Just like in Rosie's day, home canning can help save money and make food stretch further. Whether it's fresh fruit grown in your home garden or on sale at your local supermarket, home canning can be a lot of fun, as well as a nice family activity.
Home canning may seem mysterious or intimidating at first, but there really isn't that much to it. You'll first need to invest in a few basic supplies to get started; a canner, which is a large, oversized stockpot with a special rack inside, a jar lifter, and a set of mason jars, all of which can be found at Ace Hardware. You'll also need some canning pectin, which is available at your local supermarket, and you follow the recipes inside the pectin box. Here's how I do it.
- I begin by filling my canner with water, placing the rack inside, and turning the burner on medium-high. (If for some reason your canner does not have a rack, place a folded tea towel on the bottom of the canner before filling it with water.) The canner uses a lot of water, and it may take as long as forty-five minutes to an hour, perhaps longer, before it reaches the boiling point. You'll need to fill your canner with enough water to cover the tops of your jars by at least one inch. Water gets heavy, so I use a pitcher to fill mine.
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash your jars, caps and rings. Place the jars on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven, and drop the caps and rings in a saucepan filled with water. Heat the water until it begins to boil, and then turn the heat down to low.
- Prepare your fruit as directed by the recipes inside the pectin box. Do not deviate from the recipe. Once you've filled your jars wipe away any excess that may have dripped on the top of the jar. Place a cap on the top and make sure the ring secure. Then, using the jar lifter, gently place the jar inside the canner, once the water has begun to boil. Once all the jars are filled and inside the canner, cover it with the lid. Make sure your rack is on the bottom of the canner and never place a jar directly on the bottom of the canner. I leave my cans in the canner for thirty minutes and do not lift the lid during the cooking process.
- Once you've finished cooking your jars carefully remove them from the canner using the jar lifter. As your jars begin to cool you'll hear popping sounds. That means the caps are sealing. To test the caps press your finger down on the center. If the cap doesn't move then it's sealed. But if the cap does move it means that for some reason it didn't seal properly. It happens, so simply place the jar in the refrigerator once it's completely cooled and use the contents promptly.
- DO NOT try to lift the canner until it has completely cooled. A full canner will be extremely heavy, so you may need to bail out some of the water with a pitcher before lifting.
There are plenty of videos on YouTube that can give you a crash course in home canning. Your community college or other community centers may also offer canning classes.