Why Should I Learn to Can?
11 Reasons to Learn to Can your Own Food
There are so many great reasons to learn to can, this blog lists a few of them!
General Information and Safety
National Centre for Home Food Preservation
This website is the best place to go for any doubts or questions you have about the canning process and safety. The NCHFP is partnered with the USDA Co-op State and Extension Service. This website is kept up to date with the current tested and recommended practices for all types of home food preservation. Included is general information about all types of canning, tested recipes and frequently asked questions. This should be your first resource to consult around safety and best practice. There is a lot of information here, so don’t be afraid to look up specific questions and review parts that are relevant to you.
The Old Farmer's Almanac: Canning for Beginners
A great general introduction to the major basics of canning. This website outlines the difference between water-bath canning and pressure canning, food acidity, important equipment, and includes some great tips. This is an easy, quick read to get you started.
Utah State University Extension: Home Canning 101 (Video)
This video from the USU Extension focuses heavily on canning safety. It is great if you are concerned about the safe canning process. This instructor explains the up-to-date recommendations from the USDA and if you are more inclined to learn from a video/audio presentation, this is a great source.
Testing Your Seal
After you have completed your canning and you have left your jars undisturbed for 12-24 hours, you may want to test your seal, if you didn’t hear a pop. Here are instructions on that from the NCHFP.
Water-Bath Canning and Pickling
Water-bath canning should be the first stop on your home food preservation journey. This type of canning is done by submerging cans in boiling water for the correct processing time to kill any bacteria and then removing to create a seal that will keep jars shelf stable. This type of canning can only be done to foods with a high acid content. These include fruits and tomatoes if you add citric acid or lemon juice. Pickle recipes are included in this as the added vinegar brine is highly acidic. Make sure you follow a science tested recipes for all canning projects. Not every canning recipe you find online is guaranteed to be safely tested. Here I have included reputable places where you can find trusted recipes, and some other helpful sites.
Altitude and Processing Times
The NCHFP has this handy chart to help you adjust processing times depending on the altitude where you are located. Make sure to check your altitude (in feet) before starting a canning project. You can use whatismyelevation.com. For example, in Peterborough the average altitude is 663ft.
You will see that processing times for pickles is quite short, which may mean this might be a great place to start!
Canning Equipment List
This short blog post by Hillsborough Homestead goes over all that you need to start water-bath canning. Most of these items are included in your basic canning kit.
Where to Find Canning Equipment
Investing in a canning kit is a good idea as it will include everything you might possibly need to can! Remember that if you can with others, you can share resources. Canadian Tire, Walmart and Amazon all have canning kits and equipment. You could also keep a look out for large canning pots at thrift stores, or if you already have a large stock pot, that will work too!
Jars can be found at any of the places above as well. Buying used jars is sometimes recommended, but make sure you check these thoroughly for any cracks before buying, as damaged jars can break during processing. Investing in new canning jars reduces the risk of wasting your goods. Different recipes will use different sizes, so make sure you consult with your recipe before buying. Remember that jars and rings can be used countless times as long as they aren’t damaged, but lids must be new for each use.
Tested Recipe Sources
You can find many reliable (and free) recipes here.
There are also a great variety of (free) recipes on this website.
USDA "Complete Guide to Home Canning" Book
This book is the go-to for up-to-date safety instructions from the USDA and science tested recipes.
Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
The Ball Blue Book is probably the most iconic preserving book of all time. It has lot of reliable recipes and instructions.
What recipe should you choose?
There are so many recipes available, it may be hard to pick what to do.
- Think about the time you have. Different canning recipes will take different amounts of time. For example, pickles have a generally shorter time allotment for canning than a homemade tomato sauce. Or canning straight tomato puree will be less involved than canning salsa. Plan your project accordingly!
- Think about the ingredients you have available. Do you have a garden with an abundance of a certain vegetable? Do you know someone who is looking to trade some veggies for some fresh baked bread? What is in season at your local farmer’s market? Are there any good deals on at the grocery store?
- Think about what you like eating. Picture yourself in the winter when your local fresh veggies are pretty much out of season. What are you going to crave during this time? Niagara peaches? Are you a pickle lover? Do you love a certain kind of jam or jelly? Make what you want to eat, or what the people around you like to eat. Remember, canned goods make great gifts.
