Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Canning Gear

Yes, you can always "get by" with tools and equipment that are not top shelf, but the right tool for the job, whether it's hairstyling, home improvement, or cooking, makes a world of difference.  It almost always impacts the quality of the finished product, not to mention the level of aggravation, time and skill required to do a job right.  So it is with canning equipment.

Canning is a relatively low cost hobby.  After you establish your set of tools, all you are buying is produce and sometimes replenishing your stash of jars, lids, and rings.  I find that a lot of people give me back empty jars after they've finished the goodies (in hopes they will be returned full of something else yummy!).  My only other expense is labels.  I usually design my own labels and print them on full sheets of sticker paper, then cut them out individually for the jars.

Here is the canning gear I recommend for starting out:

Boiling water canner with rack.  Yes, you can get along with a big stock pot with a dishtowel in the bottom of it, but you might want to use that stock pot to make a brine or something else to put in the jars.

jar lifter
lid wand
candy thermometer
jars, rings, lids

It's really not expensive.  Well under fifty dollars for this entire batterie de cuisine.  Other items I find helpful are lots of wooden spoons, ditto for clean dishtowels, saucers for the freezer, and wide, deep, heavy bottomed pots.  Mostly, I use my 6 qt copper dutch oven and 12 qt stockpot.  An inexpensive splatter screen is also useful for jam making.

I've also purchased a couple of books, Well Preserved , Perfect Preserves and the Ball Blue Book of Home Canning.  Yes, you can get fun recipes from blogs and articles, but for a foundation, it's really essential to read beyond that.  There are also always trendy new canning books on Amazon that I am usually able to pick up at my library.

Your next decision is jars and lids.  I like to put jam in half pint jars because you gets lots of them out of a batch and they make a nice, small gift.  If you are making big batches of something, consider 12 oz jars, or pints.  I use pints for pickles and pickled fruits.  Ball makes a beautiful new line called "Elite" but they are cost prohibitive for me.  Also, if I were more skilled and money was no object, I might opt for the Weck jars, which are just beautiful.

I have not dipped my toe in the world of pressure canning, which is for low acid foods.  Maybe next year.


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