In general, fruits and vegetables are preserved in this way, though this method can be used for preserving meat as well. Successful home canning requires a few basic equipment, such as glass jars, lids, water bath canner, pressure canner, and jar lifter.
Equipment Required for Canning Food at Home
One of the earliest glass jars developed for food preservation is the mason jar. The credit for inventing this jar goes to John Landis Mason, an American tinsmith. He invented and patented mason jars in 1858.
Mason jars are still used for home canning. They are usually made of soda-lime glass, and you can notice a dimpled shape on their lids, which can be compared to an indicator. It indicates whether the jar is properly sealed, as a sound is produced when the dimpled area is pressed, if the jar is not sealed properly.
Cans or metal containers can also be used for canning food. However, they cannot be reused like the glass jars. They are also expensive and may require some special sealing equipment.
Old, rusted, and deformed jar lids should not be reused for home canning, as they cannot seal the jars properly. Instead, purchase a new lid for your jar. Though a variety of jar lids are available in the market, you need to choose the one that can properly seal your jar.
Some lids can be found in two pieces - a small cap and a band or screw. The cap is designed in such a way that it can fit in the jar rim, while the band or the screw hold the cap in place. Get the right cap and test if it can seal the jar completely. The use of properly fitting lids is crucial for the success in canning.
Water Bath Canner
It is used for processing jellies, fruits, and other acidic foods. This equipment comes with a canning rack, where the filled jars are kept before placing them in the water bath canner. This facilitates the insertion and removal of the jars from the water bath canner. It keeps the jars in place and prevents them from touching the bottom of the canner.
For purchasing a water bath canner, first decide on its size, as the jars have to be completely accommodated by the canner. The water bath canner should be able to accommodate the jars in such a way that the water level remains at least one or two inches above the top of the jars.
While a water bath canner is suitable for acidic foods, a pressure canner is ideal for meat and foods that contain low acid levels. The temperature required for killing bacteria in low-acid foods is usually higher than the temperature that can be achieved in a water bath canner.
The pressure canner is generally made of aluminum or stainless steel with a twitch-on lid fitted with the gasket. The canning jars or bottles are not required to be completely immersed in water inside the canner.
Jar Lifter and Non-metallic Spatula
Jar lifters are used for lifting the processed jars from inside the canner. This tool enables safe insertion and removal of the hot jars by providing a secure grip. On the other hand, a non-metallic spatula is used to release the air bubbles from inside the filled jars.
Though canning is an easy and simple process used for food preservation, it needs to be carried out with appropriate care. It is important to seal the jars or cans properly, otherwise the preserved food can get contaminated, and consumption of such food can cause food poisoning. Use of the various equipment is therefore, crucial to preserve food properly.