Canning for beginners | How About Orange

July 27, 2010

Canning for beginners

Yup, that's me. A canning novice. I embarked on my first canning project using this easy and tasty apricot butter recipe from SweetPreservation.com. (A fun site, by the way, which includes instructions for hosting a "preservation party" with a recommended music playlist that made me laugh. Check out their printable jar labels, too.)

When I set out to make jam, I assumed you simply boil a little fruit and a ton of sugar in a pan and dump it into jars—the end. Not so! You have to boil those jars of jam in something called a "water bath canner." What the?! I was not in the mood to spend $30+ on a giant pot that won't fit in my cupboard, so I did some research. What I learned*:

This article is very helpful and details the canning process.
• A box of twelve 8 oz. jelly jars and lids is about $10. I got mine at Ace Hardware.
• I didn't buy a special jar lifter; I used my regular kitchen tongs.
• I didn't buy a canning funnel; I used a ladle.
• I didn't buy a water bath canner; I used my stock pot with a washcloth on the bottom to keep the jars off the direct heat from the burner and to keep them from jostling around. You could also put a wire cooling rack in the bottom if your pot is big enough. Just make sure you're able to cover the tops of your jars with boiling water.
• After boiling your jars for the correct time (see your jam recipe) and removing them from the water bath, the lids will still be in the popped-up position. As the jars cool over the next several hours, the lids will indent, often with a pinging sound which is very exciting.

*I'm no canning expert; I'm just telling you what I did to make small jars of jam. If you plan to can something else, do read the article above because different rules may apply.

Oh, and I forgot the most important part. Make your jars look cute! I used fabric scraps, baker's twine, and made my own jar labels for gift giving. Printable PDFs you can download are available in this post.

55 comments:

ADKnits said...

I'm definitely interested in canning and most definitely a beginner. I may have to finally give it a whirl. Thanks for keeping it simple!

Jenny said...

Just learned from my MIL, if it gets all crazy frothy when you are cooking the jam, just add a knife tip of butter - stops instantly. Makes no sense, but saves a mess!
Adorable jams btw!

Jess said...

Oh, nice! I scooped that foam off. And ate some of it.

Darci said...

Well that looks totally do-able and easy-peasy. Thanks, Jessica!

That fruity foam would be good on ice cream, too. (mmm!)

I see dill pickles and jam in my future… but not together. LOL

Jess said...

Glad you clarified that. Ew.

Joshua said...

Hooray! I've started canning recently, as well. Found a few recipes for pickles and peach preserves, and I've been working on them all week! I didn't have a wire rack, so I bought a big, cheap stock pot, and a slightly smaller pot, and I drilled holes in the bottom of the smaller one. The smaller pot's handles sit neatly on the rim of the larger one, keeping the jars from touching the direct heat. Thanks for posting this!

LeeAnn said...

When I only need to can a few small jars of something (like the salsa I'm making tonight!) I do exactly what you have done. With the exception of using the specialized tongs to get the jars out. One accident was all I needed before I purchased those! But isn't canning so rewarding? And your spoils make great Xmas presents too. Especially for all those gift exchanges you really don't want to participate in. :P

CitricSugar said...

Looks like a resounding success! (And I doubt those jars could be any prettier - too sweet!)

Ashlee said...

Yummy! And oh so pretty! I want to can something now...

M.Peterson said...

The play list IS hilarious, but where's "Pour Some Sugar on Me"???

Mountain Thyme said...

Tomorrow my neighbor and I are going to can green beans and a apricot jam. First time for me, not for her. If all goes well, we will be on to stone peaches and tomatoes. I remember when my mother and our neighbors used to can peaches, tomatoes, corn, peppers, etc., etc, when I was a young girl.

Welcome home
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Grandma G said...

YAY!! I love success! Proud of you again, I am!

Love,
Mum/notacannerherself

jill s said...

I make jam pretty often and before I start cooking the jam I put the jars + lids in hot water in a separate pan!

right before the intense last minute of cooking the jam i take the jars out + lids out!

then pour the jam into the hot jars! just be careful...the lids will of course be hot!

this is how my mother in law taught me!

i've made lots of batches + never had a lid not pop! :)

Kreative Kari said...

This is an awesome idea and your jars are adorable. This would be a great thing to put in a homemade gift basket.

the 30 girl said...

i've been trying to rev myself up to can a few things this summer and you've just given me the inspiration to actually do it. thanks!

Anonymous said...

Besides being adorably packaged & doable - how does it taste?!? My mouth is watering on the keyboard!

Jess said...

Really yummy. Really, really yummy.

Nicole said...

So timely! I have been dying to try canning. I love jam.

Bombdigity said...

so glad you posted this! I've been wanting to make my own jalapeno jelly but didn't want to invest in all the equipment

The Bon said...

