Tag Archives: canning advice

Lessons Learned from a Novice Canner

7 Dec

10 Canning Tips

Before we had a garden, I never canned anything. It looked scary and complicated and I wasn’t going to go there. But, once we planted our first garden in 2014, it became quickly apparent that my “waste-not, want-not ways” would force me to take on some canning. Thankfully I had my farm wife mentor, Melinda, on hand to help me and I got great advice and recipes from my Aunt Mary and Tyler’s Aunt Debby.

Tips from a Novice Canner

Now with two canning seasons under my belt, I can proudly say, I’ve become a canner! If you’re scared to get started, let me give you my best advice and encouragement. It really is wonderful, gives you a great sense of accomplishment, and saves you room in the freezer. And, it’s not as scary as it looks. I promise!

  1. Start small. One of the biggest mistakes I made was overwhelming myself with too many projects. Take on one recipe at a time and try doing a couple of batches at first. Don’t try to be like the woman down the street who has been canning for 50 years and can whip out 100 quarts of pickles in one afternoon. You’re a beginner and it’s okay to be proud of your 10 quarts of pickles!
  2. Get equipped.  Get all your materials and supplies ahead of time. Make sure to read the instructions/recipe thoroughly to make sure you have everything you’ll need. Nothing is more frustrating when you’re canning than to realize you are missing a key tool or ingredient while you’re in the middle of a batch.
  3. Read up on the general process. Most water-bath canning involves the same general steps. Familiarize yourself with the process so you feel comfortable and don’t miss a vital step.
  4. One jar at a time. When you are in the midst of canning, it’s so tempting to fill all the jars, and then check all the headspaces, then wipe all the rims, and then put on all the lids…BUT, that’s when you forget to do something important to one of the jars. Just suck it up and do one jar, then follow the same steps for the next jar.
  5. Seek expert advice. That woman down the street who has been canning for 50 years? Ask her if you can come over for an afternoon so she can show you how to do it. Most likely she’ll be thrilled to pass the tradition on to the next generation. And you won’t have to make 75 mistakes because she’s already made them and can tell you how to avoid the heartache. Be sure to offer to help her with something in return or bring her flowers to thank her!
  6. Do your research. There are lots of great resources out there. One of the best is your local/state Extension service. The University of Wyoming Extension service has a wonderful food preservation website. It is all specific to our climate and higher altitudes…which brings me to my next tip…
  7. Know your area. Canning is greatly affected by altitude, so be sure to do your due diligence in determining proper processing times for your region.
  8. Don’t get in a hurry. I was trying to do too much the first year and was distracted while carrying a batch of jars from the water-bath canner to the table for them to cool. Before I knew what happened, the entire batch was broken and splashed all over my garage floor. Don’t be like me. Take it easy and pay attention to what you’re doing.
  9. Safety first. You’re working with glass, hot liquids, and high pressure if you’re pressure canning. And, if you’re like me, you’re using a nifty propane camp stove so you don’t ruin your glass cooktop and you can keep the heat in the garage. All of these things can cause injury. It’s not scary if you’re careful and paying attention to what you’re doing. Just be aware that you can singe your eyelashes on the propane stove or burn your hand with hot water. Not that I’ve done either of those things.
  10. It’s a lot of work. But, it’s worth it! I always heard people talk about canning being a lot of work. There’s a reason they say that. It is a lot of work! It’s probably smart to team up if you have friends or family who like to can, but also know that if you go it alone, you can handle it. And when you are pulling home-canned peaches, pickles and salsa from your pantry all winter long, the great taste and sense of pride will make that sore back, stiff neck and achy feet just a distant memory.

Holler if you have questions. I might have an answer, or most likely, I might know someone else with an answer. Now go forth and can!

God Bless You & American Agriculture,

Liz

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. – Titus 2:3-5 (NIV)

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