Canning Dos & Don’ts
1. Do make sure the recipe allows enough acid. Whether that means adding lemon juice or vinegar, the pH should be 4.6 or lower.
2. Do allow for proper headspace (distance between the top of the jar and its contents): half an inch for pickles and a quarter-inch for jams, butters, etc.
3. Do take care to be clean. Jars must be sterile, the workspace must be scrupulously clean, and the lip of the jar where the lid sits must also be immaculate. Any food caught between the jar and the lid will prevent a good seal.
4. Do allow the right amount of time for processing according to the size of the jar and the altitude. If using the “hot fill method,” make sure what goes into the jars is between 180° and 190°F.
1. Don’t be intimidated. Just follow the few safety guidelines and you’ll do fine. If the first result is not perfect, just pop it in the fridge and eat it up.
2. Don’t pour hot liquid into a cold jar or place a jar that has cooled too much into a water bath. It will break, and that’s no fun.
3. Don’t forget to check the seal. The lid should be taut once the jar has cooled. I usually allow mine to sit overnight to cool completely before storing.
4. Don’t forget what Mom said when you were young: People like something you made for them more than something you bought. So give your canned goods to friends and loved ones. —K.S.
More from Kelly Geary
Hints for gardeners: Make sure to select varieties that are suited to the pickling project. For example, to make whole cucumber pickles, plant a small, bumpy-skinned pickling variety; for an interesting sliced pickle round, plant ‘Lemon’ cucumbers. For a more flavorful sauce, use plum tomatoes, not beefsteaks.
Another great trick I have started using in the commercial small-batch production of my jams is sterilizing the jars in the oven instead of hot water. I wash the jars with hot soapy water, put them on a sheet pan, and place them in an oven set to 250°F. They stay in the hot oven for 20 or so minutes after it has come to temperature. This frees up a burner on the stove and eliminates some hassle because you’re not pulling jars out of hot water.
On fruit butters: Fruit butters are fruit cooked down to a thick, spreadable, buttery or pastelike consistency. They are usually made with stone fruits, apples, or pears. A butter can be made from pumpkin or winter squash, as well. In fall, I particularly like sandwiches made with fruit butters and a protein: for example, a buttermilk biscuit with smoked ham and apple butter. But my all-time favorite butter is banana butter any time of year on toast, ice cream, waffles. So good.