Canning for Beginners

We had some questions about canning from readers. It’s one of those subjects that needs it’s own post to have enough room to cover everything. It’s a great skill to have in your prepper skill set. It’s a way to store fresh foods for a long time, in a shelf stable state. Admittedly, you won’t be taking them in any BOB, and the process is water heavy.

Canning really shines when you need to deal with garden excesses. A lot of the time, you can plan things. If you plant a LOT of something, that should be a signal to start getting ready for the inevitable onslaught of harvest. If you find yourself with a lot of tomatoes, peppers, onions and herbs, Salsa can be the way to go, or a roasted tomato sauce.

People ask about canning spring produce, it has that reputation of being difficult to store. I personally love canned greens. Spinach is still my favorite. Not everyone agrees with me there, and that’s fine, but know that it’s an option. Peas, shelled peas, can be frozen. Peas can also be steamed, mashed, and then spooned into ice cube trays and frozen for easy melting into soups and stews and such. Radishes could be canned in a relish.

What’s the easiest way to can? Hot water bath is what you need to look for in canning recipes.  (Do go with the trusted sources, like the Ball Blue Book, for your recipes.) Hot water bath means you cover the jars (and lids) with boiling water for a specified amount of time. It really is that simple. A really big pot can get you by, but the ones specially sized for jars won’t set you back much either.

Cold Pack is another easy technique to look for in recipes.  Often times when I’m canning whole fruits, I’ll cold pack them.  All that means is the fruit isn’t heated up before I pour the boiling hot syrup in.

Don’t be Tempted by some grandma’s best recipe. A whole batch of sauce going bad is heart breaking, illness is devastating. Know that you are working with a tested recipe.

Canning meats? I am going to open this one up to the loyal readers. Anyone have any experience with canning meat? I’m from more of a jerky tradition myself. Sound off in the comments.

Calamity Jane

21 comments… add one

  • Chicken little April 8, 2014, 7:17 am

    Calamity,
    I bought a pressure canner but have not used it yet. I don’t have a water bath canner. Is it alright to use the pressure canner for water bath recipes

    Reply
    • Calamity Jane April 8, 2014, 9:23 am

      Yes, it is. Just don’t lock the lid down while you’re canning.

      Reply
  • farmgirl April 8, 2014, 10:10 am

    I can tons of tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce every year. I use my vita-mix to puree the tomatoes. It does the skins, seeds, everything so I don’t have to mess with peeling tomatoes. I can process a lot of tomatoes very quickly and easy, and the spaghetti sauce is much tastier than the store bought brands.
    I freeze okra. Pre-bread it and scoop it into quart size freezer bags. I also freeze corn, and I can some as well. I can green beans too.
    I don’t like the texture of canned summer squash, but I have a friend who makes a squash relish and cans that and it’s really good.
    I’ve never canned meat. There are some recipes that came with my pressure canner, but I haven’t gotten around to those yet.

    Reply
  • JE Redbird April 8, 2014, 10:15 am

    If you have access to a county extension office, they offer lots of good hints/tips for canning. Ours will even test your pressure canner to see if the temperature gauge is accurate.

    Reply
  • John April 8, 2014, 12:03 pm

    We have canned ground beef, chicken, sausage, lamb, bacon. (You don’t want to go through life without bacon) :-) I just canned 28 lbs. of ground beef last week. It’s great to be able to buy in bulk, or on sale and also to do all the messy frying all at once & then just open a jar and through it into whatever. You get 2 lbs. of ground beef to a quart jar. For smaller portions use pints. With the cost of beef on the rise, it is a great idea. I will be doing some Kinder ball steaks soon. You won’t have a nice medium rare steak off the grill, but it will be very juicy and tender. The other thing, is when you do chicken, just add some water, and you will have chicken broth, not to mention that in a survival situation, this will add water to your stores. You do need to use a pressure cooker. If you are thinking of a pressure cooker for canning, get the All American # 921. It is perfect and great quality. I do need to get the smaller one for cooking with, though. Farmgirl brought up relish. Try making some chow chow. You can look up the recipe. Tastes great and uses up the green tomatoes. You can make it spicy or mild. Best condiment, other than hot sauce.

    Reply
  • Chuck Findlay April 8, 2014, 6:25 pm

    I started canning about a year ago. I went to Wally-World and bought a Presto pressure cannier for $68.00 So far I have only canned meat. I have a lot of bacon, sausage, ground beef, pre-made hamburgs hot dogs.

    I also vacuumed a lot of dry goods in canning jars.

    Reply
  • ValleyDeere84 April 8, 2014, 9:49 pm

    I started with pickles and tomato sauce about 5 years ago with excess from the garden. Now I make a variety of Jams, Jellies, Pickles and other canned goods every year. I’ve never had squash relish but I make a zucchini relish and summer squash bread and butter pickles. I also try to get enough apples to make and can all of our applesauce needs every year, we substitute some for oil in baking recipes and my wife will sometimes go through a quart a week for snacks. I’ve also done chicken broth and turkey, a 37# turkey now that’s a lot of hot turkey sandwiches.
    My recommendation is to start easy and work your confidence and skill level up.

    Reply
  • Chuck Findlay April 8, 2014, 10:14 pm

    Really canning was quite simple. I did some internet reading on it, I bought a few books on it. And then bought a canner and jumped in and started canning.

