The familiar sights and sounds of canning season. How they entice you to use your imagination, planning the elaborate meals to surprise your family and friends with. As you snap that bean, shuck that corn, and dice this or that, you smile that tired smile, knowing that again, your family will be fed. Thoughts of how that Amish coleslaw will make you feel spring as you open that jar on a cold winters day.......salsa? Why you make the best and you know it!
Many of us can relate to this picture, but what if you haven't canned before? Canning can cause you to sweat with dread, but oh......how nice would it be if you did!
Both methods require equipment and canning jars. A very large expense for those just starting out. However, many times you can find exactly what you need from friends or family, a local garage sale, or even an auction.
Is the bottom of the canner still flat or slightly rounded? If rounded, the canner will cause problems in canning - so don't purchase one with a rounded bottom.
Is there a good fitting lid with without broken handles? If you flip the lid over, and look at the handles where they connect to the lid, there should be a little piece of metal that locks when the pressure builds up. If this is broken or missing, don't purchase it.
Is the rubber gasket still smooth or is it cracked? Is there a pressure control included? Is there a rack for the bottom? Is there still a overpressure plug in the lid? This safety feature will release if your canner pressure gets dangerously high. This is where being able to buy replacement parts comes in to play. If you can't order the parts than don't purchase the canner. Being able to buy parts and the owner's manual can go a long way in helping you when you first start out canning and give you years of use.
To save money you can buy used jars at yard sales, in the local paper, or almost anywhere. Use caution when buying used. Run your finger around the rim of the jar, you can sometimes feel a small chip or crack that way. Look at the jar closely, you want to avoid any cracks, chips, or weakness. If the used jars include metal rings, make sure they aren't rusted or dented. It is very affordable to buy rings and lids, so buying used jars can save you a lot of money when first starting out. But check local prices first. Sometimes you can get brand new jars, lids,& rims for less than those used jars (& the replacement lids & rims). Don't use any used lids (those not in a sealed commercial box), because lids can only be used once, it is safer to buy new lids, than loose food by using one that has been used before. Once you have your jars and rims, purchasing lids from year to year is a minor expense.
Whether you are just starting out, or have been using the hot water bath method and want to start pressure canning, don't be afraid to ask questions. Many 'canning pros' love to share their experiences with others. There are hundreds of resources to help you learn. Numerous books have been written with some really nice recipes that you can use to start canning like a pro.
Consider the food you eat as a major factor in your health and wellbeing. Know that what food you prepare will be better for you and your family. Imagine, opening a jar of sweet potatoes or homemade cranberry sauce for Christmas that is without preservatives or chemicals. Just think of the peaches, so sweet in February when others can't even begin to find it at the store as is customary in our north region. How wonderful do you think your family would feel, knowing that they helped grow that green bean they are eating when snow still covers the ground. Better yet, how happy will you be knowing that you spent so much less on food this month and knowing exactly what you and your family are eating, compared to your 'pre canning' days? Don't be nervous, just take one step at a time. This would be the perfect addition for all you gardeners out there. Oh, and welcome to the wonderful world of canning!
Yes you can CAN!!