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If you are new to home canning, here are some tips to help get you started. This article does not cover all the steps in the canning process, but is meant to give you a head start while you learn about home canning.
There are two main ways to can food depending on if the food is high or low acid. High and low acid foods need to be canned differently to prevent harmful bacteria from growing.
*Note: When tomatoes are being prepared for canning, an acid (such as vinegar) must be added to them to make them safer for preserving.
A boiling-water canner is a large pot made of aluminum or porcelain covered steel. It comes with removable racks (for resting the jars) and a fitted lid. You can make your own boiling water canner or purchase one.
To make your own: You will need a deep pot with a tight fitting lid. The pot should be able to hold the canning jars with extra space for 3-5 centimetres (1-2 inches) of water. A cake rack can be used for resting the jars on the bottom of the pot.
A pressure canner is an aluminum pot with a locking lid. It comes with a jar rack, pressure gauge and a steam vent. The pressure creates steam that raises the temperature of the pot so that low acid foods can be preserved safely.
Follow the instruction manual that comes with your pressure canner. The pressure gauge must be checked every year to make sure that the canner is working at the right pressure. Pressure canners are not the same as pressure cookers.
Note: Some older canning practices are no longer thought to be safe.
Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation for tested recipes. Tested recipes have the right amount of acid and moisture to keep your foods safe.
Never change a recipe in any way such as:
This can make it easier for bacteria to grow and make your food unsafe to eat.
You will need:
Always follow the recipe instructions. Boiling time depends on many factors such as the type and quantity of food, the canning method, the size of jars, and even the altitude.
Let the jars cool for 24 hours. Remove the metal screw bands on the jars and try these tests:
If the jar has not sealed properly, you can:
Find out more about cooling jars and testing seals.
Canned foods can be stored for one year. Store canned food in a clean, cool (between 50-70°F or 10-20°C) dark, dry place. Label and date canned food with a “use by” date (one year from when you canned it).
If your food has foamed, smells “bad” while cooking, or the container has a bulging lid, throw it out right away. Wash your hands, equipment, utensils and work surfaces with warm soapy water.
If your jar has an unsealed lid, throw it out. The toxin that causes botulism (severe food poisoning) will not change the colour, taste or smell of food.
If you are new to canning or have not canned in a long time, try taking a canning course or canning with someone who does it frequently.
Preserving Food at Home: A Self-Study (Free online course), National Centre for Home Food Preservation
How do I can? National Centre for Home Food Preservation
Guiding Principles of Home Canning, United States Department of Agriculture
What You Should Know if Your Home Canning, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs
Introduction to home canning
Home Canning: How to Avoid Botulism, BC Health Guide Program
Home canning safety, Government of Canada
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