Saturday, July 12, 2014

Calling all newbie canners & ye who haven't canned yet...

When I first started canning, I would get so confused. There were terms I had no clue as to what they meant. Finger tight, head-space, “jiggle”
You would think that the word “jiggle” would be self explanatory. Nope, not so much. Keep reading...
This last weekend I pressure canned some green beans and squash & thought I'd share some general canning information as I went along.
*Disclaimer: Recommendations for canning summer squashes, including zucchini, that appeared in former editions of So Easy to Preserve or USDA bulletins have been withdrawn due to uncertainty about the determination of processing times. Squashes are low-acid vegetables and require pressure canning for a known period of time that will destroy the bacteria that cause botulism. Documentation for the previous processing times cannot be found, and reports that are available do not support the old process. Slices or cubes of cooked summer squash will get quite soft and pack tightly into the jars. The amount of squash filled into a jar will affect the heating pattern in that jar.
Note: This wasn't based on outbreaks of botulism cases, but that they couldn't find the documentation of processing times.

Important lesson here: these are “low acid foods” Low acid food needs to be pressure canned. Let me repeat that...low acid food needs to be pressure canned. 
First, read your book that came with your pressure canner. It has exact directions for canning, especially since various canners have different equipment on them to determine pressure etc.
I am cautious to sterilize everything along the way and aware of allowing enough head-space to keep the contents from creeping up the jars and disturbing the sealing process.
I am not going into every detail of canning since you are going to be reading your book; I am giving general instructions and I want to define some terminology that I didn't understand when I began to can.
First get all of your canning equipment, jars & lids clean, sterilized together and ready to use. I also thoroughly clean and sanitize my counter top and sink. I normally keep all my canning equipment together in a bag and inside of my canner when not in use.

(there is a link at the end of a handy glossary)

That way I don't have to go looking for everything when I start canning. I also have an “s” hook, that I hang the bag from off of a shelving unit close to where I am working. I actually keep two sets of equipment in the bag, in case I happen to drop a utensil, I will have the back up already sterilized and available. Link to see how I do this: Getting Started and Organized.
EDITED (083014) From the Ball fb page: "After extensive testing by our Quality Assurance Team we have determined that it is no longer necessary to to pre-warm lids before use. If you desire, it is still safe to “simmer” your lids before use however, you should never boil them. To prep lids we recommend simply hand washing them in hot soapy water. "

While this is going on I clean my vegetables and prepared them for putting in the jar. This time I used the cold-pack method. Put the veggies in, with the recommended head-space.
This diagram from Presto shows what various head-space amounts look like.

Then clean the tops of the canning jars with a paper towel (or a clean cloth) and vinegar.
Add water, use the bubble popper to release any air bubbles trapped in the jar, and add more water if needed.

Clean the rims of the jars with a towel & vinegar.

Add a lid and ring to each jar from your hot water.

Tighten the ring on the jar to “finger tight”. Now what does “finger tight” mean exactly? From “A practical way to determine if the lid is fingertip tight is to place the band on the jar, turn it just until you feel resistance, then turn the band one-quarter turn more. For beginning canners, it may help to mark the band and lid with a marker at the point of first resistance and at the point that represents an additional quarter turn and to then turn the band to that point.”

Place your jars into your pressure canner and add the appropriate amount of water, based on your canner. On my Presto there is a line inside the canner.

Check your lid to see if you are able to see air through the vent hole, and then place your lid on your canner and secure. Set heat to high and continue heating until a steady flow of steam comes out of the vent.

Set timer for 10 minutes, let the steam continue to vent for 10 minutes.
After the timer goes off, add appropriate weight. Check your canning book for your weight pressure based on the altitude of here you live. Here is a link to an altitude chart.
FOR WEIGHT ONLY CANNERS: After adding the weight, keep temperature up until your weight “jiggles”. A jiggle is when the weight on top spits, sputters or wiggles a little. After the weight starts to jiggle, reduce your heat until the weight is only jiggling 3-5 times a minute. This takes a little practice.
Keep an eye on your pressure gauge and/or weight during the process. You are able to reduce the heat, as long as you are maintaining the proper pressure. With my stove, I am able to reduce the temp. to low during this time.
It all depends upon your stove.
FOR GAUGES: after adding the weight and gauge, bring the pressure up to the appropriate pressure (again check your book)
Then reset your timer for the proper time for what you are canning. It will vary depending on what size jar you are using and what you are cooking (again check your book).
For my altitude it is 10# of pressure, cooked for 25 minutes.
When the timer goes off: turn off the heat and gently move the canner from the heat.
Let rest until the pressure gauge drops down to zero or when the little button drops down.
Remove the lid carefully, turning it away from you when removing the lid.
Smile when you start to hear the pings!
Gently remove the jars from the canner and set on a clean, dry dish towel.

Let them set for awhile. If a jar does not seal (ping), say in an hour (?) put that in the fridge and use it.
Let rest away from drafts. While not completely necessary, I cover my jars with a towel to help protect them from drafts. Just so you know, these may be a little mushy in consistency after pressure canning.

You put a lot of work, time and money into pressure canning food. When you are done canning, you just put the jars on the shelf, right? WRONG! I often say "there are questions that newbies don't even know to ask". I don't believe I have seen a list of the simple, yet very important steps to take after you finish a batch to optimize and protect your hard work. Check this link for important steps often missed.
Testing 1, 2, 3...
Check the lids periodically over the next few days, weeks to insure the lids remain sealed.
There you have it. I have used just a few of the terms we use in the canning process. For a more complete list check out the Canning Glossary from the BallCanning website. I read through the entire list, once I found it. Fun to learn things like the name of the “bubble popper”.

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Disclaimer: The following link is to my personal Amazon Store. I have listed many categories of items used here in this post and for other storage preparations. I do receive a small commission, if you purchase items through my store. BUT there is no additional cost to you. I only recommend items that I use, have purchased & usually include free shipping (for the standard purchase). I do not receive any commission from other stores. Perky Prepping Gramma's Store Thank you for considering shopping with me. ~Perky~

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