Home canning has been a way of life since 1810 when a Frenchman, Nicolas Appert, was awarded a prize for developing this method of preserving food for the massive Napoleonic armies. From that point until the 1950s and 1960s, most homemakers canned fruit, vegetables, and even meats to ensure that their families had plenty to eat during the winter months. Thanks to heavy promotion from the federal government during World War II, home canning reached its peak in 1943 with an estimated 4.1 billion jars home canned.
Once commercially canned foods became available, they were eagerly snapped up by exhausted homemakers!
Nowadays, canning is not necessarily for most people; it is more of a hobby. Home canners create artisan jams, jellies, pickles, and preserves for a fraction of the price charged in a local grocery store’s gourmet section.
While people once canned everything they could, it is now known that some foods are just not suitable, or safe, for home canning. Botulism can be serious, especially for young children, older people, and those who have compromised immune systems. Foods with high acidity are the safest items to can, especially for the novice canning enthusiast. These include most fruits, pickles, jams, jellies, fruit preserves, and fruit conserves.
Necessary Items for Canning
Canning Although canning is not a particularly expensive activity, it does require some equipment. Most items can be found in a kitchen store or the kitchen section of a variety store like Walmart or Target. Items needed include a 22-water bath canner with a rack and lid; a pressure cooker, enamel pots (they are non-reactive and best for cooking fruits); glass canning jars, lids, and screw tops; jar lifters and a magnetic lid lifter for removing lids from boiling water; wide-mouth funnel to help fill jars quickly and easily; pectin for making jams and jellies; a hand-cranked food mill for separating seeds and skin from the pulp of tomatoes, apples, and other similar fruits; jelly strainer to separate the juice and pulp when making jelly; cider vinegar and white vinegar; alum for pickles; other spices, herbs, and flavorings as called for in recipes (spices are most often used whole); and a Ball Blue Book, a frequently-used canning guide.
Canning jars come in several sizes. Pickles generally work well in quart or pint jars, while small 4-ounce jars of homemade jellies make wonderful gifts. The jars can be reused for years, but the lids must be replaced every time you can. Reusing lids may keep the jars from sealing properly and might increase the chance of someone becoming ill.
Strawberry Jalapeno Jam Recipe
Yields Eight 8-Ounce Jelly Jars
- 4 cups ripe strawberries, crowns removed
- 3/4 cup jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 ounces powdered pectin
- 7 cups granulated sugar
- 8 8-ounce canning jars with lids and rings
- Wash the jars.
- Place the jars, the wide-mouth funnel, and lids in boiling water for at least five minutes.
- Place the crushed berries, peppers, lemon juice, and pectin into a large saucepan.
- Bring to a boil.
- Turn heat down to a simmer.
- Stir in the sugar, stirring until all the crystals are dissolved. Once the crystals are dissolved, turn heat back up and bring to a boil and cook for one minute.
- Remove a hot jar from the boiling water with the jar lifter.
- Pour any water out carefully.
- Carefully pack the jam into the hot, sterilized jars.
- Only fill to 1/4-inch from the top.
- Run a knife around the inside of the jars to release any air bubbles in the jam.
- Quickly wipe the rims with a paper towel dipped in the boiling water.
- Remove a sterilized lid from the hot water with the magnetic lid lifter. Place the lid on the jar and screw on the rings.
- Let jars sit, away from drafts, and cool.
- As they cool, the jar lids will make a popping noise. This means they are sealing properly.
- The next day, wipe the jars, and gently press the center of the lids to ensure they are sealed (if they did not seal, the lip will pop down; put that jar in the refrigerator and use within a month), and store the jars in a dark, cool place.