Last week I had the opportunity to assist with a jam making class for a ladies’ night. My co-teacher brought jam making supplies and explained the basics of how to make grape jelly from grape juice; I brought in two canners and a small collection of books and magazines about canning. Below is the list of resources I took to the class, as well as some other items that I mentioned to the ladies in attendance. It is my hope that posting this on my blog will serve them (I told everyone not to bother writing any of it down – easier to post it here!) and my readers. Whether you’re looking for supplies and resources for your first attempts at canning or you’re ready to advance your skills, I’m sure there will be something here of use to you!
Ball Blue Book of Preserving ~ If you can only choose ONE book to get you canning, I would start here! Look for the most recent version available, as food safety advice has changed over the decades, and even over the past few years. The Blue Book is the “Old Faithful” of canning. You can find it lots of places – if you’ve seen canning jars for sale somewhere, they are likely have the Blue Book around as well.
Canning & Preserving for Dummies ~ Karen Ward
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 delicious and creative recipes for today ~ Kingry & Devine, editors
The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping ~ Erica Strauss (This is not exclusive to canning, but there are some yummy seasonal recipes in it to help you put things up for your pantry all year ’round.)
Growing and Canning Your Own Food ~ Jackie Clay
Speaking of changing seasons, keep an eye out at bookstores, hardware stores, and feed & tack stores. You can often find annual canning cookbooks on the newstand from publishers such as Better Homes and Gardens and Taste of Home. Those that have stayed on my shelf are from 2011, 2013, and 2014. Some recipes may be recycled through a number of years, but there are always some new recipes to try out as well. These are technically magazines, but I treat them as books for my cataloging and storage purposes.
Backwoods Home Magazine features frequent articles about filling your pantry and Q&A sections from author Jackie Clay, who is a font of wisdom for all things gardening and canning
Self-Reliance (the new sister publication to Backwoods Home Magazine) – The Fall 2016 issue has an excellent article entitled “Canning Class” (pp.7-12), as well as a piece called “Avoiding botulism when canning food” (pp. 14-16).
Mother Earth News – This magazine from Ogden Publications is full of homesteading advice, and often includes canning and food preservation articles. Even if a current issue doesn’t, you can find lots of info in their archives.
Blogs & DVDs:
Rural Revolution: Patrice Lewis, an author in Idaho, shares tons of recipes and information on her blog about canning.
Backwoods Home Magazine – Ask Jackie: Can’t wait for updates from Jackie Clay in a print copy of Backwoods Home? Go dig through her archived blog posts on their site while you wait.
New Life on a Homestead: Not only does Kendra offer great advice on canning and homesteading in general, she’s also starred in a DVD canning class called At Home Canning for Beginners & Beyond. I highly recommend adding this DVD to your collection if you’d like to see a demonstration in addition to just reading the steps of the canning process.
Homestead Blessings – The Art of Canning: Our family is so tickled by the West ladies that my kids will pull out their Homestead Blessings videos and watch them just for fun. There’s a short clip on YouTube courtesy of the production company, Franklin Springs, so you can get an idea of their style of presentation.
Canning supplies will start appearing in your local stores in spring, as folks get ready for putting away the largess of summer gardens. However, some stores will carry supplies all the time, and you can of course order things online. One of my personal favorites is Pantry Paratus, because I enjoy supporting a small, veteran-owned business (and their incredible customer service makes every penny worthwhile).
Depending on what you’re looking to can, you can start out with a water bath canner (or even just a very large stock pot!); canning jars, lids, and rings; and a handful of towels and dish cloths. There are canning starting kits out there where you get a hold handful of useful items. If you’re looking to can meats, low-acid foods like vegetables, or mixed ingredient items like stew, you’ll want to look into a pressure canner. (You’ll learn all about what can be canned in what once you start reading the above resources, I promise!)
If, like me, you prefer to invest a little more upfront and have items that can be reused many times, or indefinitely, you’ll want to check out Tattler Reusable Canning Lids. While we have cut back on the amount of plastic in our home, we felt that these BPA-free, made in USA, lids were worthwhile because of the lack of waste involved. While metal canning lids can be repurposed into gobs of things by the crafty folks out there, we would produce way too many lids that way (or be ready to start putting armor on the truck, one canning lid at a time HA!). Research your options and see what works for your family; just be aware that the two types of lids do have slightly different methods of use, so adjust accordingly based on which you’re using.
I hope this gives you a good start on resources if you’ve been itching to start canning. Maybe this’ll be the year?