Choosing the Right Method, Jars, and Ingredients

Canning is the easiest way to make jams and pickles right in your own home. However, it’s important to preserve your garden fruits and veggies safely if you want them to be shelf-stable.

There are two techniques typically used for home canning: Boiling-Water Bath Canning and Pressure Canning.

  1. Only high-acid foods can be preserved with water bath canning.
  2. For vegetables that are low in acid, use pressure canning.

During a boiling-water bath, food is heated to 212°F, which kills many harmful microorganisms. However, the spores of one bacterium, Clostridium botulinum, survive, enabling it to grow in low-acid foods, which is why those foods need to be pressure canned. With pressure canning, the temperature of the food reaches 240°F, completely destroying all bacterial spores.

Canning Candidates

Almost any produce can be canned.

These are recommended for boiling-water bath canning:
Apples
Apricots
Berries
Cherries
Grapes
Pears
Peaches and Nectarines
Plums

These are recommended for pressure canning:
Asparagus
Beets
Carrots
Green and Dried Beans
Peas
Okra
Peppers
Potatoes
Sweet Corn

For either canning method, you will need:

Fresh produce (see recipes below for ingredients)
Wire rack or trivet
Large stockpot
Regular and wide-mouth threaded Mason jars, lids, and rings (Jars are available in ½ pint, pint, 1½ pint, quart, and ½ gallon sizes. And, yes, it’s called “canning” even though we’re using jars.)
Tongs
Jar lifter
Canning funnel

The process, step by step, is as follows:

Prep your ingredients

Wash and chop produce to be canned. Set aside (if you are making both recipes, keep ingredients separate). Measure and/or prepare remaining ingredients. Set aside.

Sterilize the jars

Place a wire rack or trivet at the bottom of a large stockpot. Fill with cold water.
Submerge the jars, lids, and rings in enough water to cover them. Bring the water to a simmer and leave for 10 minutes.
Use tongs to remove jars and place them on a clean dishtowel.

Fill the jars

Using a canning funnel, fill jars with prepped food items.
Leave “headspace” between the contents and jar rim. ( ¼ inch for jams, jellies, pickles, and relishes; ½ inch for acidic foods like tomatoes and fruit; 1 inch for low-acid vegetables like beets and carrots)
Add salt, if desired. (¼ to ½ teaspoon for pints; ½ to 1 teaspoon for quarts)
Run a hot, sterilized knife around the inside of each jar to release air pockets.
Use tongs to remove lids from the hot water and place them on the jars. Repeat with rings. Quickly screw the rings down as tightly as possible, unless you are exceptionally strong. (If rings are too tight, air cannot vent, and food could end up discolored.)

Seal the goodness

Boil the filled and lidded jars for 10 minutes to seal.
Remove jars from the water with a jar lifter.
Allow the jars to stand for 24 hours.
When they are cool, check for a slight indentation in the lid, indicating a vacuum seal.
Label and date each jar. Store in a cool, dark place.

*Jars processed this way will keep for at least a year.

Today we’re making Dilly Beans and Ginger-Pear Preserves, making good use of seasonal produce. You can can . . . it’s time to try your hand!

Dilly Beans

Ingredients:
2 pounds whole green beans, trimmed
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cloves garlic
4 heads dill
2½ cups white vinegar
¼ cup pickling salt

Instructions:
Pack the beans lengthwise into four sterilized 1-pint jars. Slice off the tops of the beans by running a sharp knife along the top of each jar, leaving ¼ inch headspace. To each jar, add ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 garlic clove, and 1 head dill.
In a saucepan, combine 2½ cups water with the vinegar and salt, and heat to boiling.
Immediately pour the liquid over the beans. Seal and process using the boiling-water bath method. (Follow the directions provided by the manufacturer of your canning jars.) Makes 4 servings.

Ginger-Pear Preserves
Ingredients:
10 pounds pears
5 pounds sugar
5 ounces ginger
5 lemons, thinly sliced

Instructions:
Peel and slice pears very thinly. Place in a large bowl. Add sugar, ginger, and lemon slices; toss well to coat. Let stand overnight.
In a large pot over low heat, cook, stirring often, about 3 hours. Spoon into hot sterilized canning jars (leaving ¼ inch headspace). Seal and process for 20 minutes. (Follow the directions provided by the manufacturer of your canning jars.) Makes approximately 20 pints.