The process of canning food used to be an extremely popular method of preserving produce. Nowadays, this process happens far more infrequently, so you may be wondering how hard is it to can your own food at home.
Canning is an easy process that anyone can do if the recommended canning process is followed properly. When canning for the first time, it may take a little bit more time and effort. However, canning gets much easier after getting some practice.
You should find canning your food to be a great way to save money and help avoid waste. Although canning is not hard once you know how to do it, there is a lot to be mindful of. If you don’t follow proper technique, you run the risk of causes illness, so read on to learn more about canning.
How Difficult Is It To Can Food?
Canning food requires a little more know-how than just adding your food to a jar and screwing the lid tight. You’re going to need to learn how to seal your jars properly using the appropriate methods. Different types of food need to be processed in different ways.
High acidic food such as tomatoes and fruits can only be canned using a boiling water bath. Low acidic food such as meat and seafood will need to follow the pressure canning technique. Both of these methods are easy to learn, and most people will already have the equipment at home.
A good rule of thumb is that one batch should take around one hour to prepare and can. Those with a large garden that produces a lot of produce may need to spend longer as there are only so many jars you can do at one time. Each kind of food you are making is going to have slightly different preparation. The processing time for each type of food is going to vary as well.
Does Canning Require Any Special Skills?
Canning does not require any sort of special skill set. In fact, it’s really easy that anybody can do it. The first time you give canning a try, it may seem a little bit overwhelming, but with practice, it becomes very easy to do. There isn’t any special equipment that is required unless you want to buy a steam canner. This isn’t really necessary, especially if you are only going to be canning a small batch.
Depending on what equipment you have at home, you may need to invest in things like a pressure cooker and a headspace tool. The most important thing to consider is the quality of the band and how well the jars seal. Once bought, jars can be used with new batches as and when you decide to can more produce.
You should follow your recipe instructions and cross-reference with the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning. If for any reason, your recipe contradicts the guide, you should make sure to follow the guide’s instructions instead.
Can You Destroy Food By Not Canning It Properly?
If you don’t follow the proper canning technique, then you run the risk of botulism which can be a deadly illness. Botulism can be avoided by making sure you can your food correctly and in a safe manner. You should also never take risks with canned food, so if you are concerned, it may be contaminated, then discard the contents.
Botulism is something that you cannot smell, taste, or even see, so it can be hard to tell if your canned food is infected. The trouble is that even ingesting a small amount of this toxin can be fatal. This poison is produced by a germ known as Clostridium botulinum which is commonly found in soil. The toxin can thrive in conditions created by poor canning, and it affects your nervous system.
Most cases of botulism are the result of poor home canning techniques, so it’s definitely something to take seriously. The best advice there is to follow proper techniques as outlined by the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning. Use pressure cooking for low acid foods and boiling water baths for high acid foods.
How Do You Can Food?
Canning at home is not quite the same thing as the industrial canning process used to seal food sold at the store. In fact, you won’t actually use can you’re going to use glass jars with rubber bands to seal your products. The benefit of these jars is that they are see-through, so you can keep an eye on the quality of your food as time goes by.
What Do You Need To Start Canning
- Preserving jars (such as mason jars)
- A large saucepan to create a water bath or pressure cooker
- A headspace tool
- A canning funnel
- Jar lifter
You will need either a large saucepan or pressure, depending on the canning method you are using. The headspace tool is used to measure how far you should fill the jar with your food. The canning funnel is used to fill the jar with the produce while making sure there is enough space at the top. The jar lifter is essential to remove the jar from the hot water. Otherwise, you risk burning yourself.
Step by Step Canning Process
- The first thing you need to do is determine which process you are going to use for canning. It could be pressure canning or using a water bath in a large saucepan.
- Get your jars ready. Check them over for any imperfections, particularly any cracks – this will render them useless. If there are any imperfections, discard the jar and use a different one.
- Give the jars and lids a thorough soapy wash. Make sure they are fully dry and keep them warmed up to around 180 degrees Fahrenheit (an important step to prevent bursting during the filing step).
