12 October 2012

Canning: For Beginners

If you are new to canning and not sure if it's your cup of tea, I'd recommend picking up a couple essential tools and try a simple jelly. No need to make a big purchase. I found some ideas on how to make your own tools, but I highly recommend purchasing or borrowing a jar lifter. They run about $4 new, so it's not a big investment. Some sort of rack is essential, but everything else is optional. Ball even has a “Discovering Canning Kit” if you want a no-brainer option. You can find secondhand jars through thrift stores, yard sales, and craigslist. (Availability tends to be better during the winter and beginning of spring.) You must use mason jars; others will break. New lids must be used every time, but rings are reusable. New jars come with lids and rings, and run no more than $10 for a dozen, depending on the size.
A couple definitions: headspace refers to the distance from the rim of the jar to the food. Processing time begins when the water has reached a full, rolling boil, or when the correct pounds of pressure is reached if pressure canning. Pectin comes either powdered or liquid, and they are not interchangeable. They can be found by the canning supplies or in the baking aisle, along with flour and sugar. The general expiration for home-canned goods is one year.
I have used this fruit juice jelly recipe several times to make cranberry, grape, and apple jellies. (I bet adding a stick of cinnamon to apple would be great this time of year!) If you enjoy breakfast or a PB&J, then it will go fast, and it is very simple to make.

4 cups unsweetened juice (cranberry, apple, grape, orange, or a combination)
¼ cup lemon juice
1 1.75oz powdered fruit pectin
4 ½ cups sugar

  1. Combine juices and pectin in a pot. Let stand for 2 minutes, then stir to dissolve.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring frequently.
  3. Add sugar and return to a rolling boil, stirring often.
  4. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  5. Remove from heat. Skim off foam with a spoon.
  6. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars. Leave ¼ inch headspace.
  7. Top with lids and rings. Process for 5 minutes.
  8. Carefully remove from pot and let cool. (Use a cooling rack or place a towel on the counter to avoid heat shock.) Label and store in a dark, cool place.
Cranberry & Grape Jellies

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