Monday, October 24, 2011

Success! Adventures in Canning

Well it's official.  Snow is literally right around the corner (we're supposed to get 3-5 inches tomorrow night - ahhh!) which signals the beginning of real fall weather (sounds strange...but that's the reality of "real fall weather" to me now...heh) and the end of summer and our garden.

Marc and I were quite the horticulturalists over the summer and I was thoroughly impressed with the fruits of our his labor =)  We had tomatoes and zucchini and peppers (bell, banana and jalopeno) galore!  By the end of the summer, we had so much produce, we didn't know what to do with it.  There just aren't enough recipes to make us want to continue eating zucchini and tomatoes (which says a lot - I'm a huge tomato fan and if I'm sick of them, you know we had a lot) so we were left in quite a pickle...what to do with all of this extra produce?

We've been intrigued by the concept of canning for quite some time, and threat of the first frost gave us an excuse to get our booties in gear and do some research.  It turns out, it's really quite simple!  Just a few pieces of extra kitchen gear, a recipe you love, and some creativity and POOF - you've got freshly made canned goods that are made with something you can't buy in the


The benefit of canning versus just freezing is that you actually preserve the food, so you can store it on the shelf (depending on what it is, of course).  The stuff we're looking to preserve can be stored for up to a year in the cupboard - which is awesome since our fridge is teeeeeenie weenie.

Here's what you'll need to get started:
  • - Canning jars with lids and rims (dubs...hah not really)
  • - Wide mouth tongs (to pick up the jars)
  • - Magnetic lid "picker-upper-thingie"
  • - Large pot for boiling your jars
  • - Wide mouth funnel (depending on what you're canning...if it's a runny liquid than a normal funnel would probably work)
  • - A recipe you love enough to can =) (this part is key)
Awww kitchen gear.
The big pot on the left was for canning - the pot on the right was for the marinara sauce.
We weren't positive where to go to get all this stuff at first, and the chick at our local Target told us to go to Ace Hardware (???).  We were a little shocked at the recommendation, but I'll be darned, Ace had everything we needed!  PLUS they had recipe books and a TON of jar sizes.  We were impressed.

Also, Ball Jars has a very helpful website that has some basic tips and easy recipes to use as a guide.  The photo below is linked to their website.
As if it's any surprise, Marc and I decided to try canning his marinara recipe first.  Shocking, I know, but we love it!  Recipe to come in a later post.

One thing to note when you're making a homemade recipe, you have to check and make sure what you're cooking has enough acid to be preserved.  If there's not enough acid, you may have to add some in order for it to preserve successfully (just adding vinegar or lemon juice).  Because tomatoes are super acidic, this marinara recipe didn't need any extra acid - just something to be aware of if you try this on your own.

Your first step is to sanitize all your jars, lids and rims (dubs...heh).

After they've completely dried, begin filling them using the funnel, making sure to leave at least a 1/2 inch of space to the top of the jar.  Before placing the lid on top, wipe the lip of the jar so that there's no food reside, it should be completely dry (also, try not to touch the inside of the jar with your hands since the oils can affect the canning process).

Use the magnetic jar picker-upper-thingie to place the lid on the jar.  It might seem silly to use the magnet, but again, you don't want to touch the lid since you can contaminate and affect the seal with the oils on your hand.

After placing the lid, secure the jar with the rim (dubs...hah...sorry it doesn't get old) - you can use your hands to tighten the jar (but be careful if the jars are hot from whatever you're putting in!).  The little "pop top" of the lid should be sticking up right now.
If you look closely, you can see that the lid is slightly "popped up".
After you seal the jars, it's time to boil!  This is where the preservation happens.  Boil your jars for the length of time the recipe you're making requires (of course, if it's a homemade recipe, go by what's standard on the website for something similar).

For our recipe, we boiled for over 30 minutes (okay embarrassed to say I have no clue how long exactly - Marc was in charge, but pretty sure it was close to 45 minutes of boiling).

After boiling is over, remove the jars with the tongs (this is where the special canning tongs come in very handy - you don't want to drop those bad boys) and place on the counter to cool.  Now it's time for patience, you need to wait until the jar is almost completely cooled and check the pop-top seal.  If the the top of the jar doesn't "pop" then you have successfully preserved your food!
Our little workstation on the stove.
Awww...happy jars of homemade marinara, just boiling away =)
Marc did not want to "pose" for these pictures since he was scared of dropping the jars, so they're a little blurry.
All done and preserved for the future!  If you look closely, you can kiiind of tell that now the "pop top" is sunken in - meaning the preserving process was successful!  (this took a few tries for some of them)
We really had so much doing this over the weekend - I'm looking forward to making a few more recipes and canning them for the winter.  I have a summer salsa that I love to make, and I'm excited to know that I can make a bunch and preserve the rest.

Hope you enjoy!  Happy canning everyone =)


  1. I've always wanted to learn how to do this! Looks like fun :-)

  2. LOVE this! Marc told me you were gonna do it. I am so impressed! And I can't believe it is gonna snow there!


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