- Make sure the food is prepared and ready to be transitioned into the jar. Follow any recipes you have found for the particular food you are using.
- Now we need to fill the jars with the food. These jars will be hot so wear protective equipment when you’re dealing with them. Using your canning funnel, you can pour the food into the jars.
- Remove bubbles from the mixture by using the headspace tool or something long and thin that can pierce the bubbles.
- Add the lids to the jar and screw the band on the jar, ensuring it is very tight.
- Place the jars into your chosen canning method – the water bath or pressure cooker.
- Refer to the USDA Guide to Home Canning for how long different foods should be processed.
- Use your jar lifter to handle the jars as you take them out and place them in a towel. You can now leave the jars for up to a day. Check that the jars have been sufficiently sealed.
How To Tell If Your Jars Are Properly Sealed?
After learning how to prepare and process canned food, the last thing you need to do is check that the goods are properly sealed. If it isn’t, then this can lead to bacteria getting in and cause the food to spoil. Once you remove the jars from the water bath or pressure cooker, the jars will be very hot so handle with care.
Leave the jars to cool overnight and check on them in 24 hours. Then you can run your finger along the top of the jar, feeling for the button in the center. If it is sealed properly, the button should dip in the middle.
If you can feel that the button isn’t dipping inward, or you can press it, then you know that the jar hasn’t been sealed properly. You will need to reprocess your jar and dispose of the lid. Unfortunately, the lids can only be used once, and then they will not be able to be sealed again.
How To Store Freshly Canned Food?
Most of your canned food is going to last for 12-18 months as long as you have prepared it properly. To ensure it remains fresh for longer, you will need to store it properly as well. You will need to store your canned food in a cool and dry area with temperatures that are below 85 F (29°C), with the ideal range being between 50 F (10°C) and 70 F (21°C).
You should label your jars so that you can remember the date when you canned them. This will help you to know if they are approaching the expiry date. It may be the case that your canned foods will last longer than 12-18 months, but it’s best to use them before this. Be sure to rotate your stock if you end up canning more produce, moving the newest jars to the back of the cupboard.
Be mindful of the area in which you store your jars. They should not be stored near anything that can give off heat, particularly in the winter. Things like furnaces, boilers, and hot pipes can cause the contents of your jars to heat up and spoil. You should also check the area for dampness as this can lead to corrosion and break the seals of the jars.
How To Tell If Your Food Has Spoiled?
Spoiled food should have plenty of telltale signs before you try them. The good news about canning your own food is that the glass preserving jars will be clear. That means the first test you do is to check the coloration of the food. Check if any amount of the food appears dry at the top of the jar.
If there are air bubbles, this could be a sign of contamination. Check the top of the lid for the quality of the seal. If the lid concaves in the center, then this is a sign of a good seal. The next test you can do is the smell. If the food has gone off, then it will smell rotten, and you will know to discard the contents.
If the food has been contaminated, then there will be mold growing on it, which has a distinct look and smell. Mold is typically a mix of blue, black, white, and green with cotton, furry-like texture. If any amount of the food is moldy, the whole thing should be discarded.
Discard the spoiled food carefully to ensure that no one gets ill from it. You will then need to treat the container to make sure it can be used again in the future. Boil the jar for about 30 minutes to get rid of any remnants of mold. You should also get rid of anything you used to clean the jar with, such as clothes and sponges.
What Are The Disadvantages of Canning Food?
Getting into food preservation can be quite costly at the start as you will need to invest in jars. While growing and canning your own food can be extremely rewarding, it can be quite time-consuming as well. You will need to follow the instructions for growing your own food as well as the different instructions for preservation.
Canned food can lose some of its flavors, so often it does not taste as good as fresh food. Some of the nutritional value is lost during the canning process as well. The glass jars can break, especially during the boiling water bath or pressure canning process. If the seals aren’t completely airtight during this process, they can break and lead to spoilage.
Although the money you may invest in getting started with canning may be quite high, there are savings to be made over time as you will buy less produce from the grocery store. Canning is an excellent way to reduce waste and keep the food pantry stocked.