Canning & Preserving For Dummies book cover

Canning & Preserving For Dummies

By: Amelia Jeanroy Published: 05-04-2021

Get your food preservation skills in the can

Craving a juicy peach in the barren midwinter? Yearning for a cupful of home-grown tomato soup before the seeds are even in the ground? Canning makes you the ultimate boss of your food supply all year 'round and helps you reduce costs and maintain quality control over what you eat—and to be prepared in times of food shortages. And Canning & Preserving For Dummies shows you how to do it all, helping you explore hundreds-of-years-old traditions of food preservation in the comfort of your own home.

In a friendly and step-by-step style, longtime canner and owner of TheFarmingWife.com Amy Jeanroy takes you inside the canning world to show how modern technology and techniques have made it easy to use the four main methods of preservation—water-bath and pressure canning, freezing, and dehydrating—to keep your pantry packed with delicious, out-of-season delights. She also clues you in on how to match preservation technique to food for the most flavorful results—and what supplies to keep on hand for your next canning adventure.

  • Know the benefits, from healthier eating to self-reliance
  • Follow the latest food safety guidelines
  • Get guidance on food storage in urban living
  • Cook up tasty recipes with your preserved delights

Whatever draws you to canning—saving money on groceries, healthy living, or the sheer fun of doing it—this book is stuffed with all the goodness you need to keep your palate happy whatever the season is!

Articles From Canning & Preserving For Dummies

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22 results
22 results
Canning & Preserving For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-09-2022

You can preserve food by water-bath canning, pressure canning, freezing, or dehydrating—all are time-honored and safe techniques. Canning and preserving are great ways to save foods at their peak freshness and flavor and to stock your pantry with nutritious and delicious fare. These checklists provide quick instructions for each food preservation method, information on how to adjust recipes for high-altitude processing, advice to ensure canning success, and details on must-have canning and preserving equipment.

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Food Preservation Methods: Canning, Freezing, and Drying

Article / Updated 08-25-2021

You can preserve foods inexpensively by using canning, freezing, or drying techniques. Modern-day food preservation methods, such as water-bath canning, help you can and preserve with ease. After you understand the basic procedures for a food preservation method, you'll just need to concentrate on preparing your recipe. About canning food Canning is the process of applying heat to food that’s sealed in a jar in order to destroy any microorganisms that can cause food spoilage. Proper canning techniques stop this spoilage by heating the food for a specific period of time and killing these unwanted microorganisms. During the canning process, air is driven from the jar and a vacuum is formed as the jar cools and seals. Although you may hear of many canning methods, only two are approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). These are water-bath canning and pressure canning: Water-bath canning: This method, sometimes referred to as hot water canning, uses a large kettle of boiling water. Filled jars are submerged in the water and heated to an internal temperature of 212 degrees for a specific period of time. Use this method for processing high-acid foods, such as fruit, items made from fruit, pickles, pickled food, and tomatoes. Yum. Pressure canning: Pressure canning uses a large kettle that produces steam in a locked compartment. The filled jars in the kettle reach an internal temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit under a specific pressure (stated in pounds) that’s measured with a dial gauge or weighted gauge on the pressure-canner cover. Use a pressure canner for processing vegetables and other low-acid foods, such as meat, poultry, and fish. Don’t confuse a pressure canner with a pressure cooker, which is used to cook food quickly. A pressure cooker does not have adequate room for both the canning jars and the water needed to create the right amount of pressure to preserve foods. Older canning methods are unreliable and, for that reason, aren’t used or recommended today for home-canning. Occasionally, these methods are “revived” as being faster and easier than water-bath or pressure canning, but using other methods is like playing Russian roulette with your food safety. About freezing food Freezing foods is the art of preparing, packaging, and freezing foods at their peak of freshness. You can freeze most fresh vegetables and fruits, meats and fish, breads and cakes, and clear soups and casseroles. The keys to freezing food are to make sure it’s absolutely fresh, that you freeze it as quickly as possible, and that you keep it at a proper frozen temperature (0 degrees). Properly packaging food in freezer paper or freezer containers prevents any deterioration in its quality. Damage occurs when your food comes in contact with the dry air of a freezer. Although freezer-damaged food won’t hurt you, it does make the food taste bad. Here are three things to help you avoid freezer burn: Reduce exposure to air: Wrap food tightly. Avoid fluctuating temperatures: Keep the freezer closed as much as possible. Know what you want to remove before opening the door. Don’t overfill your freezer: An overly full freezer reduces air circulation and speeds freezer damage. About drying food Drying is the oldest method known for preserving food. When you dry food, you expose the food to a temperature that’s high enough to remove the moisture but low enough that it doesn’t cook. Good air circulation assists in evenly drying the food. An electric dehydrator is the best and most efficient unit for drying, or dehydrating, food. Today’s units include a thermostat and fan to help regulate temperatures much better. You can also dry food in your oven or by using the heat of the sun, but the process will take longer and produce inferior results to food dried in a dehydrator.

