Preservation 101: Introduction to Canning

by | Sep 27, 2020 | Podcast

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You’ve grown and sourced some amazing food. Now you want to get it on your shelves and store it. One of the best ways to do that is with canning. Canning is becoming more popular than ever, thanks to its many benefits. So, how do you get started the right way? 

In this episode of Pantry Chat, Josh and Carolyn kick-off a brand-new series on preservation techniques with an introduction to canning. They cover the different types of canning and what foods they are good for, what equipment you should be using and why it’s so important to follow the rules and practice the right safety measures, especially when it comes to canning.   

In this Episode:

  • For the weekly update, Carolyn has done a bit of harvest scrambling due to the freezes this past week and they butchered about 135 birds (mostly chickens), netting almost 600 lbs of meat in their freezer. She explains how being more efficient as a family has helped them get this done even quicker this year. 
  • How did canning originate? Carolyn and Josh trace its history all the way back to Napoleon during the war, to the evolution of the Mason jar in the 1850s, to the development of the standard two-part lid in the 1950s that is used today.  
  • What are the different methods of canning and why is each most effective for different types of food? 
  • Since canning is not a “natural” preservation method, there are a specific set of rules you need to follow and not just trust your intuition. 
  • Why is canning not called “jarring” or “bottling?”
  • What are the two biggest fears that people have when it comes to canning and why they don’t need to worry. 
  • Can you use an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker for pressure canning? 
  • What are the differences between the types of canners and is one better than the other? 
  • Why it’s important to be practical and determine what foods you really need to be canning ahead of time.  
  • Question of the week: what kind of backup generator do they own and what brand(s) do they recommend?  

Resources:

Josh: Hey, guys. This is Josh-

Carolyn: And Carolyn.

Josh: ... from Homesteading Family, and welcome to this week's episode of the Pantry Chat: Food for Thought.

Carolyn: This week we are going to be talking about canning. We'll be doing an introduction to canning.

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Josh: All right, so this week, we're going to be talking canning, and this is kind of the beginning of a series, right-

Carolyn: Right.

Josh: ... on some different kind of preservation 101.

Carolyn: Yeah, absolutely. Because you work so hard to either source really good food or to grow really good food, but what are you going to do with that all? You have to put it up and preserve it, get it on your shelf. And let me tell you, this year, this month, feels like a great time to have a lot of food on your pantry shelf. And so canning is just the natural... I don't know, somehow it's just a very natural place for a lot of us to start with food preservation, so we're talking about that this week. But we'll be talking about some other methods in the upcoming weeks.

Josh: That's right. And a step that we're going to talk about in a little bit, or that you'll probably talk about that I just learned today, is that already about a third of the US actually does some sort of canning. [crosstalk] Now, I was sort of surprised how high that is, and I know from what we're seeing in our dialogue with people in Homesteading Family, that interest is exploding right now. Rightfully so, and that's really exciting.

Carolyn: Yeah, absolutely. But I think a lot of those people maybe are doing a little bit of jams, a little bit of pickles, something kind of entry level, and then looking to up their game in canning and stuff.

Josh: Yeah. That's kind of fun stuff. We want to move it into actually...

Carolyn: Serious food.

Josh: ... some prepping, canning, preserving your garden food, and even what you've really done well at, is convenience canning.

Carolyn: Oh, yeah. That is my favorite, having meals completely ready on the shelf or one step away from ready, like meal starters, but having some convenience food that I've canned that makes it, I know everything that's in it. There's none of the disgusting ingredients that are in store-bought convenience food, plus it's a lot cheaper. If you have looked at healthy convenience foods that you buy, maybe in the freezer department of the grocery store, you are not feeding a large family on that regularly, let me just say. Those things are expensive. So this is a great way to get a lot of really good food on the shelf ready to eat.

Josh: And I tell you what, I love it when you're gone and I need a quick meal, you know?

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: And it makes that very, very easy-

Carolyn: It really, really does.

Josh: ... and I still get to enjoy some of our home-cooked food instead of something out of the freezer aisle.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: Absolutely. Well, hey, before we dive into that, let's catch up a little bit and answer a question. So what is going on with you right now?

Carolyn: Oh, okay. Around the homestead, well, we had a challenging week this last week. We had two freezes back-to-back-

Josh: [crosstalk] On top of the power being out.

Carolyn: On top of the power being out, and we kind of talked about that last week, in the last podcast and video Pantry Chat episode. So we've done a little bit of harvest scrambling, right?

Josh: Uh-huh (affirmative).

