Water bath canning is the process of killing potentially harmful microorganisms through boiling. This method is also referred to as boiling water method, it is said to be the simplest and easiest method for preserving high acid foods. It destroys any active bacteria and microorganisms in your food that makes it safe for use at a later time. High acid fruits and vegetables are suitable for water bath canning because most of the present microorganisms in high acid foods are killed even through boiling only. In this process a temperature of 100 degree Celsius must be maintained to kill these microorganisms.
Here are the simple step by step directions to water bath canning;
- Arrange tools and equipment.
Canning tongs: These have a specially designed grip that will allow you to pull hot jars from boiling water without dropping them. If you use regular tongs, jars can splash into the boiling water or crash onto the floor. Hot jam travels far, as does the broken glass.
- Canning jars: Accept no substitutes. Use jars designed specifically for preserves. Often called mason jars, these glass jars come in various shapes and are made to fit canning lids and rings. As long as they remain free from chips or cracks, jars can be reused indefinitely. The lip of the jar is key to a proper seal, so discard any with imperfect rims — or use them for storing non-edibles like buttons, beads or loose change.
- Canning rings: Undamaged rings can be reused. They don’t play a role in creating the seal, so don’t go crazy and screw them on like your life depends on it. Finger-tip tight is all you need before processing the jars in boiling water.
- Canning lids: These lids have a soft rubber gasket around the rim which creates the seal. Even if the rubber looks perfect, use lids only once. It might seem like a waste, but it’s a safety issue. Besides, lids are very inexpensive and you can purchase them separately, without rings. If you hate to toss them after only one use, use them with less-than-perfect jars and old rims when storing those buttons, beads and pennies.
- Magnetic Wand: This plastic stick comes in most canning kits. It has a magnet on the end, which makes it invaluable for retrieving lids and rings from hot water without burning yourself. If you don’t have one of these, you can always heat the lids in a small pot of hot water, but who in their right mind would pass up the opportunity to use something called a wand?
Bubble Tool: This odd-shaped tool is designed to release air trapped in the jam or jelly before you process the jars. The nifty stepped edge also allows you to measure headspace. If you don’t have one of these, don’t fret. Eyeball the headspace and use a chopstick to dislodge air bubbles. Don’t use a metal skewer for this task as it can scratch the glass.
- Canning rack: A rack is important since it allows the water to circulate under the jars during processing. If you don’t have a canning rack, use a cake rack or place the jars on canning rings. I found the rings moved about a bit but they work in a pinch
- Heavy-Bottomed, Non-Reactive Pot: I use a stainless-steel pot designed specifically for preserves. It has a narrow bottom that concentrates the heat and a wide top that allows the jam or jelly to boil down more quickly. This pot isn’t cheap but is worth the money if you put up a lot of preserves. Otherwise, a Dutch oven is perfect for cooking up small-batch preserves. Just be sure it’s non-reactive and has a heavy bottom. Stainless steel is the best material since it’s non-reactive and can take the high heat. Enameled pots are fine, but avoid aluminum (which is reactive) or glass (which can break).
- Tall pot with lid:You’ll need this for processing the filled jars. I use a tall stockpot but if you’re using short jars (125 mL or 1/2 cup), a Dutch oven might be tall enough. Either way, the pot should be at least 3 inches taller than your jars and wide enough that the jars don’t touch. This space allows the water to circulate and ensures the jars don’t rattle together when the water reaches a full, rolling boil.
- Funnel: It’s not necessary but it does prevent spills. A wide-mouth funnel is best for preserves. Silicon ones are popular and are often sold for canning, but I use a stainless-steel canning funnel equipped with a removable narrow spout. Its versatile design makes it useful for both wide and narrow jars — whether or not you’re making preserves.
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- Ladle with a spout: Again, stainless steel is my material of choice. If your ladle doesn’t have a spout let the funnel catch the spills.
- Candy thermometer:This is handy for determining when jam is set, especially if you’re new to preserving. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, don’t worry, they can be found at most stores or even online and can be purchased relatively cheap.
Fill your water canner about two-thirds full of water then put on the stove and heat it up.
- Dip canning jars and lids in hot water.
- Move prepared foods into the hot canning jars and remove air bubbles with the bubbler tool or a rubber spatula.
- Wipe the canning jar rims with a clean cloth.
- Place a lid onto each jar and hand-tighten the bands.
- Arrange rack inside your water bath canner and place filled jars in rack then lower it into hot water.
- Cover and wait till water boils, reducing heat and maintaining boil.
- After processing time, remove jars from the canner with a jar lifter and allow them to cool.
Test the seals on jars by pushing the center of the lid, if sealed properly the lids will be firm and not give.
- Label canning jars such as the date processed and contents, and store them in a cool, dark, dry place.
Water bath canning is ideal to do at home and may be a good source of income too. Start canning now and produce high quality canned products to help in providing healthy eating foods.