I’ve posted quite a few jam and preserving recipes in the past but so far no canning recipes, even though canning is one of my favourite hobbies. The biggest reason I haven’t gotten around to it is because I wanted to be able to give a little canning 101 before sharing a recipe, so people could refer to it in future recipes and for people to understand just how simple the process is. So now that I’m finally doing it, expect many more canning projects in the future.
This isn’t going to be exhaustive because I’m no canning expert. But it’s what I’ve learned, what I know and hopefully will give you a head start if you’re new to this kind of thing. I’ve been making jam for a long time but I only started canning last summer. I didn’t have any special equipment and once I realized how easy it was, I was hooked. Jamming and preserving is one of my favourite activities to do in the kitchen. There’s something so soothing and satisfying about it. Hearing the ping of the jars sealing brings a smile to my face every time.
Let’s get started so you can get in the kitchen and know the feeling I’m talking about!
What you’ll need:
- A large pot: I now own a canning pot, but when I first started out I just used the largest pot I had, which really wasn’t even all that big. If you’re starting out canning I would recommend doing smaller batches and using smaller jars anyways, so you don’t really need a gargantuan pot – that way it’s less stressful and you don’t need to buy any special equipment. You need to try it out first before you invest, right? It’s best if you can have a rack at the bottom of the pot because it protects the jars from the direct heat and keeps them from moving around while the water’s boiling, but when I started I didn’t have one so I just tried to make sure that the jars weren’t clanking into each other. If you have a small, round cooling rack that fits into your pot, you could use that, but again, it’s not absolutely necessary.
- Canning jars and lids: you should be able to buy these at your local grocery or hardware store. You can also buy them online. I like to use a 250ml size for jams and 500ml for whole fruit (such as sliced peaches).
- Jar lifter or tongs: This one is important. If you can, I would recommend buying a jar lifter that’s meant for canning. They aren’t very expensive and they make the process of lifting the jars so much easier. At the very least, use a very good, strong pair of tongs. You’ll be using them to take the jars out of the boiling water so you don’t want any chance of them slipping and breaking.
Things you need to know:
- Not every recipe can be canned. Make sure the recipe that you’re making is safe for canning. Especially when dealing with low acid foods it’s important that the pH level be above 4.6, so following a recipe is key. But don’t let that scare you off, just follow the recipe and you’ll be golden.
- Processing times (time that the jars are submerged in boiling water) depend on altitude. Most recipe’s processing times are for altitude’s up to 1000 feet, if you’re higher than that you’ll need to add additional minutes to your processing time. So find your altitude and follow this guide:
- 0 to 1000 feet – time as written in recipe
- 1,001 to 3,000 feet – add 5 minutes
- 3,001 to 6,000 feet – add 10 minutes
- 6,001 to 8,000 feet – add 15 minutes
- 8,001 to 10,000 feet – add 20 minutes
How it works:
- First you need to sterilize your jars and lids. To do this, first wash them in warm, soapy water then transfer the jars to a large pot (I use the same one that I’m going to process them in) along with hot water, to cover. Bring the water to a boil and let boil for 10 minutes, keep the water at a simmer until you’re ready to fill the jars – this will ensure that they stay sterilized up until the last moment. Do the same with the lids, but put them in a separate, smaller pot and do not boil; instead keep them at just barely a simmer, you want to soften the seal around the lids but if you boil them they may soften too much and create a false seal with the jars.
- Remove the jars and lids from the boiling water, you don’t need to worry about drying them off, the heat will evaporate any water droplets. Fill the jars with whatever you’re canning, according to the recipe instructions. Wipe the rims and outside, clean of any drips. Place the lids on top of the jars and screw on the rings until fingertip tight (just until you reach resistance), this is also to make sure that you don’t create a false seal. Place the jars back into the boiling water, making sure the water is 1-2 inches above the top of the jars and that the jars aren’t touching; bring to a rolling boil before starting the timer according to the processing time indicated in the recipe (see: ‘things you need to know’ for processing times). This is called a boiling water bath.
- Remove the jars and set on a kitchen towel, on the countertop, to cool and seal for 24 hours (while they cool you’ll hear them ping, which means they’ve created a vacuum seal). If some have not sealed by the end of the 24 hours put them in the fridge to use immediately. To check for seal: remove the rings from the jars, grip your fingers onto the edge of the lid and lift the jar a couple inches off the counter, if the lid stays in place, it’s sealed! Now you can store the jars in a cool, dark place to be enjoyed at a later date!
There, that’s not too hard, is it? It may seem like a lot of information to process at first but once you do it, it will all begin to make sense and everything will go that much more smoothly and quickly. I promise you, it is worth it! If you have any questions or tips to share feel free to pipe up in the comments section.
And now for a recipe to put this all into practice.
I made this jam for the first time last year and was so sad when we moved from Norway and we couldn’t bring them along. I knew I had to repeat it again this year because peach jam is the epitome of summer canning, in my opinion, and the little bit of added vanilla just speaks of summer days. I’m looking forward to cracking these open and brightening up some of the cool winter days ahead. Peach season is holding on by a thread, so make this quickly while you still can!
- 3 lbs peaches, peeled, pits removed and diced
- 3.5 cups sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
- juice of one lemon
- Add all ingredients to a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick and passes the wrinkle test*. Meanwhile sterilize 4, 250ml jars along with lids, as instructed above.
- Remove vanilla bean pod from jam. Fill the jars to within ¼ inch of the top with jam; top with lids and tighten rings to fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (see: “things you need to know” for processing times above 1000 feet). Remove jars from water bath and set on a kitchen towel to cool for 24 hours. Check for seals before storing in a cool, dark place until ready to use.
- This applies to any jam that is made without using pectin.
- Place a small plate in the freezer while you make your jam. Once you think the jam is ready place a dollop on the frozen plate and return to the freezer for two minutes. Remove the plate from the freezer and push through the jam with your finger, there should be a slight film on top that wrinkles as you push. If it’s not ready yet, boil it for a few more minutes and repeat the test.