Carolyn: Trying to harvest the garden a little bit early, get all that food up, but then right on top of that we also had our big chicken butchering day of the year.

Josh: Yeah, that's right.

Carolyn: Yeah, and so on Saturday we butchered 135-

Josh: About-

Carolyn: ... birds, I think?

Josh: ... 135 birds, mostly chickens, 100 meat-layers, a bunch of older egg-layers, and several ducks.

Carolyn: Right, exactly. And so we got hundreds and hundreds of pounds of meat into the freezer that day, which was amazing. I think...

Josh: Definitely over 550.

Carolyn: Yeah. Probably, by the time we factor in all the egg-layers and everything, we might be pushing about 600.

Josh: Which is a lot to a lot of you out there, but is not even quite a third of our annual household needs for meat for meals throughout the year.

Carolyn: Right. Yeah, that's right. We have a-

Josh: So-

Carolyn: ... very large household-

Josh: ... good step towards it.

Carolyn: ... and always guests coming in and out, so we need a lot of meat in the freezer. So, but you know what the really exciting thing about that to me was? Is that there was a time not too many years ago when 30 chickens would take us almost all day.

Josh: Yeah.

Carolyn: It was a hard process. And now we were done with those 135-ish birds by about 2:00 PM.

Josh: Yeah, completely done, other than clean up. That took a little bit longer. So what do you attribute that to?

Carolyn: Well, I think there's a few things. One, though, I think the first one is just practice. We've gotten a lot better and the kids have gotten better.

Josh: And older. Yeah, the kids help.

Carolyn: And older, so they've become more helpful. Of course, without the kids, we wouldn't have to butcher so many birds, but-

Josh: That balances out.

Carolyn: ... that balances out. We've also really invested in really good quality equipment. Let me just tell you, do not try to go into a big chicken butchering day without at least a plucker and a scalder-

Josh: Yeah, of some sort.

Carolyn: ... of some sort.

Josh: And if you're doing 25 to 30 birds, you can really kind of DIY that, and that works. We did that for a lot of years, figured it out and kind of begged, borrowed, taped together equipment.

Carolyn: Right.

Josh: Whatever we needed to do to get it going. But now, at our level, where it's 100 birds is the absolute minimum we're doing every year and like last year, if you haven't seen that video, we did 225 birds. And so having some good quality equipment, really, really helpful.

Carolyn: Yeah, absolutely. So, on a totally different note that is about as non-homesteading as we get here, Great Grandma Jeanie is now living with us. She is 92, next month-

Josh: I don't know-

Carolyn: ... coming up.

Josh: ... that that's not... She's an original homesteader, even though she doesn't anymore.

Carolyn: She's...

Josh: She grew up on a homestead in, through the Great Depression in Texas.

Carolyn: Right. Well, she turned to me the other week and said, "I want to get my hair permed." I have never had my hair permed in my life, personally, so I don't really even know what's involved that much, but we went down to the hair salon and she got her hair permed. And you know what I said to myself? When I'm 92 years old, I'm getting my hair permed. She had a blast and that is enjoying having her hair look nice-

Josh: She does, she looks good.

Carolyn: ... without having to... She does. Anyways, that was fun, getting to spend some extra time with her.

Josh: Yeah.

Carolyn: Always fun. But what about you.

Josh: Wow, well, like you said, you kind of covered it. Chicken butchering was the main topic this last week and that went really, really well. So nice to have that job down. And with the early freeze, that kind of kicks the garden a little faster into some, I don't want to say winter garden preps yet. We're not quite ready for that. But we're definitely cleaning out some of that stuff that died, getting that into the new compost pile we're starting, that we build over the course of the fall and spring and then finish off through the summer, and starting some preps. Going to do some cover crop sowing here, that's coming up. And yeah, working on that. And of course, the addition is going. We're trying to beat the rain and the weather on that. And that's happening.

Carolyn: It's coming right along.

Josh: It is. Just a lot happening still. And we've got a bit of an addition going on the barn to get us some roof space. Up here in north Idaho, with the weather, you just can't have enough roof space. Like, not enclosed indoor buildings, and we use a lot of that, too, for our size, and that's why we're doing an addition, but just roof space for all the equipment and fencing and the different activities that go on besides the barn. So we're adding some wings on to the barn, just posts and roof. And that starts tomorrow-

Carolyn: Okay.

Josh: ... so-

Carolyn: Just a lot happening around here.

Josh: Yeah, really is. But all good stuff and kind of moving into winter prep.

