
Nothing complements this summer’s margaritas like homemade salsa. Save yourself time by using canned tomatoes or get them fresh for maximum flavor. Click here for the recipe.
If you’re dying to save some of your favorite fresh fruits and veggies for the months to come, you can preserve nearly any type of produce with water bath canning. Browse Pinterest for endless recipes, or pick up a cookbook of canning and preserving recipes for more ideas at your fingertips.
Allie was born and raised in Georgia, and moved to Nashville after graduating from the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!). She’s a freelance writer, Pilates instructor, old soul, and chronic DIY-er. Connect with Allie at alliemyszka.com.