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Jun 14, 2011 07:48 AM

Thinking about trying canning at home?

I have always been curious about canning my own fruits at home. Is it easy and are there any drawbacks? I'm concerned that if I don't do it right I will get sick. Thanks

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  1. A couple of years ago was my first wade-in to canning. I had the same thoughts that you are having. I had a picture in my head that it's really difficult, time consuming, requires a lot of extra equipment (I have a small kitchen), and the chances of me making someone sick were high. Turns out I was wrong on all those counts. It just took some planning, some reading, and a lot of help here on CH.

    First, I'd say get yourself a good book (even from the library), like the Ball Blue Book or even the smaller journal-type Ball Blue Book -- anything that has a really good section explaining canning, its requirements, how it works, and step by step instructions. That was the biggest hurdle for me - having and understanding all the instructions first (especially if you want to do whole fruit). It's not like cooking a regular recipe where you can say "Oh I forgot to add the xyz; I better chop it now." Second, decide what equipment you need to have -- what you can do with what you already own and what you'll need to buy. You need to have everything handy once you start.

    I actually find (now) that it isn't as hard as I thought at all. It is still time consuming though (preparing the fruit, bringing water to boil and all that). It's just a matter of knowing the steps. And I think if you are sticking (especially at first) to high acid items like fruit, jam, and pickles, you are on better footing for the never-make-anyone-sick thing. As long as you follow all the basic canning rules outlined in something like the Ball book or the usda website.

    The drawbacks? Hmmm, well, I guess you have to set aside a portion of your day to do a batch. It's not like you can whip it off in an hour (or at least I can't). To me the biggest drawback (and it's not really all that) has been that the best fruit I want to do is during the hottest parts of the summer. So I'm in my little kitchen with multiple boiling pots going and I'm sweating up a storm! But you know what? When I open that glorious can of, say, tomatoes or spiced peaches in the middle of January, then none of that matters!!

    Good luck. Oh, and there are lots of threads about canning here on CH - both with process questions and with recipes.

    1. java--last year I bought Darina Allen's Forgotten Skills of Cooking, and the chapter on preserving had me thinking that maybe I should try canning. I had not considered canning previously--just wasn't my thing and I was more interested in other culinary pursuits. But there was a recipe for mustard fruits (a type of preserve) that really intrigued me. The more I read about it/thought about it, the more I thought about trying it. So, I finally decided to do it! I bought the Ball Blue Book (the magazine-sized volume, about 7 bucks), read up on canning, bought a water bath canner, accessories, and some jars. I decided to start with zucchini relish--link to my thread from last year:

      And link to another canning thread of mine from last year:

      The 'hounds were great about answering my many, MANY questions! I did jams (mostly blueberry and peach variations, as they were quite good in my region last summer). And, sorry to the purists, but I did these with added pectin. Also did some other relishes, pickles (especially pickled green beans), and peach salsa. We've had a cold spring here and growth is behind schedule, but I'm looking forward to more canning of local produce once I start seeing it!

      Best advice from a still-new canner--get everything in place (mies en place). Set timers. And relish (pun intended) the experience!

      1. Check out the Chickens in the Road blog. She has a dedicated section to canning and is doing something called Blue Book project.

        1. I just found in my copy of the Joy of Cooking a whole section on canning. I'm going to check that out. Thanks!

          2 Replies
          1. re: javaandjazz

            I've also recently made the foray into canning...both water bath and pressure.

            This forum has some great advice specific to canning:

            1. re: Monch

              I learned about canning from my grandmother as a child and every spring and summer I am like a salmon who has to swim back upstream...I have to get into the kitchen and make jams, pickles, sauces, etc....I think the Joy of Cooking canning section is a great place to start. Start simple and work your way up. I think pickles are a good easy place to start. Lots of easy recipes for those on line.

              I don't know of any disadvantaged to canning, except that everyone has something that doesn't turn out right sometime. I remember a fig jam that exploded all over my pantry one year.

              One of the best advantagesis always having a quick present to give to someone on the spur of the moment. That's why i always can some of what I make in little 4 ounce jars. they make great presents.

          2. Agreed that the Ball books are an excellent resource when first learning to can. The USDA also publishes guidelines, which you can find here:
            Basically, make sure that everything is meticulously clean and that you're working with a proven recipe, and you'll be fine. Be prepared to put in a little time: we put up about 20 pounds of tomatoes last summer, and the whole process (cleaning, sterilizing, prepping tomatoes, etc.) ended up taking us about 6 hours.