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Guide to Jammin’ and Cannin’

Add some twine, printed labels, and cloth covers to create a great homemade gift.

Jams, chutneys, preserves – whatever you want to call them, they’re basically the same thing: some combination of fruits and vegetables that are cooked into a thicker, gel-like substance and are great as spreads, glazes, and fillings.  However, there are definitely a few things you need to know before embarking on this endeavor for the first time.

Water bath canning (as opposed to pressure canning) is something you can do at home, very easily.  You cannot can vegetables in this way though – any items you want to can need to have a lot of acid in them to prevent the growth of bacteria.

  1. The acid content needs to have a pH between 3-4.5.  So, if you’re not checking the acid content, use a reputable canning recipe.
  2. Always sterilize your jars and use new lids.  I only recommend the “hot-pack” method aka the jars should be filled with hot, cooked foods and then are heat processed.  I recommend this simply because hot food will mean less air in the jar, making the food a little safer (and it’ll last longer).
  3. If you haven’t canned something properly, store it in the fridge and eat it right away.  Bacteria spores grow well in moist, low-acid conditions between 40 and 120 degrees.  They need very little oxygen and may produce a deadly toxin within 3-4 days if you do not refrigerate jars that haven’t sealed.
  4. Process the jars using the correct time for your altitude.  You must look this up.  The times provided in my recipes are at sea level, so please do your research (the processing time will be longer at higher altitudes).
  5. Let jars cool and test the seal.  After the jars cool for 12-24 hours, remove the bands and check the seal.  You can press it with your finger, tap it with a spoon (it should produce a high pitched ringing sound) or look at the center of the lid (which should be concave).

Fired up and ready to can?!  Try this Strawberry Chipotle Compote

*For detailed information about the process of water bath canning, read this.

For detailed information about canning in general, check out these resources:

  1. My personal favorite canning website: Food in Jars
  2. USDA Guide: Principles of Home Canning 
  3. Ball (the maker of canning jars) and recipes: Fresh Preserving http://www.freshpreserving.com/home.aspx

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