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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Home Canning Essentials

Frugal Kitchens 101There are a lot of myths surrounding home canning with the two main ones being it is expensive and it isn't safe. Both of these myths are completely false! Home canning requires a minimal investment in equipment but that equipment will pay for itself the first year of canning if used properly. In fact home canning is one of the most frugal activities you can do! Home canning is completely safe if you follow the current recommended canning guidelines. That means no cutting corners on the method or processing times. All home canned foods must be processed using one of two methods depending on the acidity (pH) of the food. Low acid foods (meats, soups, vegetables, etc) must be processed in a pressure canner to ensure botulin spores are destroyed. High acid foods (fruits, jams, jellies, pickles, etc) are processed using a boiling water bath (BWB) canner.

A common question this time of year: How long do I process green beans using a BWB canner. The answer is you don't! Green beans must be processed using a pressure canner.

With this in mind there is canning essentials. These are not expensive:

  1. current issue of Ball Blue Book (BBB), use the tested, approved recipes on the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP), current issue of Bernardin's Guide to Home Preserving or their website, Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard or the recipes that came in your pressure canner manual. Both the BBB and Bernardin's will cost somewhere around $8 while the Small-Batch Preserving will cost about $20. In addition to that Bernardin has a series of small specialty booklets focusing on one topic such as tomatoes or jams and jellies. At $4 each CDN they are well worth buying!
  2. a boiling water bath canner or a large stockpot with a cake rack on the bottom and lid is necessary for processing high acid foods. If you already have a large, deep stockpot there is no need to buy a special canner. It must be deep enough to cover the jars by 1 to 2 inches. You can easily find inexpensive cake racks at the dollar stores. If you can't find one to fit, fasten a few canning jar rings together to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot.
  3. lid lifter, jar lifter, cork hot pads, timer
  4. a pressure canner for canning low acid foods. This is not a must have if you plan to only can high acid foods but it will greatly increase the variety of foods you can put up. You will want a pressure canner not pressure cooker. A pressure canner must be able to hold 4 quart jars and be able to adjusted to 5, 10 or 15 lb pressure. If you are pressed for space a pressure canner can be used as a BWB canner by leaving the lid loose with regulator off on the All American canners or by removing the gasket and leaving the regulator off on models using gaskets.
  5. mason jars - The cheapest source for these is free through freecycle followed by the resale stores and yard sales. Put the word out that you need mason jars as well. Canadian Tire's cheapest price is $6.99 for 12 - 500 ml (pint) jars with lids and rings. Smaller and larger jars generally cost more. Recycled mayo jars may be used for BWB canner only but expect more breakage. Do not use recycled mayo jars for pressure canning!
  6. lids and rings come with the new jars. Lids cannot be re-used for canning purposes but the rings can. However, lids can be re-used for dry storage, vacuum sealing and for freezer storage so keep them.
An estimated cost to start canning without a pressure canner is well under $50. You can even find kits that come with everything you need for BWB for about $25. Pick up a case or two of new jars and you are ready to go for about $39. Use a recipe from one of the websites mentioned or this blog and you will be on your way to canning all kinds of jams, jellies, pickles, fruits and wide range of condiments.

A pressure canner will set you back anywhere from about $70 to $400 depending on the make and size. With a pressure canner I advise to go a bit bigger than you think you will use because it is more cost effective to run one large load than two small loads. The 22 qt model range is the most popular size which will allow you to can 7 L (quarts) or 20 - 500 ml (pints) quite easily. Pressure canners come in two designs, one using gaskets and the exclusive metal-to-metal seal of the All American. I've used both and prefer the All American simply because there are no gaskets to replace. Despite the initial outlay costs of a pressure canner it is well worth it in any frugal kitchen!

2 food lovers commented:

cassandrasmom said...

What a great post on canning, it took some of the mystery out of it for me. Thank you

Garden Gnome said...

You're quite welcome :) I'm glad you found it interesting.