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Canning: I'm new and looking for information.

Hi. I've been cooking for most of my life, but have never tried canning. I've read about it, and watched countless cooking shows that talk about it. I like trying new things and always wanted to try my hand at "putting up" some of my favorite things. Preserved fruits and things of that nature are pretty easy to find information on, but what I'm looking for is a good reference guide for all sorts of canning and preserving. Something that gives me just the information I need to know to do successful canning projects.

I'm infamous for biting off way more than I can chew with these projects, but my goal is to eventually be able to have the freedom to can a few of my favorite recipes. For instance, I have an awesome recipe for baked beans from scratch. I'm sort of strict with my method, but not as strict with the full list of ingredients. But one down side to my method is that one recipe is enough to feed like 20 people. I always need to have a special occasion, or freeze more than half the recipe. But I hate freezing them because they get ruined. I'd much rather be able to make the recipe, and then can some of it! That way I'd have my home-made beans, at-the-ready, for months :).

I understand enough about food preservation to understand that there are plenty of sugars and a bit of salt in my beans to keep them from spoiling for a little longer, even just under refrigeration. But there's also a bit of fat, and along with spoilage, I'm concerned about how well the food will hold up physically over time (will it separate, will it turn to mush)... So yeah, I pretty much know nothing.

My own canned baked beans is just one of my goals. I'm always thinking of things that would be nice to keep stored up. I love learning, but I do NOT want a novel to read. Canning isn't simple, but I'm sure it doesn't have to be as complicated as learning a language or something. I'd much rather have something that was sort of like a field guide. Something where I could read through the basics and then look up methods and rules for specific types of canning as I needed them. I don't need to read about someone's individual adventures in canning, or like the history of canning in France. That might be interesting on some level, but I am looking for organized, concentrated information, not entertainment.

Thank you for any help!

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  1. I suggest you start with the Ball Blue Book.

    1 Reply
    1. re: GH1618

      I agree. It is magazine-sized, pretty cheap (~$7-8), and divided into chapters that will address your questions, as well as having a comprehensive sections on equipment and processing. Since you are interested in canning baked beans, you would want to read the section on low-acid foods and pressure canning.

    2. And here is a link to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the best introduction to canning on the web, plus a link to the Ball website:

      http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/pub...
      http://www.freshpreserving.com/home.aspx

      1. I second the National Center for Home Food Preservation link above

        Also the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Putting Food By is also good and they come out with new editions, so buy the latest one as it's the most up to date on canning science.

        1. as well as the Ball/Kerr website: www.freshpreserving.com -- where you can buy your copy of the Blue Book, should you not be able to find it at a Target, Walmart, farm store, or hardware store near you (hardware and farm stores in rural areas frequently carry the books, as well as lots of supplies

          )

          Check with your county extension service -- they probably offer classes, and over-the phone assistance.

          Canning beans will require a pressure canner -- a big and fairly expensive piece of equipment -- it's definitely an investment. (Some county extensions even have industrial kitchens with heavy-duty equipment that you can use for a nominal fee -- you take your produce and your jars, and use the county kitchens and equipment at their site)

          You might want to start with tomatoes, salsa, etc -- high-acid recipes that can be water-bath canned, only because then you can get used to the methods, sanitation, etc., without sinking a huge amount of money.

          Canning isn't difficult, but you simply must follow the health and safety procedures to a T, and the books and websites referenced here will teach you all the necessary steps.

          1 Reply
          1. By the way, as sunshine842 wrote, baked beans require pressure canning. That,s the first choice you need to make: will you require a pressure canner, which is a lot more expensive than an unpressurized water bath canner.

            1. You can get a 23 quest Presto pressure canning on Amazon for about 80 bucks and they work perfectly fine. It is not require a huge investment to get into pressure canning. I think it's one of the cheapest investments I've made in cooking. And you can water bath can it in it also. Although I don't because I already had a 20 quart stockpot I use for that.

              3 Replies
              1. re: rasputina

                Haha... well, seeing as the most expensive items in my kitchen either came with the kitchen, or (like my mixer) were gifts, and $80 item that I might (and only might) use once a year or so just isn't exactly an investment to me. I wouldn't say that I'm always frugal, but when I spend more than $10 on something, it's because I'm going to use it quite often, and I couldn't find something less expensive that does a better job (for instance, my one and only high-carbon chef's knife).

                1. re: sarginitial

                  Perhaps you could borrow a pressure canner if the baked beans are the only item you would need it for? My area has some Meetup groups which are very DYI oriented. That could be a way to meet some experienced canners in your area.

                  I'm pretty visual so I found taking a series of canning classes got me much more comfortable about than process than just reading. Once I had that under my belt I was able to broaden my skills through the various references already mentioned. The National Center for Food Preservation does have some videos on line which are helpful.

                  1. re: sarginitial

                    that was why I suggested contacting your local extension service to see if they have equipment you can use -- I don't pressure can because I really, REALLY don't want to have to find a place to store a very limited-use item the rest of the year. (because space is an investment, too -- and it's bad enough trying to find a place to keep the empty jars until I have time and produce to refill them!)

                2. There's another thread in this forum on canning hummus. How are your frozen baked beans "ruined"? The texture? Because pressure canning will probably affect that as well.

                  The Ball Blue Book is a must-read if you're new to canning. It does require an investment in equipment: most vegetables require pressure canning, so a pressure cooker is a must, as well as jars, lids and rings. The good news is that everything except the lids (about $0.10 each) are reusable. I rarely can anything other than stock, and I think it's worth the investment.

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: tardigrade

                      The texture is one of my concerns when canning, but the only thing that the heat of canning will do is cook them further. My beans take about 7 hours to cook fully, but I usually shut them off before that because I'm making them ahead of time and when I reheat them, they'll finish cooking. So I don't think that the canning process will affect the texture that much.

                      Freezing on the other hand turns the sauce into a soupy mess, and the beans texture suffer as well.