Home Canning of FruitsJuly 20th, 2008
All fruits may be canned at home. They do not require a pressure canner, a simple water bath unit will do, or you could even use a deep kettle to process jars in. Equipment designed for the task at hand is easier to use. In the case of water bath canners, it is hard to find many kettles which cost less than a canner the same size.
The most common size is for processing seven quart jars at a time. If used to boil wash water, or for a giant soup it holds about 5 gallons of liquid. There is normally a fill line for canning, so you can have the correct water level after you immerse the 7 quart jars. These are quite heavy when full, since five gallons of water alone weighs about 40 pounds. A rack fits inside the canner, so all 7 jars can be raised and lowered into the boiling water bath at the same time. It also keeps the glass jars from resting directly on the bottom of the canning kettle. If you don't have the rack, a flat grate can be used instead. Just make sure the boiling water can circulate underneath the jars.The glass bottom of the jar, and the bottom inside of the canner kettle, MUST not touch.
I really like to have a single jar lifter available when canning, and sometimes use a magnetic lid lifter, for placing the hot lids on top of the jars. Another popular accessory is a jar wrench to tighten the rings on the jar while they are hot. I prefer to simply wear pigskin work gloves to handle all the hot equipment myself. Canning kits are available with a number of accessories with the canner kettle. If you are just starting out, it is an economical way to try out all the common canning gadgets. You should be able to find such a complete kit for less than $50. I use a small covered sauce pan to boil the lids. Sometimes you will not be able to fill all the jars the canner holds, so a large kettle of water, and a medium size sauce pan will come in handy to get the water level where it should be for processing less than a full load of jars.
Larger Water Bath canners for 8 or even 9 quarts are sometimes found. Huge rectangular or oval canners which cover two burners used to be quite popular for large families. I really like my smaller canners made for seven pints, instead of seven quarts. They heat up much more quickly. They also weigh about half as much, so they are much easier to handle. Besides the common enameled steel, Aluminum canners with flat bottoms used to be made, and there are Stainless steel canners as well.
Steam canners use far less water, and steam circulating around the jars is supposed to be effective. Official Government sources do not consider them to be safe.
Many full size canners are made of enameled steel, and have rings stamped into the bottom of the kettle for strength. They are a problem on many types of Electric Ranges. Electric burners often don't have enough heat output to quickly boil such a large vessel. High output burners for canning are available to fit some stoves. For our Whirlpool brand stove, we could order a higher output burner and control for either of the larger 2 burners.
Cooking Ranges fueled by gas, wood or coal have plenty of heat output for large water bath canners. Heating stoves with a place for a tea kettle ordinarily do not. Kerosene burners vary and Gas hot plates for outdoor use are widely available, if you can set up your summer canning on a porch or deck.
The next item you need is a Book with canning directions. The US government has done tests and recommends safe methods. Those are available in booklets from a number of State and Federal Government Agencies. Companies selling canning supplies, and independent authors have also written good books on canning based on government recommendations. I would start at my local Library, and look at a number of recent books or booklets. Choose one that you can clearly understand. Pictures may really help you see what you will need to do. Once you find a book or two, I would buy a copy to have in your kitchen, to refer to as you work. You may or may not want to invite an experienced canner over to help you. If they have been canning for many years, they may use short cuts or methods which are not as safe as they could be. While talking, it is very easy to make mistakes. One person has to be in charge, making sure each step is done correctly. Canning is not difficult, it does have to be done right though.
Once you have safe canning practices, you may want to look into the history of canning, and how things were done in the past. My favorite canning booklets for that are the ones printed by Kerr, who made canning jars for many years.
I routinely can our own Peaches, Pears and Apples [mostly as applesauce]. Most of our berries become jams or jellies, and our grapes become table wine. You don't have to grow your own fruit, you can buy it in quantity, or pick your own at some farms. Your State Department of Agriculture will be able to supply you with a list of orchards and farms selling direct, as well as Farmer's Markets. If you have a permanent home, you really should plant an orchard or berry bushes. Once you put that fruit in a jar, you know you have it! Just store it in a cool dark place, and don't let it freeze. There is an old expression from the State of Maine, we eat what we can, and can what we can't!