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18 Tips to Make Canning Easier

Canning Tips

 

I only started canning a few years ago. My grandmothers use to “put up” all kinds of goodies and I hoped to follow in their beautiful footsteps.  I’ve made some really fabulous jams and preserves since then, but I’ve also had my share of flops. My well-intentioned Blueberry Jam comes to mind. In hindsight, I learned that blueberries are usually more suited for jelly rather than jam. The jars of thick, seedy paste that I lovingly created still sit in my pantry.

Through a lot of trial-and-error, research and friendly advice from those most experienced than I, I’ve gathered some of my most helpful tips for all canning jobs, large and small. These are all through the water bath canning “lens,” though many of them can also be applied to pressure canning. Here are my tips to make canning easier!

  1. Don’t be afraid. (start here)  I wasted many years being afraid to try. I expected that so much science, calculating and luck was required just to make jam, and I was overwhelmed. There is a little of that stuff, but jump in! It’s pretty simple.  Here’s a great chart of Canning Basics.
  2. Start with a clean, organized work space and lay out everything you’ll need before you get started. Once you’re ready to start filling jars, you don’t want to be looking for your funnel.
  3. If the spices and herbs you’re using aren’t going in the finished jar, put them in cheesecloth tied with kitchen string to make them easier to fish out.
  4. Avoid boil over by using the size of sauce pan or Dutch oven specified in the recipe, even if it seems a larger at first then you think you’ll need. Just trust me on this one.
  5. A small ceramic or stoneware baking dish is ideal for warming lids. It holds heat nicely, is wide enough to let you scatter the lids and keep them from sticking together, and is shallow enough to make fishing out the lids easy.
  6. Don’t stir jam or jelly mixtures with a whisk. It will create air bubbles that you don’t want in the finished product. Use a wooden or non-aluminum spoon.
  7. Jam and jelly making is sticky business. You’ll be stirring often so should have a clean spoon rest handy to minimize sticky stove tops and counters and avoid introducing any counter bacteria and do your fruit mixture.
  8. Always let boiled mixtures stand off the heat at least one minute before skimming. This allows the foam to rise and the food settle, making skimming easier.
  9. Use a microplane to zest citrus. It produces tiny strands that are uniform in the final product and avoids path that can turn canned goods better or cloudy.
  10. Be sure to stir after skimming, then before and between ladling into jars to ensure each jar gets an equal amount of liquids and solids.
  11. Fill jars on wax paper or parchment paper lined jelly roll pan to catch drips and make moving the jars from your workspace to the stove easier.
  12. Many preserves with added spices and herbs, and most canned pickles, taste best and achieve their best texture after 3 weeks in the jar.
  13. Having doubts about your jelly setting after you’ve canned them? Look at what’s left in the pot. Does it cling to the sides? Then it’s likely going to set.
  14. If your jelly or jam seems too thin when you check the seals, don’t fret. Some jellies take a week or more to fully set. If yours doesn’t set after 2 weeks, just call it syrup, and store it in the fridge. It will still taste great!
  15. Screw top, freezer safe plastic containers like these are good options for freezer preserves.
  16. If you freeze preserves and glass jars, be sure to thaw the frozen jars one day in the fridge before using. Don’t run a frozen jar under hot water or put it in the microwave. Frozen jars make crack with a severe
  17. Start with hot water in the canning pot to reduce the time it takes to come to a boil.
  18. If you don’t have soft water and are using hard water to sterilize and processed jars, add a 1/4 cup of vinegar for each gallon of water in the canning pot to avoid leaving a cloudy mineral deposit on the jars.
  19. Always use new canning lids purchased within the past year. Even if the package is unopened and the lids are unused, the seal can degrade over time.
  20. Save the boxes that canning jars are sold in; they come in handy when transporting canned products and storing the emptied jars for reuse.

When in doubt, I always refer to the canning bible – the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving (available on Amazon or in the Ball Store.) Tons of information can also be found on their website.

 

What are your best tips for canning?  Please share them with all of us in the Comments.