Guess what I did over the weekend, everyone? If you guessed “canning” – congratulations! You win….bragging rights?
The Partner and I processed close to ten pounds of apples that we picked out at the Taves Family Farm in Abbotsford a couple of weeks ago. We lost a couple due to taking too long to process them, plus we’d eaten a few fresh (mmm fresh-picked apples – delicious), but it turned out to be the perfect amount for some small-batch canning experiments.
Sidenote: If you live in the Lower Mainland and are craving some farm goodness, I highly recommend heading out to Taves Family Farm. It was so much fun! There’s a corn maze, apple picking, a pumpkin patch, and my personal favourite, pygmy goats that you can pet!
Canning is one of the homesteading skills that I’m learning in my apartment. While not as cost-effective as preserving food you grow yourself (well, I’m assuming – I haven’t actually run the numbers on this one), it IS great as the more skills the Partner and I can master before we actually move to our acreage, the more time and energy we can devote to the skills that we can’t practice in an apartment/city setting.
Next year, I plan on being even MORE frugal/sustainable/homestead-y in obtaining food to preserve. I will *hopefully* be volunteering with Operation Fruit Rescue in Edmonton (assuming, of course, that we escape from Vancouver before next summer). They’re a fantastic non-profit that matches volunteers with fruit tree/shrub owners in the Edmonton area who are, for whatever reason, unable to harvest the fruit themselves. The harvested fruit is then divided between the fruit tree owner, the volunteers, and local food banks!
I love this idea so much – you have community building, sustainable food systems, frugality, and giving back all by volunteering with one organization. Sadly, I didn’t learn about the Vancouver Fruit Tree Project, the Vancouver equivalent, until after the harvesting season was over this year, but for anyone else in the Lower Mainland, it’s a great option!
Anyways – back to the canning experiment.
Water bath canning is a great skill to learn because it’s actually not *that* complicated and it doesn’t require a lot of equipment. About a month ago, I tried my hand at it for the first time (wandering into the kitchen as my mom canned when I was kid does NOT count here) and I enjoyed it so much that it prompted the apple picking in the first place.
Here’s the place that I make a huge disclaimer: I am not a canning expert.
I have followed scientifically tested recipes (very important in canning – no one wants botulism) and several “how-to” articles – I particularly like this one by Kitchn and this one by The Spruce. Please read through those or any of the other million guides on the interwebs, as they are FAR more experienced sources. That being said, it’s really not scary! I had only minor freakouts, and that’s more due to my anxious perfectionism/catastrophizing than the canning its self.
Things you need:
- Large pot (stock pots work great here)
- Canning jars
- New canning lids
- Canning jar rings (I’m sure there’s an actual name for these, but I couldn’t tell you what it is)
- Whatever tasty thing you’re canning
See? Minimal equipment/investment to get started!
I bought canning jars from Amazon, these ones, to be exact (that’s an affiliate link), as I didn’t have any 125 ml ones, which I wanted to use for one of the recipes. Once you have
an alarming stockpile a collection of jars, you can simply buy new lids. You need new lids each time because the seal on them is only designed to seal once, and canning is one place I do like to follow the safety precautions.
Next, you’ll want to cook up/prepare what you’re canning. Because I wanted to experiment with a few different recipes, I did small batches. Below, you can see my oh-so-beautiful stove with three different preserves cooking away.
I went with Apple Butter, as my last attempt wasn’t really apple butter so much as applesauce (not that I’m complaining – it was still delicious), a basic Apple Jelly, and a Caramel Apple Coffee Jam because it sounds like everything I love in one spreadable sauce.
Other Important Canning Notes
- YOU CAN ONLY WATER BATH CAN CERTAIN RECIPES/FOODS – seriously folks, this one is incredibly important. You can only water bath can “high acid” foods, but to be on the safe side, make sure you’re only water bath canning specific recipes
- You’ll need a canning rack or something else to keep the bottom of the jars from touching the bottom of the pot – I used extra rings but didn’t zip tie them
- You need at least an inch of water above the top of the jar, which is why I only use small jars. I need to get a taller pot before I can use taller jars
- Start the timer for the processing time only once the pot reaches a full, rolling boil
- You’ll need to adjust the processing time based on your altitude – only for anyone living over 1,000 feet above sea level
Once everything is cooked and ready, just follow the canning directions in the canning recipe! The recipe will tell you the important stuff, such as how long to process (aka boil the living daylights out of) the jars, how much headroom to leave in the jar, and any other important information. The apple jelly recipe doesn’t actually have canning instructions, so I followed the same ones as for the apple butter (but there were other apple jelly canning recipes, so I knew that it was safe to water bath can – lots of acid). I may have overprocessed it, but I would rather be safe than ill with food poisoning.
As of last night, my jelly hadn’t set, so we’ll have to see if it does. One website I read says that it can take up to a week (a week!) for jams and jellies to reach their final set, so I haven’t given up hope! And if it doesn’t set?
That’s one of the major bonuses of small-batch canning – if it doesn’t work, it’s only a small amount of waste! In any case, I’m sure that it will still taste just fine. Worst case, I can use them as Secret Santa gifts this year….just kidding!
There you have it – a very rough guide to water bath canning. Have you tried canning before? If so – share your favourite recipe! If not, what’s stopping you? Let me know in the comments. 🙂