Friday, July 13, 2012

Intermediate Canning tricks

When I started learning to can, I was intimidated just by the basics: putting the lids on (did I do it right?). Boiling the water (did I do it long enough)?  Seeing whether things sealed (did the cans 'pop'?).

But as I practiced, I learned that canning food is actually surprisingly easy, especially in this internet age.  Want to can pickled zucchini?  Just type "how to can pickled zucchini" in your favorite search engine, gather your ingredients, and go. Wonder whether it's safe to can green beans?  Do a search on "how to can green beans", and discover you should pressure can them for 25 minutes, but water bath canning is not recommended.  I'm getting good at looking up recipes and canning times.

So, having graduated from Canning 101, I'm moving onto the 200-level of canning tricks.  I'm offering some of my favorite non-standard canning tips, in the fervent hope this will inspire people to share their favorite canning tips with me.   I'm on a canning roll!  I want to learn more!

Here goes, then.

Putting food into jars (from my friend Judy):  Use a cookie sheet under the jars you're filling, to catch spills.  Judy showed me that she can collect up the dribs and drabs of jam from the cookie sheet for that night's dessert.  And it makes clean-up easier.
These are jars pretending to be filled on top of a baking sheet.
Actually, they're two jars from the fridge, because they didn't seal.
But they're glad to be stunt doubles for this photo.
Rings:  Use bent hangers to hold rings.  When I'm ready to start canning, I can bring a few hangers' worth of rings upstairs and hang them off my cabinet doors for easy grabbing.

A bent hangar is great at holding rings.
More rings:  Once the jars are cool, take off the rings and wipe the threads on the jar, so you don't get mold (ewww).  This is another tip I heard from Judy, but I didn't appreciate it until I canned some peaches.  The jars sealed up just fine, but some peach juice between the jar and the ring got disgustingly moldy over the winter.  It was on the outside of the jar . . . but yuck.  Now I take the rings off, both to get at spilled food, but also to triple-check that the jars are really sealed.

Putting jars into canners:  I love this idea of the "lid flower" over at a blog named (hilarious):  The Domestically Impaired Guide to the Retro Kitchen Arts.  She suggests tying a bunch of lids together and putting them on the bottom of your canning pot, to keep the jars off the bottom.  This, I will try someday, I can tell!
I totally stole this picture from the other blog. 

Labeling the jars.  Use painter's tape to label jars (tape a large swatch down on the table and write "Strawberry Jam" over and over, then tear the tape and put it on the jars).

Storing:  The  more I do this, the happier I am that I sort my food by month, not by item.  Last April I was starting to go nuts for fresh green food, so as I pickle and can food this summer, I'm going April-heavy on the veggies now.  But the fruits and jellies are getting distributed evenly through the winter months, and the tomatoes will follow suit.
So far this year, April and May are filling up;
January and February are still deliberately sparse.
(November, December, and March are hiding out of view).  

But this fuller-picture shows how each month
had a good diversity of cans last January.
I just wanted more green veggies come April.
Purging:  An advantage of sorting by month is realizing that there is some homemade food we just won't get a chance to eat this year.  And instead of waiting until May to figure this out, I can decide at the end of each month to give unwanted food as thank you gifts.  That way, I look thoughtful, not disorganized.  Hah!  It's fun to give food because, not only are most people impressed, but also I can make corny (sorry) jokes.  Like, "You got me out of a jam, so I'm giving you some jam you can get into".  Ditto for "getting me out of a pickle".  Bad jokes, good food.
Applesauce and Salsa
with greeting cards over the metal lid
and under the ring.

Do you have any favorite canning tricks or techniques?  Share, please!

National Can it Forward Day 2012 Linky Party

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