What is Home Canning? Why Do People Can Food?Canning is a method of food preservation. If you’ve ever grown vegetables in your garden and had a plentiful harvest, you may find yourself with more than you can eat! Canning fruits, vegetables, and other recipes allows you to preserve these foods for a longer time so they do not go to waste. The process of canning is relatively simple. There are many different methods for canning, but the most basic concept is that you place items in a jar, and then you heat it up to a certain temperature. This process of heating the jars creates an air tight seal. Without air, the foods are able to stay edible for a much longer time. There are two main types of canning: canning with a water bath canner and canning with a home pressure canner. Each one has different uses, and we’ll explain more about these differences later in this post. Home canning dates back all the way to the late 1700’s. There was a great demand for being able to lengthen the shelf life of foods. The process of canning we use today in our own homes comes from the techniques developed by French cook Nicolas Appert. Known as the “father of canning”, he developed a method of packing the food into jars, sealing them, and then boiling the jars. He was very successful with this process. Before long it became widespread as a way to preserve food.
How Canning WorksThe basics of canning are quite simple. You start with clean jars, and place the foods you wish to preserve inside. You seal the jars using lids, and then you apply heat to the jar using either a water bath canner or a pressure cooker. When the foods are canned, it provides an air tight seal to prevent air from coming in contact with the food. The heating process also successfully kills any bacteria that may be present which could cause food to spoil. Different types of foods require different canning processes. What may work for fruits, jams and jellies may not always work for vegetables or meats. There’s a bit of science involved, because it relates to whether or not the foods are acidic and what temperature is necessary to preserve the food. Acidic foods such as fruits or pickled items are naturally not a good home for bacteria, and so you do not absolutely need extreme temperatures necessary to preserve the food safely. For these items, many people use what is called a water bath canner, as it boils the water to the right temperature of 212 degrees F. This is a very good way for canning beginners to get started! However, when you are canning foods such as vegetables or meats, these are more inviting to bacteria. In this case, it is necessary to get the temperatures much hotter. For vegetables and meats, a pressure canner is necessary to be able to safely can these items.
The Two Types of Canners and How to Know Which One to UseThere are basically two types of canners used in making your own home preserves. The first type is a water bath canner. The second type is a pressure canner. Many people use both. The important thing is to know which one is used for what!
Water Bath Canner: Canning With Boiling WaterWater bath canners are sometimes also called boiling water canners, because it works by boiling water. They are relatively inexpensive and a great way to get started with canning. A water bath canner can only be used for foods which are acidic in nature. In most cases, this is any type of fruit that is sweetened with sugar. Most jams, jellies and fruit based sauces will fall into this category. Other foods that are acidic are salsas and pickled items, since vinegar is a key ingredient and vinegar is quite acidic. Many boiling water canner recipes will call for the addiction of citric acid or lemon juice to ensure the proper amount of acidity. Do not skip these ingredients if a recipe calls for these things! Important! There are some things you should NEVER can in a water bath canner. These items would be most vegetables, unless pickled in vinegar first, and anything that contains dairy or meat. So for example, if you are making a meat based tomato sauce, that would need to be canned in a pressure canner. If you were canning a cream sauce or soup, this would also need to be preserved in a pressure canner.
Pressure Canner for Vegetables and MeatsA pressure canner is what you will need if you plan on canning any types of vegetables, meats, dairy and other foods which are not naturally acidic. This is required because the pressure canner is able to achieve higher temperatures than a water bath canner. A water bath canner can only achieve temperatures up to 212 degrees, which is the temperature of boiling water. However, many types of foods require a temperature of 240 degrees F. If a recipe requires you use a pressure canner, it is for a very important reason! The high temperature of 240 degrees will kill any potential bacteria that could cause the food to spoil.
Which Canner Should I Get?The best type of canner to get depends on what types of foods you grow and wish to preserve. If you know you will only be making highly acidic foods that do not contain meat, a water bath canner is probably sufficient. However, many people choose to use a pressure canner simply because it works for everything. You can use it to preserve everything that you would make with a water bath canner and more. Soups, sauces, vegetables – you name it!
Here are two popular canners that are great for beginners:
This water bath canner is an excellent choice for beginners, best for jams, jellies, pickles and other acidic foods. This set also includes all of the necessary tools and accessories to start canning right away.
Many people choose to start out with a water bath canner because it is less expensive to get started. Once they start canning regularly then they decide to invest in the pressure canner, especially as they begin to explore new recipes. For many of us, having both is ideal. This way you can increase your productivity and can multiple items at once. Of course, if you start with a pressure canner, that gives you even more options on what types of foods to can!