This information is taken directly from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I highly recommend owning this book! *Disclaimer: I do get a small portion of the proceeds if you buy through that link! Thank you!*
Equipment You Will Need
- A Boiling-Water Canner, or a large stock pot with a lid. You can use any stock pot as long as the pot is 3 inches deeper than the height of the jars. You also need a rack that will fit inside the pot to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot. (This link also includes the canning utensils)
- Canning Utensils: Jar lifter, lid lifter, funnel, and a plastic spatula to release bubbles. I have this set, and am very happy with them.
- Canning Jars. Only use mason jars for canning. Do not reuse commercial jars, such as mayonnaise jars. Mason jars are specifically designed to withstand the heat and reprocessing use. Once you invest in the jars, you can reuse them over and over again!
- Jar Lids and Screw Bands/Rings. You must use new lids every time you can, but you can reuse the rings. Store finished jars without the rings, and you won’t have to keep buying new rings!
- Wash jars and rings in hot, soapy water.
- Place the rack in the canner, then place the jars on the rack. When using 8-oz jars or smaller, add water to the jars and the canner until it reaches the top of the jars. For pint and quart jars, add water to the jars and the canner until the jars are about 2/3 full. Cover the canner and bring the water to a simmer (180*F) over medium heat. Do not boil the jars; boiling jars, or presterilization, is unnecessary. Heat processing destroys any microorganisms, in the food and in the jars and lids. Keep jars hot until you are ready to use them. It is not recommended to heat jars in the oven because ovens can heat unevenly, and there is a risk of “cold spots” on the jar, which could cause the jar to break when hot liquid is added. (I have done this a few times and haven’t had any problems, but want to make sure you know the “proper” way to heat the jars is in hot water.)
- Prepare the lids. You can set the rings aside, they do not need to be heated or sterilized. You want the rings to be at room temperature for easy handling when you screw them on the jars! Place the lids in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a simmer (180*F) over medium heat. Do not boil. Keep lids hot until you’re ready to use them.
- Prepare your recipe. If the recipe preparation time takes more than 30 minutes, you can wait until the recipe is prepared before doing steps 2 and 3.
- Fill the jars. a) Remove jars one at a time from the canner, pouring hot water back into the canner. Place the jars on a heat-protected surface, like a wooden cutting board, a towel, or a heatproof tray. (I use a towel on my counter). b) Place funnel in jar, ladle prepared food into jar jar, leaving the amount of headspace – the space between the top of the jar and the top of the food – specified in the recipe. c) Slide a nonmetallic utensil down between the food and the inside of the jar two or three times to release the air bubbles. Failure to remove air bubbles can cause seal failure and will influence the color and storage quality of the preserved product. Adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot food and/or liquid. d) With a clean damp cloth or paper towel, wipe jar rim and threads. Particles of food that remain on the rim of the jar can prevent formation of a vacuum seal. e) Using the lid lifter, lift a hot lid from the water and place it on the jar, centering the sealing compound on the rim of the jar. f) Place a screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight. Do not use a tool or excessive force to tighten the screw bands. Over-tightening screw bands can prevent jars from venting and can lead to seal failure. g) Return jar to the rack in the hot water-filled canner. Repeat filling steps until all jars are filled.
- Heat-process the filled jars. When all of the jars are in the canner, adjust the water level in the canner so that it covers the jars by at least one inch. Cover the canner with a lid and bring water to a full rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling hard and continuously, begin counting the processing time specified in the recipe. The rapid boil must continue for the duration of the processing time.
- Cool the jars. At the end of the processing time, turn the heat off and remove the canner lid. Let the canner cool for 5 minutes. This short standing time allows the pressure inside the jars to stabilize and reduces the likelihood of liquid loss that could otherwise occur when the jars are moved. After 5 minutes, remove the jars, lifting them out of the hot water without tilting them. Don’t worry about water on the tops of the jar lids; it will evaporate during the cooling period. Don’t dry lids or jars at this point. You don’t want to disturb the lids while the seal is being formed. Place jars upright on a towel in a draft-free place and let it cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours.
After the jars have cooled for 24 hours, check lids for seal. Remove the screw bands. With your fingers, press down on the center of each lid. Sealed lids will be concave (they’ll curve downward) and will show no movement when pressed. If you still uncertain of the seal, grasp the edges of the lid and lift the jar while supporting the jar with your other hand. A cooled, sealed lid will stay firmly attached to the jar, regardless of its weight. Jars that have not sealed properly must be refrigerated or reprocessed immediately. Use unsealed refrigerated product within a few days.
Storing Home-Canned Foods
Jars that have good seals need to be cleaned and labeled before storage. With a damp cloth, thoroughly wipe lids, jar threads and jar surfaces to remove any water residue or food particles. If you have hard water, you may notice a mineral reside on the jars and lids. A cloth dampened in vinegar will help remove the residue, but you will want to wipe the jars a second time with clean water. Wash screw bands, removing any food reside on the threads inside the band. Dry the bands and store them separately for your next preserving project. If desired, screw bands may be loosely reapplied to jars. Store sealed and labeled home-canned foods in a cool, dark place such as a pantry or cupboard. Basement storage is ideal, as basements usually offer cooler and more consistent temperatures. Avoid high-humidity areas, and do not store jars in areas with elevated temperatures. Arrange your jars in a manner that will allow you to use those that have been stored for the longest period first.
For best quality, use home-canned foods within 1 year. Foods stored for longer than 1 year are not necessarily bad, but the quality will be reduced.