When we find ourselves up to our ears in fresh fruits and vegetables by this time of the year, one’s thoughts typically lead to canning or otherwise preserving the fresh flavors of the harvest season to enjoy later on. However, the procedure and equipment list often feels daunting. Gathering your supplies doesn’t have to be intimidating. Here is a short introduction to equipment that is commonly called for in water-bath canning.
I like to start with new jars, or some that I’ve used in previous years. Inspect each jar for cracks and chips along the lip. It is especially important to avoid using chipped jars so that you achieve a nice seal if you are using these for water-bath canning. We sell cases of Mason jars in half-pint, or pint—regular or wide-mouth. We also sell jars separately so you don’t have to buy a whole case at a time (although if you’re doing a lot of canning, buying a case will save you money).
Extra lids and bands
You can reuse jars from year to year, but you cannot reuse the lids for water bath canning. The lids contain a compound that seals them to the jar during the water bath canning method. This seal is only good one time.After that, you may use the lids with jars for storage purposes for leftovers or bulk items, but a food-safe seal will not be possible again. The band is the ring that holds the lid to the jar to allow the seal to be made airtight. You may use these again and again for water bath canning, but if they start to rust, then they should be replaced. At the Co-op, we sell packs of just lids, or lids and bands in both regular and wide-mouth sizes.
These are, in my mind, the fourth most essential tool besides your jars, lids, and bands. The jar tongs are what you will need to pull the jars out of boiling pots of water with hot steam everywhere. Trust me, you will need to depend on a good, sturdy pair of these to grip the jar and securely carry it to the waiting counter space to cool. If the tongs you use have a rubber coating to ensure a solid grip, make sure to replace them if the rubber cracks and peels away.
For water-bath canning, you will need to prevent the jars from bumping into each other in the boiling water of the pot. Regardless of the number of jars of food you are processing, the pot will need to be full of jars also to prevent the jars of food from tipping over. A jar rack is placed on the bottom of the pot before it’s filled with water. When it’s time to heat-process the jars, you will lower them into the pot and the rack will keep them upright and in place.
This is very helpful to have to effectively place your prepared food into the jar without missing it and spilling all over. This is most useful in canning tomatoes, applesauce, or anything into regular mouth jars.
Magnetic Canning Lid Lifter
This is a very simple piece of equipment—a magnet on one end of a plastic stick. What this does is lifts one lid at a time out of the bowl of hot water they will need to sit in in order to activate the sealing compound before processing in the pot. This nifty device lifts it for you so there is no need to burn your fingertips trying to snatch a lid.
Find all of these and more at the Co-op—whether you are looking to replace a worn out item or you are trying canning for the first time! We carry a convenient five-piece canning set by Harold Import Company, and individual items by Ball.
For a thorough procedure for canning tomatoes using the water bath method, see Katie Powderly’s article, Extending the Local Season: Canning Tomatoes, published in the 2009 Reader at: www.willystreet.coop/reader/extending-the-local-season-0.