But where do you start? With the right tools! Here's a list of my favorites.
First you need the best resource out there and here it is....Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. Technically I have the 2010 version but I could only find it used on Amazon. Everything you need to know is in this book - recipes, step by step instructions, and all kinds of handy hints. The best thing is that this provides all kinds of preserving techniques - freezing, dehydration, water bath, and pressure canning. It's a great place to start.
There are two kinds of canning - water bath canning and pressure canning. You use one or the other depending on what you are canning. Remember - there are no short cuts! You must use the correct method. Don't be this guy. Sometimes folks will try and use "well my Grandma did it this way" methods and really - why take a chance? Just get all the facts and don't try and jazz things up.
So you either need a the biggest kettle you can find or a pressure canner. The great thing about a pressure canner is that you can use it for either method - with the lid on (and following the directions) or with the lid off as just a big pot for the water bath method. I love my Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker so much that I have TWO!
Amazon has a great deal on this big pressure canner - with free shipping it's the best deal I found.Why two? Because sometimes you get into a canning frenzy and you just can't slow down. The last step in pressure canning is allowing the canner to cool down. But if I still have a half a cauldron of salsa or stock on the stove I don't want to have to wait until the next day to finish it. Having a second canner at the ready ensures can I finish what I've started. Plus, having two of everything is awesome.
Next you need a few doodads to make it easier. I really like having a jar grabber like this one, Norpro 600 Jar Lifter. A funnel is a must - I have a stainless one like this, Norpro Stainless Steel Wide-Mouth Funnel And I can't get enough of these stainless ladles - I have them in several sizes, 8 Oz Ladle Stainless Steel *Professional Quality*.
It might seem like a lot to get started but once you get up and running you'll be amazed at how much money you can save by canning your own. Sure that can of beans is only $1 on sale a the store... but that bag of dried beans is also a buck and you can get at least 6 or 7 pints easily. Tomatoes? Heck if you grow your own from seeds the cost is barely there. Spread this out over a season or so and you've paid for your tools. Not convinced? Go and stand in front of the fancy canned tomato sauces at the store. I've seen them as high as $7 a jar - those are the ones with out high fructose corn syrup.
There is always some wisenheimer who wants to rain on everyone's canning day saying there is no way that home canning is cheaper than buying stuff a the store. They'll break out their chart of electric costs, labor per hour, and smugly rattle off platitudes like "there's no such thing as a free lunch." Well. Then. That's fine - then go buy it at the store.
But you may not be able to trust a bag of salad these days, and who knows what the story is on BPA, and don't forget all that gas you're using to drive on down the the FoodMart.... nope. Pretty sure my high quality, freshly processed canned goods are a better bargain.
Are you ready to get canning? Yes you can!
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