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How to can food at home

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home canning
Why can your own food? Canning is a safe and effective method to preserve food. It's easy to store the summer's bounty of food for the winter by canning it. There's nothing like opening your pantry to look at the fruits of your canning efforts.

With only a few hours of work, you can enjoy your favourite peaches or homemade tomato sauce any time of the year! Even more importantly, those who are allergic need to plan ahead. One of your "safe foods" may only be in-season for a short time each year. If you plan to eat any in the off-season, you'll need to store it. Canning is a safe method to store many foods for later.

Home canning preparation

Before you can begin canning, you'll need an assortment of glass mason jars suitable for canning use, plus new lids and bands. Mason jars come in several sizes and styles: 4 oz, 8 oz, or 12 oz jelly jars (jellies and condiments); 8 oz half-pint jars (syrups and sauces); 16 oz pint jars (salsas, relishes, and pie fillings); 32 oz quart jars (pickles, sliced fruits and vegetables); 64 oz half-gallon jars (fruit juices). Choose the size that best suits your needs. You might also opt for wide-mouth jars to can certain types of food as the wider mouth makes it easier to scoop food from the jar.

Wash all the jars, lids, and bands in hot water with plenty of soap before use. Rinse them thoroughly, then keep them warm in a water bath until needed.

How long can you safely store canned food?

up to 1 year

The waterbath canning process

Once your jars are clean and ready, you will need your prepared food, a large stockpot, and a canning rack.

Fill your pot with enough water so your jars will be covered with 1 inch of water. Heat water until simmering (180 degrees F). Fill your jars with your prepared food to its correct fill-level (varies by food). To remove any potential air bubbles from the jar, run a non-metallic scraper around the inside of the jar. Clean the rim of the jar, then place a new lid and band on the jar. Tighten to just-tightened. Fill your canning rack with your jars, then carefully lower jars into the simmering water. Boil for the time specified for your food, then turn off the fire. Allow the jars to remain in the water for five minutes, then remove. Cool jars upright on a towel on the counter for 12 hours before storing. Be sure to check the seals before storing!

How to check the seal: Press the center of the lid on a cooled jar. When your jar is fully sealed, the lid will not flex. If your lid flexes, the jar is not sealed correctly. Place your jar in the fridge for immediate use.

The pressure canning process

Once your jars are clean and ready, you will need your prepared food, a pressure cooker and a canning rack.

Fill your pressure cooker with three inches of water. Heat water until simmering (180 degrees F). Fill your jars with your prepared food to its correct fill-level (varies by food). To remove any potential air bubbles from the jar, run a non-metallic scraper around the inside of the jar. Clean the rim of the jar, then place a new lid and band on the jar. Tighten to just-tightened. Fill your canning rack with your jars, then carefully lower jars into the simmering water. Lock the canner lid into place, then set your fire to medium heat and open the vent. Bring the water to a boil and vent steady steam for 10 minutes. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for safe cooling and opening. Carefully remove jars from the water. Cool jars upright on a towel on the counter for 12 hours before storing. Again, be sure to check the seals before storing!

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