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Adjustments for High-Altitude Canning

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Home cooks who live at high altitudes may be used to adjusting recipes; high-altitude adjustments apply to home canning, as well. Canning food safely requires your filled jars to be processed at a specified temperature or pressure level for a specified amount of time. If you live at altitudes higher than 1,000 or 2,000 feet above sea level, adjust your canning recipes for food safety. Water-bath canning: Generally, recipes are written for water bath canning at altitudes less than 1000 feet. If you live higher than 1,000 feet above sea level, follow these guidelines: For processing times of less than 20 minutes: Add 1 additional minute for each additional 1000 feet of altitude. For processing times of more than 20 minutes: Add 2 additional minutes for each 1000 feet of altitude. Pressure Canning: Pressure canning recipes are generally written for altitudes of less than 2000 feet. If you live higher than 2000 feet above sea level, make this adjustment: Increase pounds of pressure by 1/2 pound for each additional 1,000 feet.

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Tools and Equipment for Canning and Preserving

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

If you plan to can, freeze, or dry your food, you'll need some special tools. The equipment involved with canning or preserving food is designed for efficiency and safety, so be sure you to use them. If you have these pieces already, great! If not, add them to your shopping list: Tongs: Have tongs ready for lifting hot foods out of boiling or simmering water. Any variety that you prefer will work, but a locking mechanism keeps them out of the way when not in use. Candy thermometer: Find a good quality thermometer, with a clip for attaching it to the side of a pot. This item is so useful; it is a good idea to have a backup in case one breaks while you are using it. Jar lifter: This tool is a specialized set of tongs. Its rubberized ends fit securely around any size canning jar, to lift them in and out of your canner. Canning funnel: Used for canning foods, this wide mouth tool keeps the rims of jars clean. It can also be used to fill ziplock bags neatly. Canning jars: Canning jars are made from tempered glass to withstand the high heat and pressure of your canner. Both narrow- and wide-mouth jars are available, with wide-mouth being easiest to remove the food from once it is canned. Water-bath and/or pressure canner. If you’re going to can, you must use the appropriate canner. For canning high-acid foods (fruits, jellies, relishes, and pickles), get a water-bath canner. For low-acid foods (vegetables and meats), get a pressure canner.

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Tips for Successful and Safe Canning

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Keep safety in mind whether you're water-bath canning or pressure canning. By canning foods safely, you can prevent kitchen accidents and food spoilage. Increase your chances for successful canning and maximum safety by following these guidelines: Used recipes made for modern-day canning (about 2000 or newer) and follow them exactly. Don’t increase or decrease your ingredients, processing time, or pressure level (for pressure canning). Don’t double recipes. If you want more than one recipe, prepare the recipe more than once. Use the proper ingredients: only unblemished and not overly ripe fruit or vegetables, and when a recipe calls for salt, use only canning or pickling salt. Use jars and two-piece lids approved for canning, and never reuse lids. Always label and date your finished product and use within one year of the date of processing. Periodically check your jars for any signs of spoilage and, if in doubt about the quality or safety of a preserved product, dispose of it without tasting.

