Canning and Jarring Food for Long Term Storage

Canning is something easy to do at home with only a few pieces of equipment and glass jars with Vacuum sealing lids.

Canning is a method of food preservation which involves the heating of foods that have been sealed within airtight containers. The heating process kills any of the bacteria or microorganisms within the foods and greatly increases the shelf life. There are two main methods of at-home canning; water bath and pressure, both of which are explored further within this article.

The History Of Canning

Canning dates back to 18th Century France. The process was invented in 1809 by the French chef and confectioner Nicolas Appert. Following calls from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to find a solution for preserving food in order to feed the French army and navy, after many years of experimentation, Nicolas discovered that when foods were heated and sealed in airtight jars, they didn’t spoil and thus remained edible.

What Are The Benefits of Canning?

There are a host of benefits to canning and with more and more people looking for ways to become more self-sufficient and prepared for times of emergencies it’s no wonder that this process of food preservation has seen a resurgence in popularity.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. Saving Money Lowering your grocery bill, especially if you’re canning homegrown produce or buying in bulk and using the produce to can for long term storage.
  2. Nutrition & Health Benefits Although freezing for instance may retain more nutrients, the canning process will still help to retain food's nutritional value. Homemade produce is also so much more enjoyable, knowing the effort you personally put into preparing it will make it taste that bit more delicious. Home canning will also mean you can be sure of the exact contents of your jars and the fact they will be free from additives and preservatives.
  3. Long Term Food Storage Canning means you will have a year round supply of your favourite produce.
  4. Preparedness For emergencies, times when money may be scarce, when there may be food shortages or when access to food is restricted
  5. Gifting Homemade Jams and Pickles make wonderfully heartfelt gifts so you’ll be saving time and money when it comes to thinking of what to give your loved ones at Christmas for instance.

Canning - A How To Guide

Be sure to Sterilize your Jars Properly before adding your Food. See our Article - Sterilizing Jars for Jams, Pickles, Fermenting, and Canning (opens in a new Tab)

There are two at-home canning methods:

1.Water Bath Canning

What: The simplest of the two methods for foods with high acidity levels.

How: This process involves submerging the chosen jars of food in boiling water. This process forces air out of the food and the jar, forming a sealed vacuum under the jar lids which prevents any potential activity from bacteria which might cause the food to spoil.

How To: Half fill a large pot with water and bring the water to a simmer. Carefully lower your chosen food jars into the water, one by one, making sure each one is fully submerged. Bring the water to the boil and cover the pot with a lid for approx. 10 minutes. Let the water cool slightly before removing the jars and setting them to one side on a heat proof surface to continue cool ensuring the jars aren’t touching. It will be during this cooling period (12-24 hours) that you may hear the ‘popping’ sound which indicates that the vacuum seal has formed under the lid. You can check the seals by pressing down on the middle part of the lid. If the lid doesn’t ‘pop’ back up, you’ve got a successful seal! If any of your jars didn’t seal, don’t panic, you can still eat the contents, they’ll keep in the fridge for around a month or up to a year in the freezer.

Suitable Foods: Tomatoes, Fruit, Jams, Fruit Juice, Jellies, Vegetable Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes

2.Pressure Canning

What: Higher temperature canning process (116-121°C or 240-250°F) for foods with low acidity levels.

How: Pressure canning requires specialist equipment and unlike water canning, the jars aren’t covered with water. Instead, pressure canning works by trapping steam inside the container.

How To: Each pressure canner will come with specific directions so it is best to use that for a precise step-by-step guide but we’ve outlined the basic process here to give you a basic idea.

Enough water is added to the pressure canner to ensure it won’t run dry during the boiling process but not enough water to cover the jars. The canner is then turned on to a high temperature setting. The chosen foods are heated and poured into jars, and the lids screwed on tightly before being placed in the canner. The canner is securely closed and brought to the correct temperature pressure. The canner will indicate once that point has been met. The heat is then turned off and the canner is left to cool before jars are removed and left for around 24 hours to cool completely before storing.

Suitable Foods: Meat, Fish, Seafood, Vegetables

Tips for successful canning:

  • Fresh - Use fresh produce
  • Clean - Thoroughly washed
  • Sterilise - Make sure you sterilize all your utensil and containers

Equipment For At-Home Water Bath Canning

Kilner Preserve Jar two piece screw top 1 litre (0025.401) EUPreppers.com Copyright © All rights reserved. Kilner Jars / Rayware Group

Kilner Preserve Jar two piece screw top 1 litre (0025.401) EUPreppers.com

Kilner Preserve Jar 1 litre with two piece screw Lid

The joy of water bath canning is that unlike pressure canning you don’t really need any specialist equipment. Here’s an essential checklist:

  • Canning jars and lids that are fully sterilized and in good condition, i.e no broken seals or cracks. The jars need to be both air-tight and moisture-tight. We stock a range of High quality Kilner Preserve Jars, Clip Top Jars & Accessories (opens in new tab) to help with your Canning Journey.
  • Large pot that holds enough water to cover your jars with additional room to spare for the boiling water. If you can find a pot with a wire rack in the bottom this would be great as it helps avoid the glass jars breaking during the boiling process).
  • Utensils to lift the jars from the boiling water

How To Store Home Canned Goods?

We’ve put together a simple checklist of guidelines for successful storing of your home canned goods:

  1. Label & Inventory - Once canned, label your jars with the date and its contents, and if your storage is sizable, it’s worth keeping a notebook or journal of everything you're storing.
  2. Cool, Clean & Dry - Below 85 F, ideally between 50-70 F
  3. Dark - Store in a dark location, away from direct sunlight
  4. Check & Rotate - Using the oldest ones first and checking for spoilage
  5. Refrigerate - Once opened use within a week
  6. Sunlight - If you’re using clear containers like glass jars, you can use materials to block out light like old socks, stockings or cut off tights

How Long Will Home Canned Goods Last?

Herein lies the importance of labelling, checking and rotating your home preserves.

In truth, there isn’t a one size fits all answer to this. Some people might say home canned goods, if canned and sealed correctly, will last a year or two whereas others will have no qualms in consuming something they canned 20 years ago, or more! As a general rule of thumb, it’s within the first year that you’ll enjoy the best flavour and quality from your home canned goods but you mustn’t worry if you’re a few days or weeks past that point. It is still safe to eat preserved foods that are over a year old.

Either way, your eyes will be your guide. The colouring of your canned goods is the indicator. Surface discoloration is quite normal but you want to look out for discoloration throughout the product which may mean that the contents has spoiled. If that happens, simply take the lid off and have a smell and if you’re feeling brave a small taste. Trust me you’ll know if it’s inedible but the chances are it’ll be fine, in which case you should aim to use the remainder of the contents within a few days whilst keeping it refrigerated.

It is easy to Preserve food by Canning or Jarring

Hopefully this article has demonstrated not just the ease but also the benefits to canning, especially at home and even more so when it’s of your own homegrown produce. Having access to a constant supply of food has never been more important.

Ian Hunter

Ian Hunter - Father of three, based in Southern Sweden. Author and Co owner of Grow Zone and growing Food all winter. See my full About Page here.

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Co written with Hannah Bramley, a Private & Virtual PA and Lifestyle Management Consultant based in the UK. With a background in managing and ensuring the organisation and preparedness of others, Hannah is now a freelance Personal Lifestyle & Business Consultant, with the ability to turn her hand to any task. Self Sufficiency being just one of her new found interests since the events of early 2020. She is a fitness guru, an ardent foodie, a social media wizard and entrepreneur, with a passion and natural flare for organising, bringing people together and making things happen.

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