    I made very sure I followed all the advice in the books (including the Ball book) and had a pile of canning jars at t he end of the first day. And the pile is growing fast because it’s easy to do and I have been scouring the local thrift stores for good priced jars.

    .

    Reply
  • GoneWithTheWind April 8, 2014, 10:54 pm

    We can turkeys every thanksgiving and Christmas. Winco usualy sells turkeys for $0.18 lb if you buy $50 worth of groceries. On day one cook the turkey just as you would for a meal but when it’s done put it in the fridge overnight. Day two cut the turkey up putting the meat back in the fridge and put the bones and any parts you don’t intend to eat into a large pot with about 10 quarts of water and bring to a boil then back down to a very slight boil for about 3 hours. When broth is done strain and prepare to can. Fill 7 quart jars evenly with the turkey meat (an 18 lb bird makes about 7 quarts) and top off with broth. Can it at 10 lbs for 90 minutes. There is usually enough broth to can another 5 quarts or so after the meat is done.
    When we use this we make the broth into gravy and then add the meat. Make mashed potatoes and a veggie and it is just like Thanksgiving in July or whenever. The gravy is awesome. Usually needs a little more water but results may vary. This meal is a real treat and easy to prepare. I admit the whole cooking of the bird, then the broth and then the canning is a bit of a pain but the results are worth it.

    Reply
    • Calamity Jane April 9, 2014, 9:07 am

      Oooooh! that’s some great information. Thanks GoneWithTheWind. I’m totally going to try this in the fall.

      Reply
  • GoneWithTheWind April 8, 2014, 10:59 pm

    We also can meat loaf in wide mouth pints. Pork butt, roasted in the oven and then cut into chunks. Beef chuck lightly roasted then cut into one inch chunks. Bacon too, also in wide mouth pints.

    Reply
  • Chuck Findlay April 9, 2014, 12:41 am

    The local Menard’s store has 1/2 gallon canning jars 6 for $9.99, So far I have only used them for vacuum sealing dry goods. But can you Can things in them? My concern is that they are big and I don’t know if they will get hot enough in the center being so big.

    Reply
    • Calamity Jane April 9, 2014, 9:12 am

      Getting them hot enough in the center has always been the concern I’ve heard raised. Maybe you could can relish or something in them, something that doesn’t go bad really easily.

      Reply
    • irishdutchuncle April 14, 2014, 6:43 pm

      what if you pre-heated the contents, and then ran them in the pressure-canner while they’re still hot?

      Reply
  • capn'matt April 9, 2014, 8:52 pm

    I’ve been canning for around 4 years, started with tomatoes & peppers than bought a pressure cannier and a whole new world was opened to me. so far the recipes have been easy like chili, soups and broth. next week we are getting a 1/2 cow and i think i’m going to can some to take a little room out of the deep freeze. i also tried some marmalade this year , its only 2 weeks old so i’m letting it set for another week before we try it.

    Reply
  • Steve suffering in NJ April 9, 2014, 8:52 pm

    Good info CJ. Lots of good comments too. Thanks all.

    Reply
  • Kate in Colorado April 10, 2014, 2:11 am

    Canning has been a way of life for me since I was a young girl helping Grammie Loyal every summer. I feel it is imperative to have several good books on the sunject. I certainly recommend the Ball Complete book on Canning and preserving and “Putting Foods By” Hertzburb,Vaughan, and Greene. Use these as your bible of canning. Before every canning session I refer to these text again as a safety check. Know the altitude of your location and refer to the time and pressure charts faithfully. Several tips for canning meats. I precook the meats and drain the fat, but save the broth for soup. Then I rinse the drained meat in very hot water and drain again to decrease the fat content. Instead of using the broth that you cook the meat in, make a broth of either bullion cubes or the soup base paste you can find at Sam’s. It’s Tones soup base and it comes in beef or chicken flavor. I fill the jars with meat to the shoulder of the jar to give 1 inch of head space and then pour the broth into the jar. Wipe the rim with a hot damp cloth to be sure there is no fat on the rims and seal and process the jars according to the directions in your books. By using the fresh, clear broth your product will crystal clear with no sediment. Go ahead. Give meat a try. It’s easy, safe, and great to have on hand!

    Reply
  • Road Warrior April 10, 2014, 5:29 am

    This is awesome! I’ve been meaning to try canning, i had no idea it was really this simple. Some killer ideas on here too…definitely going to try canning meats. Thanks CJ & readers!!!

    Reply
  • Marc April 17, 2014, 9:26 pm

    I can venison every year with a few friends. We get three cookers going in the garage and have a good time. Most can’t tell it’s not beef when they try it.

    Reply
  • Anonymous April 19, 2014, 3:45 am

    I can ham and potato soup, ham and bean soup, beef stew, chicken soup, sweet n sour chicken, spaghetti sauce with meat…all kinds of main dishes.
    You use quarts or pints with the pressure canner and it is the best convenience food you ever had. Plus, a great prep and you know exactly what you are eating.
    I highly recommend it!

    Reply
  • Patti April 19, 2014, 3:46 am

    I can ham and potato soup, ham and bean soup, beef stew, chicken soup, sweet n sour chicken, spaghetti sauce with meat…all kinds of main dishes.
    You use quarts or pints with the pressure canner and it is the best convenience food you ever had. Plus, a great prep and you know exactly what you are eating.
    I highly recommend it!

    Reply

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