Nourish Canning Video: Jill Bishop (Video)
This is the number one video resource you could check out. Nourish’s Community Food Cultivator, Jill Bishop, walks through how to can salsa in this video, explaining steps that can be applied to almost all canning recipes. It is highly recommended to watch someone do canning before you attempt your first canning project, if you have no prior experience. Jill explains all the steps in depth and shows you how to do go through the entire canning portion of the process.
Basics for Water-Bath Canning: NM University Extension (Video)
This video by the New Mexico University Extension gives a concise walk through of water-bath canning steps. Although they don’t walk you through canning something, all the steps are explained, and the information is very focused on USDA guidelines and safety.
Step-By-Step: Food in Jars
The Food in Jars website has some great blog posts answering specific canning questions, and this post gives a succinct written overview of the canning process. Worth the read and a good source to have on hand as a reference as you go through the process yourself.
After you have become a water-bath canning expert, pressure canning might be your next step. Pressure canning requires special equipment that allows the temperature in the jars to get high enough to make low-acidity foods safely shelf stable. These include low acidity vegetables and meats. A pressure canner is not the same as a pressure cooker. A pressure canner can be an expensive investment, but it allows for the versatility to be able to can a wide variety of goods and even whole meals like soups or stews. Pressure canning is normally recommended for people who have quite a bit of experience with the water-bath canning process, as it can be a bit trickier to figure out.
NCHFP: Pressure Canning
Here you will find a great overview of using pressure canners from the National Centre for Home Food Preservation. It goes into detail about pressure canning safety and the steps for success.
Buying a Pressure Canner
This article goes over the pros and cons of some different pressure canners to help you decide which canner is the best for you.
Before Buying a Pressure Canner, Watch This! (video)
This video gives a great overview of things you may want to consider before buying a pressure canner. A pressure canner is an investment, try watching this to see if it is right for you.
Pressure Canning for Beginners (video)
This video gives a great walk through of the pressure canner process, including a walk-through of how to can a soup recipe. Worth a watch before you try pressure canning.
Something you could do to make your canning experience better is not doing it alone! Canning together reduces the workload, allows you to pool resources, reduces second-guessing the process and is just more fun!
- Look within your social network. Ask around and see if anyone is interested in taking on a canning project with you. Then, think about the resources that everyone involved may be able to offer: Does anyone have any equipment? Who has a big enough kitchen for everyone? Does anyone have a garden with an abundance of produce? Does anyone have any canning experience already?
- Visit a canning workshop. Look into canning workshops or lessons that might be being offered, this is a great place to meet people who are also interested in canning. Nourish sometimes does these workshops, keep an eye out on the website.
- Learn and connect online. There are some great Facebook groups focused on connecting canners from all over the world. You can share your projects, ask questions to knowledgeable people, and get inspired.
Anyone on Facebook can join these groups. The information posted on these sites must comply with the NCHFP Guidelines to ensure safe practices and recommendations.
UCCE Master Food Preservers of El Dorado County
Extra Sources of Interest
Canning Culture: There is a rich history behind canning. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about canning culture and history in general, these sources might be exciting.
Preserving and Canning in Food History: BCFH
This article gives a brief overview of the history of canning processes and the development of different equipment and techniques over time.
Canning and It's Perception Across Time: Foodways in Focus
This case study examines the way a Canadian family’s relationship to the canning skill has changed overtime. It explains some possible reasons for the cultural shift away from the use of the common use of food skill, and the swing back to the rising popularity of canning in the modern day.
Home Canning: Cultural Narratives, Technological Change & the Status of Traditional Knowledge (video)
This is a recording of Dr. Danille Elise Christensen outlining her research on home canning and culture. She focuses on the connection of women’s domestic labour, women’s intergenerational knowledges and the role of patriarchy and science in canning culture.
Agency and Aesthetics in Southern Home Canning: Southern Cultures
This colourful article by Dr. Danille Elise Christensen examines home canning in the south, and the deep cultural connections and ties to this skill throughout history. It focuses on canning as a source of pride and agency within their communities, as well as a tool used to connect deeply with other people.
My Canning Project
Here is a link to a blog outlining my experience trying canning for the first time. I tell my story and offer some helpful tips based on what I learned.