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Preserve Food by Canning, Freezing, and Drying

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

This at-a-glance guide shows how to preserve foods by canning, freezing, and drying. People have been preserving food for eons. Newer, safer food preservation techniques and equipment enable you to stock your pantry or freezer with delicious, healthy foods. Pick your preferred method — water-bath canning, pressure canning, freezing, or drying — and follow these basic instructions. Water-Bath Canning Pressure Canning Drying Freezing 1. Gather supplies and equipment; keep jars hot. 2. Prepare food. 3. Fill your jars, leaving proper headspace and releasing air bubbles. Put on lids and hand-tighten screw bands. . 4. Place jars in water-bath canner. 5. Bring water to boil and allow to boil for amount of time specified in recipe. 6. At end of processing time, remove jars and allow to cool completely. 7. Test seals. 8. Store! 1. Gather supplies and equipment; keep jars hot. 2. Prepare food. 3. Fill your jars, leaving proper headspace and releasing air bubbles. Put on lids and hand-tighten screw bands. 4. Place jars in pressure canner. 5. Close and lock the canner. 6. Process jars as outlined in the recipe. 7. At end of processing time, allow pressure to return to 0. 8. Remove jars from canner and allow to cool completely. 9. Test seals. 10. Store! 1. Gather supplies. 2. Prepare food. 3. Arrange food on dehydrator trays. 4. Dry at specified temperature, occasionally turning food and rotating trays. 5. Check for doneness, using guidelines in recipe for what properly dried food looks and feels like. 6. Place in airtight storage container and store in cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. 1. Gather supplies. 2. Prepare food. 3. Place food in freezer containers, leaving specified headspace (if using rigid containers) or pressing out all excess air (if using freezer storage bags). 4. Slightly chill food or, if it was blanched, allow to come to room temperature. 5. Loosely pack food in freezer. 6. When completely frozen, repack more tightly in freezer.

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How to Prepare Canned Tomatoes

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Each tomato variety has its own color, flavor, and texture. When preparing canned tomatoes, choose tomato varieties that boast good canning results on the tomato plant’s tag or use a proven Heirloom variety. Some other tomato varieties that work well for canning include Ace, Amish paste, Homestead 24, and Rutgers. Roma or paste tomatoes and slicing varieties are all used for canning. Tomato paste varieties have less juice and, therefore, require less cooking to remove excess water for paste and thick sauces. You can use both interchangeably, but cooking times will vary. Choose nice, ripe, unblemished tomatoes for canning. To ensure the proper acidity level for your variety (4.6 or lower), add an acid, like bottled lemon juice or powdered citric acid: Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice per quart jar or 1 tablespoon lemon juice per pint. If you’re using citric acid, add 1/2 teaspoon per quart and 1/4 teaspoon per pint. Use wide-mouth pints or quart jars for ease in filling. Although not necessary, they will make the entire process go faster and with less mess. Canned Tomatoes Preparation time: 15 minutes Processing time: Pints, 35 minutes; quarts, 45 minutes Yield: 6 pints or 4 quarts 12 pounds whole tomatoes Bottled lemon juice or citric acid Canning salt (optional) Boiling water Prepare your canning jars and two-piece caps (lids and screw bands) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep the jars and lids hot. Wash and peel the tomatoes. After peeling, cut the larger tomatoes into halves or quarters. To make peeling tomatoes easier, blanch them first to loosen the skins: Dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds and then into cold water. Peeling soft-skinned fruit and tomatoes. Place the tomatoes into your prepared canning jars, pressing them to release their juice. (Use a canning funnel to keep the rims clean.) To each pint jar, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid and, if desired, 1/2 teaspoon salt. To each quart jar, add 2 tablespoons lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid and, if desired, 1 teaspoon salt. If there’s not enough juice to cover the tomatoes, add boiling water to the jars, leaving room for 1/2-inch of air space (headspace) below the lid. Release any air bubbles with a nonreactive utensil, adding more tomatoes as necessary to maintain the proper headspace. Wipe the jar rims; seal the jars with the two-piece caps, hand-tightening the bands. Process the filled jars in a water-bath canner for 35 minutes (pints) or 45 minutes (quarts) from the point of boiling. A water-bath canning kettle with the rack hanging on the edge of the kettle. Remove the jars from the canner with a jar lifter. Place them on a clean kitchen towel away from drafts. After the jars cool completely, test the seals. If you find jars that haven’t sealed, refrigerate them and use them within two weeks. Per 1/2-cup serving: Calories 44 (From fat 6); Fat 1g (Saturated 0g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 19mg; Carbohydrates 10g (Dietary fiber 2g); Protein 2g. With the abundance of tomatoes in the summer months, can some for winter eating. Tomatoes are the best-tasting and easiest produce to keep. Try adding a jar of tomatoes to bow tie pasta and butter for a filling and delicious wintertime treat.

