By: Angi Cornwell
Preserving your garden produce can be simple if you have the right canning information.
One of the misconceptions about canning is that you must have a canning pot. That is not always the case. What you do need is a pot that is tall enough to hold the rack, jars, and an inch of water above or so of space where the water can boil.Any time you are using a stock pot, you need to find a small rack to drop into the bottom. I have used old canning jar rings, cake cooling rack, trivet, or a kitchen towel. You just don’t want your jars setting on the bottom of the pot.
Here are a few tools that I use when canning. You’ll need a knife and cutting board, heatproof tool for stirring. Silicone is my favorite because it can just be placed in the dishwasher. A wide mouth funnel is always good to avoid a mess, a jar lifter is the best tool to have, its designed to give you a secure grip on the jars as you move them in and out of the water.
How To Prepare Your Jars
Place your rack or whatever you are using to place your jars on, fill your pot with warm tap water, helps with heating your water faster to a boil. I only fill the pot enough just to barely cover the jars. Put a cup of white vinegar in your canning pot before you start heating.
This helps with minerals not depositing on your jars or canning pot. It does make for easier cleaning and keeps your pot in good condition.
Recently, the experts at Ball Canning announced that it’s no longer necessary to simmer lids prior to canning, as the Plastisol sealant doesn’t require softening. Instead, just make sure to wash your lids in warm, soapy water before applying them to filled jars.
How To Check That You’re Sealed
When it comes to checking to make sure your jar has sealed sometimes we miss that pinging sound that gives you confirmation that your jar has sealed. Just because you did not hear it doesn’t mean it is not sealed. Here are just a few ways to check:
Press down on the center of the lid. If it moves up or down, then no its not sealed. If its solid and concaved means you are set. You can also unscrew the band and pick up the jar with only the lid, if you have a good seal you will be able to do this with ease.
Selecting, Preparing and Canning Fruit Berries – Whole
Blackberries, blueberries, currants, dewberries, elderberries, gooseberries, huckleberries, loganberries, mulberries, raspberries.
Quantity: An average of 12 pounds is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 8 pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints. A 24-quart crate weighs 36 pounds and yields 18 to 24 quarts – an average of 1¾ pounds per quart.
Quality: Choose ripe, sweet berries with uniform color.
Procedure: Wash 1 or 2 quarts of berries at a time. Drain, cap, and stem if necessary. For gooseberries, snip off heads and tails with scissors.
Prepare and boil preferred syrup, if desired. Add ½ cup syrup, juice, or water to each clean jar.
Hot pack – For blueberries, currants, elderberries, gooseberries, and huckleberries. Heat berries in boiling water for 30 seconds and drain. Fill jars and cover with hot juice, leaving ½-inch headspace. Raw pack – Fill jars with any of the raw berries, shaking down gently while filling. Cover with hot syrup, juice, or water, leaving ½-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process.
Canning Strawberry Jam
This time of year, lots of people are making and canning strawberry jam. Though it’s a universally loved preserve, I find it to be one of the trickier jams to get right, particularly for beginning jam makers. One of the reasons that people struggle with strawberries is that the finished jam has the tendency to separate into two layers, once it has cooled in the jars.
If you are one of the ones who have struggled with this two layer* jam, worry not. It’s not a sign of danger or even that you did something wrong. It’s simply a sign that there is still some air trapped in the strawberries. They are lighter than the syrup and so rise to the tops of the jars. I find that this jam separation happens primary in recipes that call for relatively short cooking times or very large pieces of fruit that have not been given a long maceration period.
You can work to prevent this two layer effect by chopping the fruit into smaller pieces, macerating it with the sugar overnight, mashing it with a potato masher during cooking (this action is best if you’re noticing big hunks of fruit bobbing around towards the end of cooking), and even extending the cooking period a bit.
If you’ve taken these actions and you’re still noticing that your jam is separating during the cooling stage, you can gently shake the cooling jars to reintegrate the fruit and the syrup.
My preferred method of dealing with this separation is simply to tell people that I meant it to be that way and that if you want a more integrated preserve, that they should stir the fruit into the now-set jelly when they open the jars.
*This can also happen with other varieties of fruit as well, but is simply most common with strawberries.
- 2 packages (16 ounces) Strawberries
- 3 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons powdered fruit pectin
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped 1 lemon, zested and juiced
Prepare a canning pot and four half pint jars.Wash the berries. Remove hulls and dice them.Place the chopped strawberries in a large bowl. Add the sugar, pectin, and vanilla bean seeds. Stir to combine and let the strawberries and sugar sit until the berries begin to release their juice and the sugar is mostly dissolved. With ripe berries, this should only take a minute or two. Pour strawberries and all the syrup into a low, wide pan. A 7 or 8 quart pot. Add the lemon zest and juice and stir to combine.
Bring the fruit to a boil over high heat. Once it is bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-high, to ensure that it doesn’t boil over. Cook, stirring regularly, until the fruit has reduced by approximately half. When it is done, it will look thick and the color will have darkened.
If you’re uncertain about whether it is done, you can test for set by stirring your spatula through the cooking jam and then holding it up over the pan. If it is done, the droplets hanging off the spatula will be thick and viscous, like corn syrup or honey that has been stored in a cool place.
Once jam has thickened sufficiently, remove the pan from the heat. Funnel the jam into your prepared jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in your canner for 10 minutes.
When time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a towel-lined counter top. When jars are cool enough to handle, remove rings and check seals. If any jars are not sealed, store them in the fridge and use them first. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year.