Carolyn: Yeah, yeah. Because next up is firewood.

Josh: Yeah, yeah. Firewood, the logs are all stacked and it's time to just start bucking it up, splitting it. And to-

Carolyn: Stacking it.

Josh: Yeah, yeah, winter is coming down the line, and so I'm starting to feel the pressure.

Carolyn: It is.

Josh: Yeah.

Carolyn: All right. Well, that's keeping us busy.

Carolyn: So let's move on to a Q & A for the question of the week, which was from Raw Food Electric on Homesteading Family's 2019 Year in Review. Wow, we're coming up on a 2020-

Josh: Wow, I was going to say-

Carolyn: ... Year in Review-

Josh: [crosstalk] Yeah, somebody's going through the archives a little bit.

Carolyn: Absolutely.

Josh: Cool.

Carolyn: They say, "Hi, Josh and Carolyn. Do you own a backup generator? If so, what kind and why?" Well, that was a very applicable question this last week.

Josh: Sure was. Yes, we just went five days without power while it was down because of some wind storms. And yes, we have multiple backup generators and a variety of brands. I love the Hondas. They just are super, super dependable. We've got Kohler for our pumphouse. And we actually have a generic one that serves the main house that actually came with the house, when we bought it a couple of years ago. And I can't even tell you what brand that is, but that's actually been a very good generator as well. And for us, with the large property and a lot of outbuildings and moving into this setup, we have multiple generators, spread around. I love the Hondas, so the ones that I buy have been Honda or Kohler, generally, because those are just very, very dependable. And I really like those. So they're just sized to use where we need them in the different places.

Josh: Long term goal, we want to go to an inline generator that will cover the whole house, turn on automatically. We had that before in the house we built many years ago. And we'll go to that as we move to better strategies, prepping strategies and even eventually off grid.

Carolyn: Right.

Josh: And I'd look at a Kohler for that, Generac or Kohler, but a lot of people prefer the Kohlers.

Carolyn: Now, we did put an inline one in over at my parents' house on a property, when that was built. And talking to my mom through this power outage, she was just kind of like, "Well, aside from the noise of the generator running out back, it hasn't changed anything about my life." So it was very, very easy for her to just move right on through a power outage.

Josh: Right, yeah. And we did well. Having to have them not automated and inline, you got to go start them, you got to go refuel them. And so there's a bit to keep up with there when you're out of power for multiple days, but totally keeps us going and we could do that for a long time if we had to. So that's really a bare minimum, if you're thinking about prepping and just having... We've talked about this a lot in other episodes, but you really want some backup generators to cover the basics. Yes, you can get by with lamps or lights or whatnot, but what about your freezers? What about your refrigerators? Water heater, depending on how you're set up, and stove. And so you really, really want to have some good generators.

Carolyn: I think a lot of people are... A lot more people are starting to buy large quantities of meat-

Josh: Sure.

Carolyn: ... directly from a farmer or rancher. That is just such a great thing to do. But I'd really say just don't get that freezer and get it packed with meat until you have a generator backup because that is a huge loss, financially, just all the way across the board, it is a huge loss. So it's worth saving up, getting the generator first, and then filling that thing with meat.

Josh: And don't forget about them, if your power does go out. I've heard so many stories of people, their power goes out, their freezers are off in a different space-

Carolyn: Oh, yeah.

Josh: ... and they get a lot going on. It's kind of-

Carolyn: It makes you scramble.

Josh: ... running around, a lot to deal with, a bit of scrambling, and they forget about the freezer. And like us, we lose our power for 24 hours sometimes. That's really not very inconvenient. But when it comes to four or five days, there's a lot more you have to start thinking about and work with. And I've seen people forget about their freezers-

Carolyn: Oh.

Josh: ... and that's horrible! That's absolutely horrible! You lose a whole freezer full of food. So make sure you've got that. If you are stocking up right now, particularly in this season where so many people are thinking about this, and you've bought an extra freezer or two, and whatever you're doing to get meat into it, just remember that backup plan to make sure those are covered as part of your emergency plan if the power goes out or whatever.

Carolyn: Yeah, right now, freezers are hard to get. Do we know... are... We didn't try to buy a generator recently because we already have one.

Josh: We did. I just went and bought one.

Carolyn: You just bought one.

Josh: [crosstalk] I did because we had a weak link in our system-

Carolyn: Okay.

Josh: ... and with the water-

Carolyn: For the pumphouse, right.

