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Home Canning Basics

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From essential information on the different kinds of canning to how to adjust canning instructions for your home's altitude, here's what you need to know in order to safely can food at home.

1. How to Process Food in a Boiling Water Bath

Making Plum Jam Canning Bath
Sara Sanger/E+/Getty Images

A boiling water bath doesn't require specialized equipment and can be used for acidic fruits and vegetables, pickles, jellies and jams. What you end up with is food in sealed jars that can safely be stored at room temperature until they are opened.

Keep in mind that you can only use a boiling water bath for those foods. Non-acidic vegetables, meat including poultry and fish, and soup stocks (yes, even vegetable stock) must be processed in a pressure canner, not a boiling water bath.

2. Pressure Canning - A Step By Step Guide

Leda Meredith

If you want to can unpickled vegetables, soup stocks, beans, or any non-acidic food, you’ve got to use a special piece of equipment called a pressure canner. Seriously, this is the one rule about canning that you’ve really got to get right for safety reasons.

Other foods, including fruit, sweet preserves and pickles can be safely canned in a boiling water bath without special equipment.

Here's how to safely can food in your pressure canner.

3. Alkaline and Acidic Foods...and Why It Matters

The difference between acidic and non-acidic (alkaline) foods is the single most important thing you can learn if you want to get into canning. Learn the difference, and you'll preserve jars of fabulous seasonal, local food that you can serve up even in winter. Get this wrong, and, well, it gets scary (botulism, anyone?).

The good news is that it's really easy to get this right.

4. Removing the Risk of Botulism from Canning - What You Need to Know

Botulism. Just the word is enough to put a terrified expression on the faces of participants in my food preservation workshops, and with good reason. But armed with some facts about this scary bacterium, you will never have to worry about it when you're canning food at home.

5. How to Use a Pressure Canner as a Boiling Water Bath

A pressure canner is the essential piece of equipment for safely canning low acid foods such as soup stocks and un-pickled vegetables. But did you know that it can double as a boiling water batch for fruits, pickles, jams and jellies? The instructions are different than those for pressure canning or standard boiling water bath processing. Here's how to do it.

6. High Altitude Canning

If you live at more than 1000 feet above sea level, then the processing times and pressures given in almost all canning recipes don't apply to you. You need to adjust those numbers in order to can food safely at high altitudes. Don't worry - the adjustments are really simple.

7. From Napoleon to Mason Jars - The Brief History of Canning Food

Leda Meredith

Canning is a relatively recent development in the long history of food preservation. Humans have used methods such as dehydrating, salting and fermenting to safely preserve foods since before recorded history. But methods of heat-treating and then sealing food in airtight containers didn't come along until the late 18th century.

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