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Canning: A Beginnerā€™s Guide


Those who are new to home growing often wonder how to preserve all of the food that they grow. Of course, we can freeze fresh produce. But those with limited freezer space may soon find that they run out of room. We can also dry a range of produce for later use. But sooner or later, many gardeners will find that to prevent waste, learning more about canning is an excellent idea.


What is Canning?

Canning is a means of food preservation which involves sealing food into glass jars with airtight seals, and processing those jars to kill off harmful pathogens, keep food safe and stop it from spoiling. 

There are two main ways to can food safely – water bath canning, and pressure canning. Water bath canning is the simpler of the two, and does not require a specific pressure canning device. So this is the best option for beginners. 

If you are interested in storing food longer term in an off-grid situation, or where freezer space is limited, canning can allow you to make preserves to prevent waste from your garden and enjoy the tastes of the main harvest season throughout the year. 

When trying canning for the first time, it is very important to follow specific recipes and instructions to ensure food safety. 

While many may still process food and make jams, jellies and other preserves without canning properly, using a method of simply filling clean jars without processing, (sometimes called the 'open kettle' method) this is not recommended. Our knowledge of modern science today means that we now understand the dangers (like botulism) this can bring. 

Canning involves a process of heating after filling the jars. This process is essential if you want to can food safety. Different foods and different recipes require different processing methods and processing times.


What Produce Can Be Canned?

Canning different foods means being aware of the process required for each type. Some produce and recipes can safely be canned using a water bath for a certain period of time. Other produce must be pressure canned. 

Water bath canning is suitable for high-acid fruits. Low-acid vegetables (and meats) need pressure canning for safety. 

Some of the easiest canning recipes to start with are those that involve tomatoes, or top fruits from your garden, or berries turned into jams or jellies. But once you start looking at canning recipes you will find that there is a whole world of recipes and processes to explore.


Getting Started With Canning

To get started with water bath canning you will need:

  • A large pot (or a specific water bath canner).
  • A trivet or some other structure to keep cans off the base of the pot. 
  • Canning jars (with lids that seal) and rings. 
  • Tongs, or other tools to transfer hot jars into and out of the water bath canner. 
  • Reliable canning recipes from a trusted source. (For details on ingredients and timings.)

Learning more about home preservation is one of the best things you can do to make sure that none of what you grow in your garden goes to waste.



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