My friend Mel and I have always shared our gardening interests. When we first met, I focused my efforts on ornamental gardening but with Mel’s encouragement and coaching, I became hooked on growing food in my backyard. Even when our kids were still at home and we juggled corporate careers around our family lives, Mel kept her food garden growing year-round. She also canned and froze her produce on a regular basis. Mel always told me that canning was easy to incorporate into her regular kitchen routine. She shared some basic tips that make canning quick, simple and successful. I was hesitant but she has won me over and now I’m canning too!

As we harvested the last of our summer crops before we pulled plants to make room for fall planting, Mel agreed to collaborate with me to create a beginners guide to quick, simple and successful canning. I shot video as she demonstrated. Mel’s enthusiasm is contagious. Take a look at the video and you may find yourself canning along with us!

A Beginners Guide to Quick, Simple and Successful Canning

Canning is easy, safe and provides your family with the goodness of home-grown or locally-grown produce throughout the year. It’s something you can do even if you’re working outside of your home and it’s a great way to enjoy delicious produce and control what you bring to the table.

Canning vegetables has long been a great way to extend the life of our harvest. Although most Americans no longer can their own produce, many are waking up to the shortcomings of the canned items on our grocery store shelves. Awareness is increasing about industrial-farmed produce, grown with pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. More of us are a learning and taking action to improve the quality of our food and our eating habits. Whether we grow our own or purchase local  produce, canning can be incorporated into our routines.

Frozen vegetables also retain their flavor and nutrients very well but freezer space is often limited so canning is a great choice to preserve many vegetables and fruits. When you can your own produce; you can determine how your vegetables are grown (organically), preserve the fresh taste of summer, and maintain the nutritional integrity of the product.

The Best Way to Learn Canning is to Start with Acidic Foods

Acidic foods like tomatoes, salsas, many fruits, juices, jams, jellies and any produce pickled with vinegar are naturally resistant to bacteria so a pressure cooker is not needed. You can preserve produce like tomatoes without a special recipe. Pickling and jams are also very easy and quick recipes are readily available. A simple boiling water bath is adequate for canning any of these acidic foods.

Begin Canning With Equipment You Already Own

There is no need to buy a pressure cooker or special pots and pans to begin canning. If you don’t have a large stock pot and a rack that fits in the bottom, you will need to get them (jars must stand up straight and be fully submerged in boiling water during canning). Other than jars and lids, basic canning requires no other special equipment. Jars can be reused over and over again, only the lids have to be replaced. You probably already have the rest of the tools that you need to start canning.

There are a few (very inexpensive) items that do make canning easier and safer. A jar lifter, a magnetic lid lifter, and a wide mouth funnel, as shown in the video can be found in most grocery and hardware stores or ordered online.

Basic Canning Practices That Make Canning Quick, Simple and Successful

1. Prep

Organize your canning equipment and produce.

2. Clear

Completely clear your counters, sink, floor and stove of other items.

3. Clean

Clean your counters, workspace and produce. All your other items should be clean from the cupboard.

4. Be Safe

Prevent bacteria and contamination and protect yourself and others when handling boiling water and hot jars.

  • Sterilize the jars and lids
  • Wear an apron and closed-toe shoes
  • Keep children and pets out of the kitchen when canning

Sign up to See More Tutorials

This video is the first of many that we’ll be sharing on the GardenZeal blog. More tutorials are in production that include demonstrations of specific canning techniques for tomatoes and even okra. Sign up below and we’ll keep you posted when we publish more in this series.

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