WHAT EQUIPMENT YOU NEED TO DO YOUR HOME CANNING
I will try to list some of these for you and if you like you can use it as a shopping guide. I am sure some of you will think that all are not necessary and can get by with less. That is up to you, my list is what we used to make our Award winning Jams, Jellies and Preserves.
One of the first items you will need to purchase is a canning pot. Canning pots are large pots that you will use to process your jars for longer shelf life. They almost always come with a rack inside, this rack is what you use to safely put your jars into a boiling wate bath, and when the time is up, remove the jars. I have seen people try to make do with some sort or rigged pot, but this soon leads to injury and or failure. Procesing correctly is the only way you have to make sure your jars are sealed and have no tiny leaks. WIth proper seaing home made products have a very long shelf life. Some products are good after a year or longer. You can find them at your local hardware store or grocery store or even Wal-Mart. When I refer to local hardware store I am not talking about the big warehouse stores, I use those store to buy many other items, but they don’t stock home canning products.
The next items are sort of a team, measuring cups and measuring spoons. I don’t know of very many cooks that can make their best with only guesswork for measurements. There is a big diffence in 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon. Just like there is a big difference in a 1/4 cup and a cup.
Something else you might think you don’t need, but really do, is wooden spoons. All the fancy shiny spoons you might have will not work in home canning. There are two big reason, 1. The wooden spoon will not get hot while stirring your projects. Most of our projects require lots of stiring and mixing, a metal spoon gets to hot and will burn you. 2. A wooden spoon is used to watch the liquid drip off to see if it is jelling. This is called watching to see if it sheets. Your grandmothers did not always have Sure-Jel or Can-Jel to make her jellies set up. She had to watch he spoons to tell when they had cooked the jelly long enough.
Canning Jars are a necessary item. Reusing jars from home is the number way to have a failed project. Canning jars come with domes and rings to seal your homemade items. The dome is the flat circle with shiny side and a underside with a rubber gasket attached. This gasket makes the seal, and the dome is curved down when the jars are set. You also have the rings that hold the domes to the jars. Before you boil your jars the rings should be finger tight, that is not hard tight or loose. If you have the rings to tight the air can’t escape from your jars and form a seal, or the water might get into your jars if to loose. After your jars are processed, sealed and cooled, you can go back and take the rings off and clean any wate that might still be there. This will keep the rings from rusting.
Good pot holders are valuable, as they keep you from burning yourself during the whole process. Whether you are cooking or removing the jars from the water, hot pads or pot holders are just the thing. Something new I have seen in the market for this use are gloves that are made to protect your hands even in ovens. I wish I had had those back when we had our business, not matter how hard you try to keep from burning yourself, it still happens.
Unbleached Muslin – you will need this to strain your liquids for the most clear liquids you will need to make award winnings jellies. Do not use chesse cloth, this will still allow tiny pieces to get in your strained liquid. One of the nice things about the muslin is that you can wah it and reuse it forever. Go to a fabric store and buy 2 yards of unleached muslin. At home cut into pieces about 18 inches square, this is a good size to work with. Next wash the cloth about 3 or 4 times without fabric softeners (you don’t want your hard work to taste like fabric softners) then dry. Don’t use the little sheets in the dryer either. Now you have great items that you make your jelly.
If you are going to be giving your finest made items away as gifts you will need to make yourself a label to put on the jars. You need more than the name of the product, you need your name, and in some cases the ingredients. You want your name on the label because every time your friends eat from it they will think of you. The ingredients are a good idea as some many people have food alergies, and you don’t want someone to eat something that will make them ill.
Canning, Kosher or Sea Salt. Table salt has iodine as a ingredient. Iodine can change the color of some of the things you can. It makes a bigger difference when you are putting up vegetables and pickles. The edges of the pickles can turn a dark color and not look the way you want them to. I am sure that some people will say that they have used table salt with no adverse changes in the products. All I have to say is we have not been so lucky, some of the things we made did have brown looking edges and we were unable to sell them. It is your choice, but I would recomend sticking with the type of salt most canning books suggest.
Now you have every thing you will need to make the best products you can, except for a cooking pot. This is a vital item in cooking. Just like a good frying pan to make fried chicken, a good jelly pot is needed. You need a pot that is strong enough and high enough. Strong in that it distributes the heat evenly and tall enough that something will not boil over. You have not really cleaned upo a mess, til you try to clean spilled/burned jelly off your stove. For these two reason, you should maybe get a bigge pot than you have just to keep down the mess.
One more item that you will find that you can’t work without is a jar funnel. This is a funnel that you use to keep from spilling the hot fluids. It fits the jar mouth and is wide at the top for ease of use.
The last item I will list today is a timer. Something that you can set for 10 minutes or whatever time you need and the timer will ring or alarm to let you know when the time has expired. They vary in price, but don’t be cheap, it makes a difference.
Last, but not least, you need a jar lifter. It is something that you will use for many things while canning. The #1 reason is taking hot jars out of boiling water. Don’t try with anything else, you will burn yourself.
There are other items needed to make other types of canned products. I will give you another list for putting up relishes and pickles and other such items. But for now the above list will get you started.
My next blog will be posted in a couple of days. I will tell you about making Pepper Jelly, one of the most popular jellies we made and sold.