Josh: ... and because we have gravity feed, it's been fine for us when the water has been out for a day. We've just been able to deal with that, not a problem because we have gravity feed. But when we were looking at realizing, they were telling us indefinite, we didn't know if it was going to be four days, five, two weeks, I was like, okay, we've got to get this powered up. And the gravity flow for Mom and Dad's house wasn't working. So yes, I went and bought a generator and was able to get one, no problem-

Carolyn: Okay, so they're-

Josh: ... right here in town.

Carolyn: ... somewhat available right now.

Josh: Yeah, but don't wait, you guys. There's so many delays on so many things. And this is why, some of the things we've been talking about recently, in just getting prepped and thinking about the future, with all the uncertainty, you're going to have to wait for things right now. We're hearing that and seeing that ourselves. So if you don't have a generator backup system, go out and start working on it now because it may take you a little while to get what you need or what you want.

Carolyn: Yeah, absolutely makes sense. All right. Well, we'd better start getting into our main topic today-

Josh: Yeah, so...

Carolyn: ... which is canning. So today we're going to be doing an introduction, which is kind of a quick overview here, in the time that we have available, for this episode. But if you want step-by-step directions through a canning project, with complete safety information, you can go to homesteadingfamily.com/canning and sign up there. There's a free four video course where you actually can a meal and get a meal on the shelf.

Josh: Right. You obviously can't take everybody step-by-step through here in this kind of-

Carolyn: For that, yeah.

Josh: ... podcast talk show format, so that's a great, great resource.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: But hey, let's dive in and we're going to start with a little bit of quick canning history.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: And some of this stuff I haven't even heard. So what do you got for us?

Carolyn: Yeah, it's surprising when you hear that the history of canning starts with Napoleon, right?

Josh: Yeah, very fascinating.

Carolyn: You don't expect that to happen. The reality is a lot of food preservation over history does not travel well. A lot of the forms of food preservation, maybe dehydrating is a good way to move food around, but besides that, your fermenting, your root cellar stuff, you can't move it very easily. So Napoleon was realizing that this was a massive weakness in his battle strategy, in his war strategy. And so he actually put out a prize, put out a call. It was a contest for who could develop a type of food preservation that would allow him to move food with his troops or to his-

Josh: Wow.

Carolyn: ...troops during battle.

Carolyn: And so, in the early 1800s, a Frenchman developed what we now know as kind of a early version of what we do as modern canning right now. But back then, we didn't have standardized glass production. There were a lot of things that we did not have that made it not something we could do for home preservation use. So it wasn't until Mr. Mason, John Mason, in the 1850s, came up with the standardized glass jar with the screw-top lids...

Josh: The Mason jar, right?

Carolyn: ... The Mason jar, that we actually started this kind of wave of home preservation canning, home canning. And then that was taken even a step further when, I think that was... Where are my notes? Say?

Josh: 1950?

Carolyn: 1950, Alexander Kerr developed the two-part lid, which is a little safer, even, for canning. And we can talk about that maybe in a minute.

Josh: That's the standard today-

Carolyn: That is now the standard.

Josh: ... at least in the US.

Carolyn: For the US, that is the standard. So I think something that's really important to note here is that, one, unlike a lot of types of food preservation, canning is not actually natural. It is a scientific industrial model of food preservation.

Josh: Right, and that's a good point to bring out.

Carolyn: This is really important.

Josh: It's an industrial model-

Carolyn: It is industrial.

Josh: ... we have adopted into the home.

Carolyn: Right. It's not like dehydrating that just happens if the food is left on the tree or-

Josh: Or it's dehydrating.

Carolyn: ... fermenting or some of those things. And this is really important to bring out because you have to work with a different set of safety rules, when you move into an industrial model, right? There are a lot of things you can be kind of flippant about. Dehydrating, the safety is not nearly as important. Canning does not fall into that. You really have to be careful with the safety.

Carolyn: So the other takeaway from the history of canning here is that canning is pretty new in our history. It's not like some of our ancient preservation methods and so we're actually still learning a lot about canning. It's really dependent on understanding the microbiology. So we come back again to this safety issue.

Josh: Which is why it's changed so much, right?

Carolyn: It has.

Josh: You hear a lot of people talking about what grandmother did or great grandmother did, so I'll just do it that way. And we know a lot more-

Carolyn: We do.

Josh: ... which you're going to cover here in a little bit, but it is new.

Carolyn: It is new.

Josh: And we're still learning.

Carolyn: Yeah. So I don't want to say common sense doesn't apply here, but in some ways you can't just trust your intuition on canning. You really need to go with the rules-

Josh: Right.

