Congratulations! You have decided to preserve fruits and vegetables from your garden or local produce stand without using excess electricity (the freezer) and since you will wash and reuse your canning jars — you are not being wasteful. Think about how much money you spend on items such as stewed/diced tomatoes, salsa, vinaigrettes, spaghetti sauce, jams and jellies, and pickles. Also think about how many plastic freezer bags you throw away each week. If your household is anything like mine, those numbers are staggering.
For beginning canners, it is best to start by canning with a boiling water canner. I use my boiling water canner all the time. Because we have limited garden space thanks to uncooperative soil, I can’t plant rows of beans, peas, or other low acid foods. For now, I have to purchase them from local markets. While I have been known to use a pressure canner to preserve meats, green beans, and soups — I haven’t done this in a while due to scheduling conflicts! 🙂
Boiling water canners can either be purchased or made using supplies found in any kitchen. If you don’t have a wire rack to place in the bottom of the kettle (with fitting lid), that’s just fine because I’ll show you how to improvise. Boiling water canners and the racks sold with them look like this:
There are also a few tools which you will need to gather:
tongs, magnetic stick for lid grabbing, jar lifter, and a funnel (I like the wide mouth funnels for most canning projects but use a small mouth funnel for jellies and flavored vinegars)
You will also need canning jars, lids, and rings:
The jars and rings can often be found at yard sales and country stores.
While the lids may not be reused EVERYTHING else can: glass jars and rings.
Some foods like spaghetti sauce come in Mason jars.
Create Your Own Boiling Water Canner
As mentioned on the Jams, Jellies, and Preserves page, the general population no longer cans, bottles, or preserves fruits and vegetables so finding canning supplies is becoming more and more difficult. You can order them online or purchase them at estate sales, yard sales, thrift stores, and occasionally a feed/farm supply store but it is just as easy to make one in your kitchen. Here’s what you need:
- large sturdy kettle with lid
- a disposable pie pan
- two-pronged meat fork
Using the meat fork (on a cutting board), make holes in the pie pan in the bottom and around the sides. You may need to cut off the edge of the pie pan to fit into your kettle but this depends on the size of your kettle.
Place the pie pan in the bottom of the kettle upside down and fill with water according to the directions of your canning recipe. This homemade canner really only processes a few jars at a time. The jars must be upright during processing so be careful and don’t overload this little canner or your jars won’t seal properly.
Canning is a wonderful way to cut back on the waste associated with tin cans and freezer bags (which can be reused but are commonly thrown away). If you decide to make this canner, we ask that you email us a picture so we can post it on this site. We are greatly encouraged by your feedback. Those comments and pictures serve as proof that the urban and suburban homesteading community is growing.
More on canning to come!