The funnel is mostly to help minimize the chances of getting jam on the jar, and causing the seals to fail because there's goo between the sealant on the lid and the rim of the jar. I find they're super handy to have around anyway.

Your pot needs to be tall enough to have at least one inch of water over the jars and then room for it to boil without boiling over. As you found, stock pots work great for this, but usually only for shorter jars, as they just don't have the room to boil otherwise.

I do the same process as jill s for sterilizing my jars, I boil them in water while I'm cooking my jam. Don't boil the lids though, just heat them in simmering water, because boiling water can cause sealant failure, which results in jam that needs to be eaten quickly! ;)

We used to have a small family farm with a huge garden and we canned and pickled more things than I can even begin to remember at this point. I've been doing it on my own for a few years now with my own garden, this year I'm buying a propane burner as my flat top electric stove is not safe for canning on.

Jen said...

I've never boiled the full jars themselves- I usually either sterilise them by puting them in the dishwasher or a low oven for 30 mins. Haven't had a problem yet!

Torrie said...

k...all caught up now :).

I, too, just 'canned' for the first time and definitely want to do it again. I have a great book that came highly recommended, called "Well Preserved." I love how you prettied them up too and look forward to tomorrow's printables!!

hi-d said...

Looks like a pro! So cool!

Ladyfishfelt said...

I have been canning for awhile. I do have the canning funnel because it keeps the edges of the jar cleaner and if you fill it up to the bottom it provides the correct space at the top of the jar. I also have the canning tongs because they are well worth the expense to be able to grab the jars without accidents. I have done tomatoes in various forms, raspberry jelly, raspberry syrup and raspberry jam as well as raspberry juice. Makes great gifts. Just wish people would give me the jars back.

Sally@DivineDistractions said...

You make it sound easy and I'm not so scared about the water bath thing anymore! I think that's what has stopped me from canning before. I may just have found a new hobby!
BTW....I did my post today on our fav color. Hope you have time to check it out.

Melissa said...

Very cool ... looks even yummier in your picture! Thanks for sharing and keeping it simple! =)

ella@lifeologia said...

WoW. These look fantastic. I've been thinking about making preserves the other day but scratched the idea - then I end up on you site and now I'm thinking about it again ;)
Thanks. I think I have to try it ;)

suzieQ said...

Oh, such a great post, thank you so much. I have just sent a link to my daughter, since she mentioned an interest in canning.

Besides my thanks, I wanted to mention that I use my canning funnel all the time! I love it. When I make mulled cider, or hot chocolate and want to pour the hot liquid into a mug, I put the funnel in the mug and can pour the drink in with ease instead of having to be so careful to not splash and drip all over. If you want to ladle hot soup into a mug, it is a big help with that too.

It is great to use when you want to fill storage jars from larger bags. The funnel helps keep what you are pouring from landing all over the counter.

I'm just saying that you may just want to get the canning funnel to help you out in the kitchen. I use mine a lot and consider it a valuable helper in my kitchen.

Nathalie said...

You totally make me want to give it a try! I would love to throw a canning party in the fall even though I have never canned before!

eireann said...

when i can i usually use a water bath canner, but i never do for jam. there is enough sugar in the jam already to preserve the fruit so the water bath is just an extra step. to make the seal, i just turn my (hot, filled) jars upside down for 5-10 minutes, and then right side up. that heats the lid as well, and as the air inside cools it creates the seal and makes the exciting pinging sound.

i have been doing this for about 10 years and have never ever had a problem with spoilage. however, you can ONLY do this with jam, jelly and preserves, as they are already preserved by their nature. anything else - soup, vegetables, salsa, ANYTHING - needs to be done in a water bath.

chrystie the gemini said...

what a good idea! My mom used to can plums when I was little and I forgot all about it until I read this post. it used to be so much fun and we would have plum jam all year long! Maybe I'll give it a try. Thanks for jogging my memory, I can even remember the smell of the jam cooking :) ah, to be a kid again!

down comforter said...

wow, they all look great! Thanks for sharing

Frosted said...

I love making jams! My mom taught me when I was small and I would make them for the 4H fair. I recently started making a lot more and my sis and I are thinking of starting a jam company!

There's nothing like sweet homemade jam or jelly. Forget the fake stuff at the grocery store.

Helen said...

i appreciate that canning is not necessarily the same as making jam, but my mother has made jam my entire life (and more) and never does any of this techno stuff!

Her jars get sterilised by heating in the oven (although the mention of dishwasher is good as the wet heat will kill spores which dry heat won't- important in canning in particular!) and then the jam goes in and a wax paper circle on top. When it's cool enough to touch, it gets a cellophane lid held on with an elastic band. if the jar happens to still have a lid (we never buy jars- they are all left over from peanut butter, brinjal pickle, honey, jars of olives) then it gets one but it will be fine without- lid is most useful for taking on holiday etc! (my mum skies in a big group who insist on 'Lizzie Jam' for the breakfast table).