Carolyn: ... because we're stepping outside of the natural environment, so-

Josh: Cool.

Carolyn: ... anyways, important to know.

Josh: So, kind of basic here, but I think you've got a few more things you want to cover. So what is canning? Just to give a basic definition for everybody here, what do we mean when you say-

Carolyn: When we're talking about-

Josh: ... canning?

Carolyn: Okay. So canning is taking a food, putting it inside a jar, closing the lid on that jar, processing that jar that's filled in heat to thereby sterilize or pasteurize everything in that jar and then in that process, the lid is vacuum-sealed on and it becomes shelf stable. So you have a pasteurized, vacuum-sealed product when you're done, which means you can put it on your shelf and it can sit there for a decent amount of time, a long amount of time, depending on what it is.

Josh: Yeah, very, very long.

Carolyn: Okay, good.

Josh: So kind of humorous historical question here for you. So if it started with... If it was really mainstreamed by Mason and Kerr. Of course, we see all the jars. Why is it not called jarring?

Carolyn: It is, in some places of the world. I think as Americans, we just need to make things a little bit confusing. I have no good answer to that. It should be jarring.

Josh: We've actually had people joke about that in dialogue, on Facebook. And I wonder if it's because we went to the industrial canning, actual can, metal cans. And was it ever called jarring, I don't know. It's a fun discussion.

Carolyn: It is. Well, in a lot of places it's called bottling-

Josh: Bottling.

Carolyn: ... in the rest of the world. So-

Josh: It makes a lot more sense.

Carolyn: Yeah, it does make a lot more sense. They're in bottles, or jars. Okay.

Josh: All right. Okay, so moving on. Anyways, so starting to dive into some of the topics here and the things that people need to know. Number one, that I know is very big for you, and in your teaching and sharing with people, that you just really need to get down before you dive into all the other different details of canning, is canning safety.

Carolyn: Right. Yeah, canning safety is so important. Just kind of why we were just talking about that. But the thing that I hear over and over again are two main fears, and I identify with them because I've had both of them throughout my journey of learning to can. The first one is I'm afraid I'm going to kill somebody or make somebody sick, right? The second one is...

Josh: I'm still here.

Carolyn: You're still here. It's very lucky.

Josh: I was the guinea pig, you know?

Carolyn: The second one is I'm afraid I'm going to blow something up. Right now, right at the beginning, I'm going to say canning safety is very, very important, but it's also incredibly, incredibly rare to make somebody sick or kill somebody by doing something wrong with canning.

Josh: Today.

Carolyn: Today. I just went over literally the last 20 years of botulism history in the United States, and less than three people die a year of foodborne botulism, all types of foodborne botulism, and only a tiny percentage of people sickened by it is from home-canned food.

Josh: Wow. And that's CDC stats, right?

Carolyn: Yeah, these are the CDC stats.

Josh: That's CDC, yeah.

Carolyn: If you want to avoid foodborne botulism, don't eat nacho cheese at the convenience store-

Josh: Ew, that's gross anyways.

Carolyn: ... don't drink illicit alcohol in prison, and don't have fermented seal blubber.

Josh: Well, stay out of prison and you won't have a problem with that middle one.

Carolyn: Right, you should avoid that one. Those are the things that most people are dying from, quite seriously.

Josh: Of botulism?

Carolyn: For foodborne botulism.

Josh: Okay.

Carolyn: There are very, very few cases of people actually dying from home-canned food. And you know, this is going to lead into the next topic. It's very avoidable. It's incredibly avoidable and we'll talk about that in a second.

Carolyn: But the second thing is blowing up the pressure canner. It seems like-

Josh: It's happened, though. It's happened-

Carolyn: It has happened.

Josh: ... to a lot of people. We hear a lot of stories-

Carolyn: It has happened.

Josh: ... of grandmother and great grandmother-

Carolyn: And here's the key, it's grandmother and great grandmother, or it's somebody using great grandmother's pressure canner.

Josh: Right.

Carolyn: The modern pressure canners don't blow up anymore, almost ever. You can mess it up, but usually, you have to take a hammer to it to do it. Like, you have to intentionally-

Josh: You have to modify it.

Carolyn: ... mess it up. Yeah, you have to modify it.

Josh: Yeah.

Carolyn: So here's how I know this, from experience. I know this from study, but from experience, you know how many times I have personally overpressurized my pressure canner now? It's kind of embarrassing. I'm a slow learner. I've done it four times, and last week was the fourth time. I had a really-

Josh: I didn't even hear about that.

