Eight essential tools for canning
While it’s quite a while yet until the the local fields will yield the first luscious springtime fruits and vegetables, perhaps you might already be thinking of how to get into the groove of preserving and pickling. Here’s the low-down on the tools you’ll need to become the new canning king or queen on the block.
There’s no need for fancy gadgets to produce jars full of great tasting goodies. Some of the most important canning tools can be had for a few small dollars at a thrift store or yard sale, or borrowed from a friend or family member.
1. A good canning cookbook
Starting off with the right guidance will help make sure that your first batch of strawberry jam or bread and butter pickles will be a success. The Bernardin Complete Book of Home Canning is considered the go-to reference on preserving foods at home.
2. Large canning pot
This is usually a large enameled steel pot that can be bought at a hardware store and some grocery stores. Large aluminum stock pots and stainless steel canning pots can also be used. For the most part, a pot is a pot and there’s no need to spend a lot of money on this item.
3. Canning pot rack
This is one item not to go cheap on, but there’s no need to spend a fortune on it either. A pot rack is an essential tool to have to ensure you can safely submerge and remove your jars into and out of the water bath. You definitely don’t want your jars sitting on the bottom of your pot – the direct heat from your stove element could shatter the jars. Pot racks are made of either stainless steel or galvanized steel, and they have handles on either side to help you lift them. The most important thing to ensure is that the rack is well-made, fits your pot properly, and can withstand the weight of several full jars.
4. Jar lifter
Along with the canning pot rack, a jar lifter can also be purchased inexpensively, but make sure it’s of good quality. You’ll need this tool to safely lift your jars out of the canning pot once they’ve finished in the water bath.
5. Mason jars
This is one thing not to go the thrift store or second-hand route on. Second-hand Mason jars may have been smacked around during use by a previous owner or en-route to wherever you happen to buy them. The danger here is in the strong possibility of your jars shattering in the hot water bath due to chips or hairline cracks in the glass that you might not be able to see or notice. While you also don’t need to spend a lot of money on acquiring jars (keep your eyes peeled for a good sale), its best to buy them new and take care when handling them so you can reuse them. Many jars of different sizes are widely available. Jars are the most inexpensive at the end of the canning season when they usually go one sale (in the early to mid-fall season).
6. Metal screw bands and sealing caps/lids
While most metal screw bands can be reused as long as they have not been damaged or dented in any way, sealing caps – the metal disc coated with a sealing compound – should never be reused. Dents in the edges of the caps usually occur when prying them off unopened jars, and these dents can result in a defective seal if reused. A defective seal can lead to food-borne botulism, and no amount of money saved on reusing sealing caps is worth the life-threatening sickness that can result from botulism.
7. A wide-mouthed funnel
To make filling your jars easy, invest in a simple wide-mouthed funnel. Either a rigid plastic or stainless steel will do. Using a funnel will help ensure you keep your jar rims clean so your sealing caps create a good seal.
8. A large magnet or a canning magnet wand
You’ll need to sterilize your sealing caps, and removing them safely from hot water is important to prevent burning yourself. Use a large magnet to remove the caps from the water, or use a specially-designed canning magnet wand.
What’s next? Stay posted for tips on what foods to start with and tricks on how to turn the fruits of your labour into yummy rewards.