Welcome to the healthy meals quicker canning challenge!
I am so excited you are here! Print off your equipment checklist here and don’t worry we will go over EVERYTHING this week: Canning Equipment Checklist-2
Gifts for my challenge takers & safety information
For those of you who haven’t started canning because you’re a little freaked out that you won’t be able to keep track of what’s happening on the stove when, I made a stove diagram that you can print off and keep right there by the stove. It shows you what pots go where, so you stay safe and sane stove-side. You’ll see it’s easier than you thought!
For those of you interested in the science behind canning, I made this acid & canning guide. It lists the pH level of produce and ingredients that you are likely to consider canning and groups them by level. All the high acid, super safe for beginners, fool proof fruit like strawberries and lemons are together, the acidic but follow-the-trusted-recipe-closely fruits and veggies like tomatoes are in another group, and the over 4.6, more alkaline, NOT safe for water bath canning all by their lonesome is in another category. So you’ll see stuff like cucumbers in this section and you and I will learn later on that you CAN can cucumbers into pickles because vinegar is SO acidic. It’s a numbers game, and if you aren’t a numbers person never fear. Just follow a trusted recipe! If this DOES interest you, download the chart here.
This challenge will be ALL about getting you set up for canning success this season and the main focus is helping you get everything you need to preserve foods with waterbath canning. Here’s the equipment checklist one more time. It will really help you get clear on what you’ll need to round up to start canning this season.
Finally, I wrote an ebook about WHY you will love canning, and why your family will love it too. Get it- for free- here 🙂
You can get ready by printing the checklists and diagrams off, but really, if you want to get excited about canning, I suggest you read the ebook. It’s short, easy reading, and it shares why in the world you’re getting yourself into this amazing hobby. My favorite essay in the ebook is about the plums I picked at my grandpa’s before he passed. I think you’ll love that one.
I’m a mom of two littles, a 4th generation rancher’s daughter, a lover of all things old fashioned, low-tech, and simple. I live in my hometown, a gorgeous rural mountain community, and I love it. I’m an English teacher too. I’ve taught high school and junior high, and now I’m at a community college which is so flexible- a must for a mom! I started blogging while my babies were napping and it snowballed into a super fun project of passion where I’m busy sharing what I’ve known all along; YOU can learn how to do all kinds of handmade and homemade things. You just need a good teacher 🙂
Thank you guys for being here! I know you are so, so busy and that is exactly why I want to teach you about canning. Canning is a MAJOR TIMESAVER, saves a ton of cash and completely eliminates the worry over what the heck is in your food…because you put the food in the jars, so you know EXACTLY what you and your family is eating. It’s a beautiful thing 🙂
Here’s some SAFETY information that I know causes a lot of worry for some beginners. I’m sharing it with you so you can rest easy knowing that we will be following rules vetted by the USDA -aka science- to ensure we stay healthy.
One way you can feel assured when you start canning as a beginner is by knowing about temperature and its role in killing the bugs that might make us sick. Note a few important temperatures below:
212 degrees F is the temperature at which high acid foods like many fruits (discussed at length in my post here) are safely canned in a water bath (boiling water + jars full of hot, delicious food). This temperature is where bacteria, yeast, and molds die inside the jars of food.
224-250 degrees F is where low acid foods (think lots of veggies and meats as mentioned here) are canned in a pressure canner (this is a big pot that has a lid that locks on and a pressure gauge- I haven’t written a post about these bad boys yet but I will soon:) safely and where all spoilers are killed inside the jars.
Adjusting for altitude: This is not as scary as it sounds. For every 1000 feet that you live (and thus are canning) above sea level, add 5 minutes to the processing time (the time the jars filled with food are in the boiling water bath).
The other element of canning safety is acid. If the last time you thought about acid it was in science class and you were holding a piece of litmus paper and a hypothesis worksheet, never fear: You simply have to follow a recipe from a trusted source.
Foods have a pH value, denoted by a number. Low numbers mean higher acid (limes are a 1.8) and higher numbers mean less acid (spinach is a 6.5). An acidic environment (inside your canning jar) prohibits the growth of spoilers, which can make us sick and can cause our hard work to be wasted. To safely water bath can, one element that must be present is a safe acid level. We preserve foods that are naturally high in acid and/or we add ingredients to our recipes to bring the acid level up. For example, strawberries are a great choice for any canner because they naturally are acidic at a 3. Strawberry jam recipes often are very, very simple because you just need sugar and the berries to reach a safe acid level.
The important number that recipe creators and curious canners need to keep in mind is 4.5. Any number higher than that and the recipe will call for something to bring the acid level up (and the number down). Green beans are a 4.6 – not acidic enough all by themselves to safely water bath can, but, what about the old fashioned favorite Dilly Bean?! They are canned safely because of the addition of vinegar (quite acidic at about 2.0-3.4 depending on variety). This is why vegetables (generally lower in acid) are often pickled in vinegar, and fruit (generally higher acid) is practically foolproof and a great starting point for a new preserver.
Tomatoes are the perfect example of this pH scale and its importance. We tend to think of tomatoes as being really acidic but they are actually at about a 4.2- 4.9, depending on all kinds of things like where they were grown and their variety. Most recipes for canning tomatoes call for either lemon juice or citric acid to be certain that the acid level is safe. Unless you are going to measure the pH level of the tomatoes you haul home from the farmer’s market, you must follow the recipe even if the tiny bit of citric acid seems unnecessary or the whole lemon you have on hand seems just as good as a jug of store bought lemon juice. Store bought lemon juice is verified to be a specific acid level. You would have no way of knowing if your whole lemon happened to be a bit less acidic than need be. Thus, it is critical to follow the recipe to maintain safety in canning.
This science lesson is applicable to a canner who might feel inclined to step out of the recipe safe-zone and into lower acid territory. One should ALWAYS follow a recipe from a trusted source when preserving food in jars. However, it is important to understand the chemistry so you make wise canning decisions.
See you in the next lesson!