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How to Avoid Spoilage When Canning and Preserving Foods

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Food spoilage is the deterioration in canned or preserved food that makes your food unsafe for eating. Mold, yeast, bacteria, and enzymes are the spoilers. Ingesting spoiled food can cause a wide range of ailments, depending on the type of spoilage and the amount of food consumed. Symptoms vary from mild, flulike aches and pains to more-serious illnesses or even death. Microorganisms (mold, yeast, and bacteria) are independent organisms of microscopic size. Enzymes are proteins that exist in plants and animals. Some of these create spoilage that can’t be seen (like botulism), while others (like mold) make their presence known visually. Living microorganisms are all around — in your home, in the soil, and even in the air you breathe. Sometimes microorganisms are added to food to achieve a fermented product, like beer or bread (for leavening). They’re also important for making antibiotics. So, not all microorganisms are bad, just the ones that cause disease and food spoilage. Mold Mold is a fungus with dry spores. Poorly sealed jars of high-acid or pickled foods are perfect locations for these spores to set up housekeeping. After the spores float through the air and settle on one of their favorite foods, they start growing. At first you see what looks like silken threads, then streaks of color, and finally fuzz, which covers the food. Processing high-acid and pickled food in a water-bath canner destroys mold spores. Don’t eat food that’s had fuzz scraped off of it. This was thought safe at one time but not anymore. Mold contains carcinogens that filter into the remaining food. Although the food may appear to be noninfected, ingesting this food can cause illness. Yeast Yeast spores grow on food like mold spores. They’re particularly fond of high-acid food that contains lots of sugar, like jam or jelly. They grow as a dry film on the surface of your food. Prevent yeast spores from fermenting in your food by destroying them in a water-bath canner. Bacteria Bacteria are a large group of single-celled microorganisms. Common bacteria are staphylococcus and salmonella. Botulism, the one to be most concerned with in canning, is the most dangerous form of bacteria and can be deadly. It’s almost undetectable because it’s odorless and colorless. Botulism spores are stubborn and difficult to destroy. Botulism spores hate high-acid and pickled foods, but they love low-acid foods. When you provide these spores with an airless environment containing low-acid food, like a jar of green beans, the spores produce a toxin in the food that can kill anyone who eats it. The only way to destroy them in low-acid food is by pressure canning. For safety’s sake, before eating any home-canned, low-acid food, boil it for 15 minutes from the point of boiling at altitudes of 1,000 feet or lower. For altitudes above 1,000 feet, add 1 additional minute for each 1,000 feet of elevation. Boiling does not kill the botulism bacteria. Symptoms from ingesting botulism-infected food occur within 12 to 36 hours after eating it. Symptoms include double vision and difficulty swallowing, breathing, and speaking. Seek medical attention immediately if you believe you’ve eaten infected food. Antitoxins are available to treat this poisoning, but the sooner, the better. Enzymes Enzymes are proteins that occur naturally in plants and animals. They encourage growth and ripening in food, which affects the flavor, color, texture, and nutritional value. Enzymes are more active in temperatures of 85 to 120 degrees than they are at colder temperatures. They’re not harmful, but they can make your food overripe and unattractive while opening the door for other microorganisms or bacteria. An example of enzymes in action occurs when you cut or peel an apple. After a few minutes, the apple starts to brown. Stop this browning by treating the cut apple with an antioxidant solution.