It *never* goes in the fridge and mould is very rare. They don't call it preserve for nothing!

So I guess what I'm saying is, yes, the boiling with lids on thing is important if the ingredients themselves won't do the preserving, but if you are just making jam, then it really is as simple as fruit+sugar+uber-clean jars.

Lesley said...

Thanks for posting this! I've been planning my first attempt at making jam this week! May I ask where you found your beautiful fabric scraps? I live in Evanston, so I was hoping I could find something similar....

Jess said...

They were from fat quarters that I got online. The Needle Shop in Bucktown carries tons of cute prints—cuter and trendier than Vogue Fabrics, but you might find something at Vogue if you don't want to drive that far.

Valerie said...

Ball makes a "Discovery" canning kit that includes a basket for lifting jars in and out of your stock pot and 3 pint jars. It also has a great cook booklet with recipes. I got mine for $10 at the grocery store. They also put out a little kit of the canning tongs, lid grabber, funnel, and headspace/air bubble remover thingy (hahaha) for around the same price. If you're looking to get into canning and would like a few gadgets that store well in a small space, these are great!

The Bon said...

For beginner canners it is super important to note that some of the methods here in the comments are not considered safe methods of food preservation by modern science (water bath processing is a must for item stored at room temperature by modern standards, even for high acid, high sugar fruit jams). Although it may be safe most of the time, botulism only takes one time to kill you.

Lesley said...

Thanks for the fabric info. I was kinda hoping you were going to say vogue....I wish they would carry some trendier fabric.

Mrs T said...

They look so yummy!

Ruth P. said...

Wow, lots of comments! When I make jam, I don't use a water bath. A friend taught me to carefully put the jam in the very clean (dishwasher) jars, put on the lids and screw tops, then turn them upside down for 5 minutes. Works like a charm. No need for the water bath.

CrankyOtter said...

Wish I'd had your labels last week - I was trying to gussy up my plum jam. I got as far as pressing some pretty purple leaves from the tree, but got distracted by the boring (but free and easy) labels that came with my new jars.
crankyotter.blogspot.com/plum-tuckered

Tori said...

Wow great tips -- who knew? I just may try my hand at this, thanks!

Jenn Erickson said...

I am so excited about this recipe and the great resource! I'm intrigued by the idea of a canning party.

librarianism said...

These are fantastic printable labels! Thanks for sharing them. I have enjoyed exploring the Sweet Preservation site, and I am now very inspired to host a canning party.

Sweeter Hours said...

Aww you ROCK for posting this. I have always wanted to can but I have been scared. Of what, who knows. Love the printables too!

Condo Blues said...

Even easier is making freezer jam. It's like making regular jam except you skip the water bath. You let the jars set on the counter for 24 hours and then pop them in the freezer. So easy I have a pot of wild blackberry to be freezer jam simmering on the stove as I type.

Stephanie said...

Love your labeling and wrapping ideas! I have been canning for a year now (like 5 or 6 times) and love it. It's crazy and exciting and kind of cool! I went ahead and picked up the "tool set" (jar lifter, etc.) since it was only around $5.oo at Target. And I do use a funnel, because I'm messy and don't like wiping off those hot jars any more than necessary!

Duzza Bear said...

Your post inspired me and I just finished making peach jam! I've wanted to try canning (why isn't it "jarring"?) for a while and your post gave me the kick in the butt that I needed. Can't wait to try some! One thing though, like someone said before me, get the tongs or some device to easily remove the jars. I had a small splatter of boiling water hit my face and arm when I was pulling the jars out and one slipped. No big damage to me, just a few small burns, but I saw what could have happened if I wasn't lucky. It was scary enough that I will never do it with regular tongs again. They just don't grip well enough.

Jess said...

Eeek! That doesn't sound good. Okay, everybody. Get the tongs or proceed at your own peril.

stephanie said...

i'm actually considering trying this. but i'm terrified that things won't be completely sterilized somehow and then disaster will strike!

.caroline armelle. said...

hi jess!

just wondering if you used 4lbs of apricots in your recipe, or 2lbs?

i was confused because the site said 4 lbs, then the recipe zaar site it said they got the recipe from said 2 lbs?

also, is the weight after skinning and pitting or before?

Jess said...

Hi Caroline,

It's four pounds after pitting. I used the original recipe from Recipe Zaar that was posted on Sweet Preservation, but realized two pounds did not yield enough apricot puree and had to double my batch. I think I used 18 apricots. I mentioned it to the Sweet Preservation folks and they confirmed the recipe needed to be adjusted to about four pounds. Good question!

Anonymous said...

I love seeing that someone else refuses to do things the 'proper' way. Instead of rags at the bottom of the boiling pot, I threw a handfull of kitchen silverware in there and put the bottles on top of it.

Otava said...

we used to fight over who got the most foam!

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