Before you Begin
Canning is quite a bit different from ordinary cooking. When you cook, you can follow a recipe. Or, you can be adventuresome and add or leave out ingredients as you see fit. Maybe today you’re feeling extra “garlic-y.” Or, perhaps you’d like to toss a handful of nuts into that banana bread. Go right ahead, no problem.
But when you’re canning, experimentation can be downright dangerous. Time and temperatures have been worked out very carefully and must be followed to the letter. Too little time or too low a temperature means you’re not protecting the food against bacteria, enzymes, molds, and yeasts. Too much time or too high temperatures can result in needlessly destroying nutrients in the food and damaging its taste.
So, always follow directions and recipes precisely. Don’t improvise, compromise or try to be creative. Botulism and other food poisoning is very serious. Be sure to protect yourself and your family while you enjoy fresh, wholesome canned food. Play it safe and take all the proper precautions. Remember, canning is like anything else: It gets easier every time!
An Important Checklist
Make sure you’re totally ready to get started by following a few simple preparations:
- INSPECT YOUR JARS. All jars should be free of cracks or nicks in the rims. If any are damaged, don’t use them because they can cause food to spoil. Also, be sure you have enough jars for the task at hand.
- CHECK JAR TOPS. If you’re using the two-piece vacuum caps and lids, make sure you have enough, that they’re all new and rust-free, and that the screw bands are also rust-free. Make similar checks with other types of lids.
- USE COMPLETELY CLEAN EQUIPMENT. If you’re pressure canning, check the gauge on your pressure canner to be sure it’s functioning properly.
- WASH AND RINSE JARS THOROUGHLY. Use dish detergent, rinse well. Set jars in clean, hot water until used. If using dishwasher, keep jars in dishwasher until ready to use.
- MAKE SURE LIDS AND BANDS ARE CLEAN. Follow manufacturer’s instructions. Zinc caps should be boiled for at least 15 minutes, washed with detergent, then rinsed and kept in hot water until used. Glass lids used with jars with wire bails should be prepared the same way.
- REMOVE BLEMISHES FROM PRODUCE. Cut out any dark spots, whatever is discolored or doesn’t look right and fresh.
- SCRUB PRODUCE. Thoroughly wash and rinse produce.
- HAVE ENOUGH ROOM TO WORK. Crowding can cause spillage, breakage, etc.
Everything checked out, clean and fresh? Now you’re ready to begin!