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Canning

The proper equipment is essential for safe, successful canning. Canning equipment can be found in hardware stores and some discount and grocery stores during the canning season. 

Always use heavy saucepans and Dutch ovens when making jam and jelly mixtures. The mixture may scorch if cooked in light-weight pans.

Acidic foods, such as jams, jellies, fruits, relishes and pickles can be canned in a boiling-water or water-bath canner. Tomatoes may be canned safely in a water-bath, but you must add an acidic ingredient, such as lemon juice, to the tomato mixture. Any large pot can be used as a water-bath canner provided it has a rack, a tight-fitting lid, and is deep enough to allow one inch of water to boil briskly over the tops of the jars. Processing time depends on the food being processed and the altitude at your location.

Use a pressure canner for vegetables and other non-acidic foods. The pressure canner is a heavy pot with a rack, a tight-fitting lid that has a vent or petcock, a dial or weighted pressure gauge, and a safety fuse. Pressure canners allow foods to be heated to 240° to 250° Fahrenheit and to be held at that temperature for as long as necessary. When using pressure canners, always follow the manufacturer’s directions. As with water bath canning, processing time depends on the food being processed and the altitude at your location. 

Sterilizing Jars

Sterilize the canning jars by immersing them in boiling water for 10 minutes. Do not allow the jars to touch each other. 

Meanwhile, prepare the lids and screw bands according to the manufacturer’s directions. Heat water in the canner to boiling. 

 

Carefully remove one jar at a time from the boiling water. Place the hot jars on cloth towels to keep them from slipping on the counter while you fill them.

Equipment continued

Use only standard canning jars. These jars are tempered to withstand the heat inside the canner and their mouths are specially threaded for sealing canning lids. Mayonnaise and other commercial food jars should not be used for canning. Before you start, inspect the jars carefully and discard any with cracks or chips. You’ll also need canning lids and screw bands. Lids are designed for one-time use and are best purchased for the current canning season. Screw bands can be reused if they are not bent or rusty. 
Lid lifters are handy tools with a magnet at one end to make removing lids from boiling water easy. Jar lifters should be coated with rubber or plastic to prevent metal from touching the jars and possibly chipping them. Use the lifter to remove jars easily and safety from the water bath or pressure canner.

A wide-mouth funnel enables you to pour food into the canning jar without spilling. Use plastic ones instead of metal to avoid chipping glass jars. Use a ladle to add the food to the jars. You’ll need a clean ruler to measure the headspace between the top of the food and the rim of the jar.

Use a narrow rubber scraper to release trapped air bubbles in the jar. Gently work the utensil around the jar’s sides. You may need to add more liquid to the jar after releasing the air bubbles. Remember that it important to keep the proper headspace. (That is the space between the top of the food and the jar rim.)

A timer ensures accurate timing for cooking jams, jellies, and sauces and for the final processing time.


 
Canning Tomatoes

                           
Home-canned tomatoes bring a garden-fresh taste to soups, stews, chilis, and spaghetti sauces all year long. For each quart of canned tomatoes, you will need 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes. Choose unblemished tomatoes for canning and wash well in cold water. 
 

  • 20-24 pounds tomatoes (allow 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 pounds tomatoes per quart)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (pint jar) 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (quart jar)


Peeling Tomatoes
                           
Wash firm unblemished tomatoes. To remove the skins, dip tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds or until the skins start to split. Immediately place the tomatoes in cold water. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and core with a paring knife. If you like cut the tomatoes in half. Be sure to save any juices.

Filling jars with tomatoes
                           
Place a wide-mouth funnel in a hot, clean pint or quart canning jar. Ladle whole or halved tomatoes into the jars along with any juices from preparing the tomatoes. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to each pint jar or 2 tablespoons lemon juice to each quart jar. The lemon juice raises the acidity of the tomatoes to ensure safe canning. Add boiling water, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Sealing jars
                           
Remove the funnel; wipe the jar rim with a clean, damp towel to remove all traces of food. Food on the rim prevents a perfect seal. Position the prepared lid and screw band on the jar and tighten according to  the manufacturer's instructions. Set each jar into the canner as it is filled. The jars should not touch. Cover the canner. You will need to process the tomatoes in a boiling-water canner for 40 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts. Begin timing when the water returns to boiling.

Checking the seal
                           
When the jars have cooled, press the center of each lid to check the seal. If the dip in the lid holds, the jar is sealed. If the lid bounces up and down, the jar isn't sealed. Unsealed jars should be stored in the refrigerator and used within 3 days, or you can reprocess the tomatoes within 24 hours. Label the jars with contents and date. Your tomatoes with keep their optimum quality for 1 year.
 

Dill Pickles

Following these steps will guarantee, crisp dill pickles. For perfect pickles, choose firm cucumbers without shriveled or soft spots. For best results, cucumbers should be pickled the same day they're picked. 
 

  • 2-1/4 pounds 4-inch pickling cucumbers (about 36 cucumbers) 
  • 3-3/4 cups water 
  • 3-3/4 cups white or cider vinegar 
  • 6 tablespoons pickling salt 
  • 12 to 18 heads fresh dill or 6 to 8 tablespoons dill seed 
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seed 


Prepare cucumbers
                           
When making any kind of pickles, choose a pickling variety of cucumber. The cucumbers you enjoy in your salad do not make good quality pickles. Select cucumbers that have not been coated with wax since the brine will not penetrate the coating. Wash cucumbers thoroughly and scrub with a vegetable brush, if needed. Soil trapped on the cucumbers may be the source of bacteria that will soften the pickles. Remove stems and cut off a slice from each end. Enzymes at the blossom end of the cucumber may also cause softening.

Prepare brine
                           
Pickling brine is a mixture of water, vinegar, and pickling salt. Choose either a white or cider vinegar, although the darker cider may impart a dark color to the pickles. Always use a pickling or canning salt. Other salts may contain anti-caking agents that can cause the brine to be cloudy. Do not reduce the amount of salt or vinegar listed in the recipe. Successful results depend of correct proportions.

To prepare the brine, combine the water, vinegar, and salt in a saucepan. Heat until the mixture boils.

Filling jars and processing
                           
Pack the cleaned cucumbers loosely into hot, clean pint canning jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Measure the headspace from the top the food to the rim of the jar with a clean ruler. Add 2 to 3 heads of dill or 3 to 4 teaspoons of dill seed and 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seed to each jar. Place a wide-mouth plastic funnel in the jar and ladle the hot brine over the cucumbers. Remove the funnel. Release trapped air bubbles in the jar by gently working a narrow rubber spatula around the jar’s sides. Add additional brine, if needed, to maintain the 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe the jar rim with a clean, damp paper towel. Any food on the rim prevents a prefect seal. Position a prepared lid and screw band on the jar and tighten according to manufacturer’s directions. Place each jar into the canner as it is filled. The jars should not touch. Cover the canner. Process filled jars in the boiling water for 10 minutes. Begin counting the processing time when the water returns to boiling.

When the jars have cooled, press the center of each lid to check the seal. If the dip in the lid holds, the jar is sealed. Let jars stand 1 week before using.

Makes 6 pints

Note: If the lid bounces up and down, the jar isn’t sealed. Unsealed jars should be stored in the refrigerator and used within 3 days. Label the jars with the contents and date. Store up to 1 year in a cool, dry place.