The process of canning has been around for centuries and is still widely used today. Canning is a method of preserving food that allows you to store food contents for long periods – even several years.
Canning methods used today – i.e., the use of a two-part canning lid – dates to the early 20th century in America. While canning experienced a drop-off in popularity for many years, more and more people today desire to have greater control over the food in their homes and canning has made a nice comeback—especially this summer and fall, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For folks living in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico who grow their own produce in a garden or purchase fresh foods at farmer’s markets and supermarkets, canning is a great way to preserve an abundance of seasonal food.
Canning: How it Works
Canning involves filling a clean, glass jar with prepared food, then submerging the jar in boiling water after sealing it with a flat lid and threaded ring.
When you remove the jar from the water, the heat escapes and takes with it any air left in the jar. As the oxygen escapes, it pulls the lid down to create an airtight seal – as well as inhibiting natural spoilage of the food.
Types of Canning
There are two primary types of canning: water bath canning and pressure canning.
- Water Bath Canning
This type of canning involves a shorter process that works great for high-acid foods; the bacteria are killed by the high acidity. Fruits and juices, tomatoes, jams, jellies, salsas, pickles and relishes, are types of food ideal for water bath canning.
- Pressure Canning
Pressure canning is best for low-acidic foods – such as many vegetables, meat, poultry, and seafood – and heats contents to 240 F to eliminate the risk of bacteria. Even when mixing high-acid foods with low-acid foods, you’ll still need to use the pressure canning method for safety.
- Equipment: What You’ll Need
Your canning equipment will include a pressure canner and/or a water bath canner. A stainless steel waterbath canner is preferable if you plan to do a lot of canning.
Other things you’ll need include:
- Canning jars – Ball, Kerr, or Mason jars are of excellent quality.
- Canning funnel – This type of funnel has a large opening to fit your jars.
- Jar lifter and magnetic lid lifter – A jar lifter will help prevent burns caused by hot water.
You should also have tongs and a variety of measuring cups on hand, as well.
How it’s Done
Here’s a brief look at how the canning process works:
- Find a recipe from a reliable source and make sure to use the freshest produce you have.
- Fill your jars and pot with water. Bring the water in the pot to a boil. Meanwhile, put your jar lids in a small saucepan (with water) and bring them to a slight simmer.
- Prepare your food contents as the pot comes to a boil.
- Once the water comes to a boil, remove your jars from the pot (pouring the water back into the pot) and lay them out on a clean towel.
- Fill the jars with your food, leaving between a ¼ inch and ½ inch of room at the top of the jar.
- Apply the lids and screw the bands on the jars to keep the lids on during processing.
- Lower the jars into your canning pot and bring the water back to a boil. Set your timer – the length of the processing time will vary depending on the recipe.
- When the time is up, remove the jars and placed them back on the clean towel (you’ll hear a ping that’s the sound of the seals forming).
- Once the jars have returned to room temperature, remove the jar bands and check the seals. You can do this by grasping the lid and lifting the jar a couple of inches off the countertop.