This last week I’ve been working on getting some good pictures of my canning process for you. In doing so I’ve been thinking about my process more in-depth. There are all sorts of tips, tricks, and gadgets that make life easier when canning. I skip most of the gadgets. Mostly because I can’t afford to pay for all of them and I know my grandma never had that stuff and canned oodles of produce without any problem. Now, that isn’t to say she wouldn’t have used them had they been available. It is quite the opposite for my grandma. She would have hopped on the gadget train in a heart-beat. But that isn’t what I want to talk about.
Little tips like pulling the air bubbles out of your jars can help your produce turn out nicer. I really don’t mess with this unless I’m canning carrots or beans. Then I most certainly reach in with my chopstick and wiggle those bubbles out of the jar.
When I pull my jars out of the canner I set them upright on my towels to cool. I remember my grandma always putting them upside down. Not sure what her thinking was, but I found that jars were more likely to leak if I did that. It doesn’t change how they seal so far as I can tell so I leave them upright and any that didn’t seal don’t leak all over my counter.
That leads me to checking seals. You have got to check your seals. If your jar didn’t seal you don’t want to put it away in the cupboard or pantry and come back a month or so later (or 8 months) and find who knows what growing in there. So, to check your seals you just need to push on the top of your lid. If it pops back and forth when you push on it then your seal hasn’t been made. If it is solid the seal has been made. You’ll hear your seal pop a lot of times either as you pull jars from your canner or as they sit on the counter cooling. To me that is a musical sound of Fall, the pop-pop of jars sealing.
Once your jars are sealed and cool you can pull your rings, rinse your jars, dry them, and then label them. Put the contents and the year on your label. I like to use a Sharpie and just write on the lids. This helps me later with knowing what lids have been used. I tend to re-use my lids for dry storage. You can’t re-use the lids to can with but to keep basic pantry staples rodent free the used lids work great. Many times in addition to the contents I’ll put canning or ingredient notes on the label. Say I made applesauce. I’ll make a batch that has cinnamon and one that doesn’t. I want to know which one I’m grabbing so I’ll mark the tops of my cinnamon ones with a “C.” I usually try to note things like if my salsa is hot or mild too. There is only so much room on the lid though so I use my own funky short-hand. Now that is all for my personal stuff. Anything I give away as gifts I try to make pretty labels for and I’ll usually try to include any major ingredients on that label especially if I know someone in a family has an allergy.
Another thing to note while canning is your elevation. You will need to adjust water-bath times and pressure canning pressures and times to accommodate your elevation. Ball Blue Book has an altitude/elevation chart. Actually any canning magazine or book should have this chart in it. I don’t bother to remember any of the adjustments since I just look it up on the chart. This way I know I’m not forgetting something.