Lately, I’ve had a couple people ask me why I don’t have any canning basics on Jammed In. Why do none of my recipes go in to the details of water bath canning, canning safety, acidity, sugar as a preserving agent, etc.
Honestly, it is because I assumed that most of the people who find my recipes already have a basis in water bath canning. It was a poor assumption, because a lot of people stumbling across my little corner of the internet are new to canning and are just getting started. This is great! But also confounding to people just getting started because there are a lot of recipes that say “do this” (mine included) but don’t say WHY. And that why is important. Not just important, imperative. The process and the science of canning (both water-bath and pressure canning) is integral to the safety of the finished product. Understanding acidity, processing time, head space and the like are incredibly important when it comes to if that jar of stuff you just made is/will be safe for your family to eat six months from now or not. And this is the big, scary issue that frighten away a lot of would-be canners – the issue of safety and potentially poisoning their families.
Another reason that I haven’t really written a lot about the basics is because it’s already out there. There are dozens of good, reliable sites about canning safety and honestly, I can’t improve on what they have to say. But what I *can* do is help collect that information to make it more readily available to my readers. Below are a series of links, grouped as best as I can, by topic, to help guide you with the basics of home canning and safety. All of them are trusted resources and won’t steer you wrong.
Water-Bath Canning Basics
How to Not Die From Botulism: What Home Canners Need to Know About the World’s Most Deadly Toxin @ Northwest Edible Life START HERE. Best write up. Ever. And there is an awesome infograph about it! With Iron Man metaphors! Seriously, can’t recommend this one enough, especially for nervous new-folk.
Canning Trouble Shooting
This is not an exhaustive list of every article on canning out there, obviously. These are just some of the ones I find the most helpful, though all of the sites linked to have far more good information to offer.
One of the biggest strengths of the internet is the ability to share information instantly with millions of people. That’s also one of its biggest flaws. There is a huge amount of conflicting information about canning and its safety, many people stating that “I’ve always done it this way (and even though it isn’t recommended) I/my family has never gotten sick, so you can do it this way too.”
I have never made a recipe that had that sort of disclaimer in it. Never. And I never will, at least, not for preservation purposes. Because there are so many SAFE and TESTED recipes out there. If I am in doubt about the acidity of a preserve I am trying I will not risk my family, friends or customers health because someone else said “This is good enough.”
I have been canning for ten years now, and I will still consult the published canning books I own (too many/not enough, I never know) when I am trying something I am not familiar with. All of the sites linked above also have good, safe recipes that don’t skimp on flavor and that I highly recommend. Some preserves are easy to make and difficult to mess up (peach jam for instance) from a safety stand point, and you will get to a point where you can do them without consulting a recipe. But some require a very specific balance of acid (figs, white peaches, pickles) that make them safe to water bath can. Doesn’t mean you can’t make them and keep them in the fridge! Don’t let me stop you from doing that, please! My favorite gingery beet pickles I can’t can because the vinegar is too low, but I still love to make them as refrigerator pickles. Have a blast! But if in doubt, don’t can it.
The most frequent question I get when I am teaching is “How can I make sure I don’t kill my family with botulism?”. And that’s telling. Canning can be scary – if you don’t have the information you need. But done correctly, canning is an extremely safe and satisfying way to feed your family, extend your garden eating season and try some new and wonderful flavors in your kitchen. Canning isn’t an archaic masonic secret process. But it IS science. And science is awesome.
Canning can be time consuming and daunting when you are first getting in to it. Start small, and with things your family will eat (don’t make 20 pints of india relish if you don’t even know what india relish tastes like). So read up, take a class if you can (more and more are popping up), and get together with friends. Be safe. Have fun. In that order.