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Canning Peaches, Apricots, and Nectarines

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Peaches, apricots, and nectarines are flavorsome fruits, and by canning them yourself you can save a lot of money. Prepare canned peaches, apricots, and nectarines using a light syrup so that you can enjoy the full flavor of the fruit. Apricots make a sunny-flavored addition to winter meals. They make a great substitute for apples in an apple crisp recipe, too. Canned Peaches, Apricots, and Nectarines You follow the same steps and cooking times for all three of these luscious fruits. The only difference is in the prep step: Whereas you have to peel peaches, you leave the peel on apricots and nectarines. To make a sweeter canned fruit, use a medium syrup. Preparation time: 15 minutes Processing time: Pints, 25 minutes; quarts, 30 minutes Yield: 8 pints or 4 quarts 10 pounds apricots or 10 pounds nectarines or 12 pounds peaches Sugar syrup, light Prepare your canning jars and two-piece caps (lids and screw bands) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep the jars and lids hot. Wash your fruit. Meanwhile, bring the sugar syrup to a boil. To prepare peaches, peel them; then cut them in half and remove the pits. To prepare nectarines or apricots, simply cut them in half and remove the pits (leaving the peel on). To make peaches easy to peel, blanch them to loosen the skin: Dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds and then dip them in cold water. Pack the fruit firmly into hot jars and pour boiling hot sugar syrup over fruit, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Release any air bubbles with a nonreactive utensil. Wipe the jar rims; seal the jars with the two-piece caps, hand-tightening the bands. Process the filled jars in a water-bath canner for 25 minutes (pints) or 30 minutes (quarts) from the point of boiling. Remove the jars from the canner with a jar lifter. Place them on a clean kitchen towel away from drafts. After the jars cool completely, test the seals. If you find jars that haven’t sealed, refrigerate them and use them within two weeks. Per 1/2-cup serving peaches: Calories 88 (From fat 1); Fat 0g (Saturated 0g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 4mg; Carbohydrates 23g (Dietary fiber 2g); Protein 1g Per 1/2-cup serving apricots: Calories 118 (From fat 5); Fat 1g (Saturated 0g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 2mg; Carbohydrates 29g (Dietary fiber 3g); Protein 2g Per 1/2-cup serving nectarines: Calories 118 (From fat 5); Fat 1g (Saturated 0g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 0mg; Carbohydrates 29g (Dietary fiber 2g); Protein 1g

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How to Prepare Canned Pears

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

All varieties of pears can and preserve well, so use your favorite variety. After cutting and peeling the pears, treat your fruit with an antioxidant to prevent discoloring. Use a product such as Ever-Fresh or Fruit-Fresh and follow the instructions on the container. After dipping the pears in the antioxidant solution, rinse and drain the pears before packing them into your prepared jars. Canned Pears Try canned pears in place of apples in any recipe calling for cooked fruit. Preparation time: 15 minutes Processing time: Pints, 20 minutes; quarts, 25 minutes Yield: 8 pints or 4 quarts 12 pounds pears Sugar syrup, light Prepare your canning jars and two-piece caps (lids and screw bands) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep the jars and lids hot. Wash, peel, and core the pears. Slice the pears into 1/4-inch pieces or cut them into even-sized chunks. Bring your sugar syrup to a boil. Pack the pears firmly into the hot jars and pour the boiling hot sugar syrup over them, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Release any air bubbles with a nonreactive utensil, adding more sugar syrup as necessary to maintain the proper headspace. Wipe the jar rims; seal the jars with the two-piece caps, hand-tightening the bands. Process the filled jars in a water-bath canner for 20 minutes (pints) or 25 minutes (quarts) from the point of boiling. Remove the jars from the canner with a jar lifter. Place them on a clean kitchen towel away from drafts. After the jars cool completely, test the seals. If you find jars that haven’t sealed, refrigerate them and use them within two weeks. Per 1/2-cup serving: Calories 79 (From fat 0); Fat 0g (Saturated 0g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 2mg; Carbohydrates 21g (Dietary fiber 1g); Protein 0g.

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