Back in Rosie’s day home canning made food stretch further and helped save money. This is also true today. Whether it’s fresh fruit grown in your home garden or on sale at your local supermarket, home canning can be a lot of fun, as well as a nice family activity.
Home canning may seem mysterious or intimidating at first, but there really isn’t much to it. You’ll need to invest in a few basic supplies to get started; a canner, which is a large, oversized stockpot with a special rack inside, a jar lifter, and a set of mason jars, all of which can be found at Ace Hardware. You’ll also need some canning pectin, which is available at your local supermarket. From there you simply follow the recipes inside the pectin box. Here’s how I do it.
Start with the prep work
I begin by filling my canner with water, placing the rack inside, and turning the burner on medium-high. (If for some reason your canner does not have a rack, place a folded tea towel on the bottom of the canner before filling it.) The canner uses a lot of water, and it may take as long as forty-five minutes, perhaps longer, before it reaches the boiling point. You’ll need to fill your canner with enough water to cover the tops of your jars by at least one inch. Water gets heavy, so I use a pitcher to fill mine.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and wash your jars, caps and rings. Place the jars on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven. Drop the caps and rings in a saucepan filled with water. Heat the water until it begins to boil, and then turn the heat down to low.
Prepare the fruit
Prepare your fruit as directed by the recipes inside the pectin box. Do not deviate from the recipes. Once you’ve filled your jars, wipe away any excess that may have dripped on the top of the jar. Place a cap on the top and make sure the ring secure. Then, once the water in the canner has begun to boil, gently place the jar inside the canner with the jar lifter. Make sure your rack is on the bottom of the canner and never place a jar directly on the bottom of the canner. Cover and boil the cans for the time stated in the recipe.
Once you’ve finished cooking your jars carefully remove them from the canner using the jar lifter, and set them on a dish towel. As your jars begin to cool you’ll hear popping sounds. This means the caps are sealing. To test the caps once they’ve cooled press your finger down on the center. If the cap doesn’t move it’s sealed. However, if the cap should move it means it didn’t seal properly. Sometimes this happens, and if it does simply place the jar in the refrigerator once it’s completely cooled and use the contents promptly.
DO NOT try to lift the canner until it has completely cooled. A full canner will be extremely heavy, so you may need to bail out some of the water with a pitcher before lifting.
And, finally, the rings and mason jars are reusable, so be sure to hang onto them once the jar is empty. The only thing that needs to be replaced are the caps.