Preserving Series: Water-Bath Canning: How To

Water Bath canning is suitable for most fruits, jams, pickles, and really anything with a PH below 4.6. It is important to not use anything other then approved sanitized canning equipment (a steam canner or inverting the jars so that they will seal are not approved methods). The reason it is so important to use the proper equipment that is well cleaned is because of food safety, namely Clostridium botulinum. This bad boy is deadly and the oxygen free environment of canned good is it’s bread and butter. If the item is not at the correct PH and the PH is above 4.6 Clostridium botulinum will thrive in those canned goods.  It is also important to never alter recipes so that the delicate balance of acidity is not disrupted.

For low-acid items (like most vegetables) it is important to use a pressure canner which reaches the temperatures necessary to kill off Clostridium botulinum. Recipes will say if they are to be water-bath canned or pressure cooked.

But with that being said don’t be afraid of canning! When it is done properly the end result is much better tasting, much better for you, and if done smart,  much cheaper then what you can get at the store. Just follow my easy instructions below!

The equipment necessary for water-bath canning are as follows:
A water-bath canner with a lid (stock-pot with a spaghetti insert works for small batches)
Metal basket insert (so jars are not resting on the pot surface -they can break this way-)
Jar-lifter
Ruler
Clean butter knife
Clean wet wash-cloth or napkin
Full-length hot pads
Proper canning jars (ball, kerr, mason, or other type jar) inspected for cracks or dents
Rust-free rings/bands
New canning lids with un-used seals (this is what preserves the food)

The steps to water bath canning are:

1. Prepare boiling water canner. Heat the jars, bands, and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2. Prepare item to be canned according to the recipe. Remove jars from water just before they are to be filled.
3. Once the item has been placed in the jars with the proper headspace, or space left at the top of the jar as identified in the recipe, make sure to remove all the air bubbles with the butter knife. Wipe the rim of the jar with the wash-cloth to remove any food debris that could prevent a seal, and center on the lid. Then apply the band until it is fingertip tight.
4. With the jar-lifter and hot pads place each of the jars into the water-bath canner. Make sure the jars are covered by one inch of water and do not start the timer until the water is boiling. Adjust the time to the altitude you are at (a quick Google search will inform you, if you are unaware of your towns altitude). Process the jars for the full length of time.
5. Remove the jars and let cool in a draft-free place for 24 hours. Check the lids for seal after 24 hours, meaning the lid should not flex up and down when the center is pressed.
6. If your jar is sealed, Congratulations you have just put up food for out of season, following in the steps of those who have lived before you, if not, some recipes say you can reprossess it again for the full amount of time. I am not comfortable with that for 2 reasons:
   1. Your food has sat out in the temperature danger zone (41 degrees to 135 degrees) for far longer then is adviseable (four to six hours is the safety time frame) unsealed.
   2. You are re-cooking your food item to death, and it will most likely taste mushy or bland because it has been over-cooked.
I advise you to just put it immediately in the refrigerator and use it within a week.

Have you water bath canned before? Feel free to leave some tips for newbies below!

From my Family, to Yours..

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