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So many people are making mistakes when they can and preserve their food? I am one that believes it is important for us to avoid common canning mistakes to keep our home canned food safer!
Some methods of food preservation can take the form of canning, freezing, dehydrating, or fermentation. I personally use all these methods but prefer Pressure canning above all.
We work hard to grow our produce. We have and abundance of vegetables and we desire ways to keep eating them even when the gardening season is over. We also want some of our meats, soups, and gumbo’s to be ready and fresh for our family to eat. Many of us will turn to canning as the first option to preserve that fresh goodness for later use.
Home canning is so easy to learn. It does take some practice, and even some failures to really master the skill of proper canning. Keeping our food safe to eat will require us to learn the methods of preserving our food in a proper manner. Dealing with the common canning questions and issues that come up will give us the confidence needed to be a master canner.
One of the biggest problems when starting out in home canning is lack of proper canning equipment. Having the right equipment when canning food makes all the difference in our canning success.
Proper canning equipment for home canning:
Canning Lids Canning lids are a controversial subject for many people. Some are adamant that you can reuse the metal canning lids long as they are still in the same shape. Others hold to the belief that it is not safe at all to reuse a lid.
The metal, throwaway, canning lids of today are very thin. The seal on the back of the lid (the red ring) is not designed to be heated and used more than once. I for one will not reuse the metal lids for canning. The lids are so cheap I do not feel that I will be saving enough money to chance loosing even one jar of canned food. If you want to avoid throwing your used lids in the trash, consider using a hard, BPA free plastic lid that is designed to be reused such as Tattler lids.
You will also need to know how to test canning lids in home canning situations. To test canning lids in home canning for a proper seal, you will need to allow the jars to cool completely. This can take 4-8 hours. Once the jar and lid are completely cool:
Push on the center of the lid gently.
Gently pull up on the outside of the lid.
Water Bath Canner Vs. Pressure Canner
To keep our food safety in home canning, you will need to process your foods correctly. Modern methods of home canning are quite different than what Grandma used to do. Our bacteria, soils, and even some of the food is also different.
Heirloom tomatoes, for example, can vary in the amount of acid they produce. Each plant can have fruit that can vary in acid levels from vine to vine. Keeping safety practices in the forefront of your mind will be very important.
Water bath canning is for foods that are naturally high in acid, or will have acid added to them. This refers to fruits such as peaches, pears, and berries; jams, jellies, pickles, and salsas and other prepared foods that have sugar or vinegar added to them.
If you decide to use a water bath canner for tomatoes, it is often suggested that you add acid, such as lemon juice to each jar to keep the acid to a safe level. This does not change the flavor of the food at all.
A boiling water bath canner only reaches temps of 212 degrees. This is not high enough to kill botulism bacteria in low acid foods, such as meats, green beans, peas, and many other vegetables. You must use pressure canning to be safe in those situations.
Labeling your jars is very important.
Once, when I was canning fruit and pie fillings, I figured I would remember what they were and not need to label them. We moved, relocating my shelving and my food products I struggled to remember what each product was. I finally have determined what each product was and was able to place them in their proper place on my shelves.
The lesson that I learned, is to always label your jars, date them also. I date my jars so that I can use the oldest food products first. You think you may remember what’s in them, but it’s so easy to forget.
Some ideas for how to label your jars:
Storing the jars properly will also be important. Some may disagree with me, but I recommend no stacking jars on top of each other. This can cause the lid to come loose, but appear to still be sealed. Often referred to as a “false seal”, it can create mold in the food you might not even see. A false seal allows air to reach the food causing it to decay.
Keeping the ring bands on the canned jars can also cause a false seal. It is recommended to remove the ring band and not take the chance of a false seal than to keep the band on the jar. Some feel that the ring will help keep the jar sealed, but this is not true, if the jar is sealed properly it is proven safer with the lid only?
Storing the jars in a cool, dry place is also important as extreme temperature fluxuations can also cause false seals. A place where the room temperature is more constant is ideal, such as a basement, storage cellar or climate controlled room.
If you do not have a room with shelves do not stack your jars upon each other on the floor. Use jar boxes if you need the room. Store the jars under a bed or in a closet and keep them at as constant temperature as you possibly can.
When canning, you will want to use a proper canning recipe. A proper recipe is one that has been proven, follows proper canning procedures, and has proven to be safe. Grabbing a few canning guides with tried, true, tested recipes will go a long way in your home canning adventures.