Carolyn: I had this really nice lady helping me in my kitchen and I put some green beans into the canner and I walked out of the room, because I am the queen of thinking I can do everything all at the same time and multi-task, right? I walked out of the room.

Josh: You're sure good at it.

Carolyn: 10 kids later, I just forget that I'm canning in the kitchen, and she's in there trying to wipe something down, and all of a sudden, I hear from the other room this crazy sound. I'm like, "Oh, no." The pressure canner had overpressured while her head was right by it, and you know what happens when the pressure canners overpressure now? You wish it would be dramatic almost, because you feel like it should be. The little weight just kind of goes, bloop.

Josh: Boring.

Carolyn: That's it. It just steams like mad, and that was what I was hearing. It scared her pretty good. It seemed to, but it doesn't actually blow up anymore, if you're using a modern pressure canner.

Josh: So that's actually pretty much come off the table-

Carolyn: It is-

Josh: ... as a risk?

Carolyn: Yes.

Josh: You can just put your fears away on that one-

Carolyn: Yes. Use a modern canner.

Josh: ... as long as you have a modern canner, right?

Carolyn: Right, exactly.

Josh: And you like the All American-

Carolyn: I love the All American.

Josh: ... because you'll be able to pass that down to your great grandkids.

Carolyn: I will.

Josh: They're built so well.

Carolyn: It should-

Josh: And they won't have to worry about it.

Carolyn: Yeah, it will still not blow up, even for them. So I really like that, but it's good to know. Some of these things that we're afraid of and that stop us from getting started canning are actually not that big of a deal, and they're very avoidable. Either they're not a problem or they're something that you can completely avoid.

Josh: But on the box with them, you do need to follow what you're going to talk about-

Carolyn: Yes.

Josh: ... here in a little bit, the safety rules, the safety guidelines.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: That is really important.

Carolyn: It is.

Josh: We're just not... You can't just do what great grandmother used to do-

Carolyn: Right.

Josh: ... and be safe.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: Okay, well, let's dive in then to the types of canning.

Carolyn: Right, because when asked why people were still dying of botulism, the USDA replied that it's because they weren't educated or they ignored the type of canning that needed to be done in order to keep things safe.

Josh: Okay.

Carolyn: Okay, so this is really, really important, and this is kind of like safety number one, using the right type of canning for the right type of food. So we're going to talk about-

Josh: And using the right-

Carolyn: ... some of the different-

Josh: ... tool for the job.

Carolyn: Exactly, that's it. And that is going to right there, add a whole level of safety, right here canning, and a really important one. So we're going to talk about a couple of different types, actually several different types of canning.

Josh: Okay.

Carolyn: Okay?

Josh: Yeah, so I think you want to dive into water bath canning-

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: ... which is kind of the easiest to get started with.

Carolyn: Right, it's the-

Josh: Safest.

Carolyn: ... easiest, it's the safest, and it uses the least amount of expensive equipment. You can water bath can in just a pot with a lid.

Josh: So no special equipment?

Carolyn: You don't need a special canner for it. A canner is convenient because a rack can fit into there, and you do need to keep the jars off the bottom of your canner, but you can use a dish towel with the lid on.

Josh: Okay.

Carolyn: So you can just use your good old stockpot, if that's what you have and you want to get started.

Josh: Right.

Carolyn: Water bath canning is only safe for high acid foods. So that's foods that are lower on the acid scale... This gets a little confusing because it's lower on the PH scale, but it's higher acid than 4.6.

Josh: And I just interject real quick, I believe you cover that in more detail where you have time in the four video series right?

Carolyn: Yeah, I really go into that.

Josh: So you can get more details on this.

Carolyn: Right. So the things that would be high acid foods would be things like fruits, pickles, tomatoes with a little acid added to them, jams and jellies. So you can actually get a lot of food put on your shelf just by water bath canning. And that is where you are putting those jars into that pot, bringing that... covering them with at least one to two inches of water over the top, bringing them to a boil, all the way up to that 212 degrees Fahrenheit, 100 degrees Celsius, and keeping them at that boil for a specified amount of time.

Josh: So-

Carolyn: So the important thing here with of it, is use an approved recipe, okay?

Josh: Very cool.

Carolyn: This is really good.

Josh: Question for you, though, because it's not an extensive list on the water bath canning, but on the pickles, most of us, most people think of pickles, they think of cucumbers.

Carolyn: Right.

Josh: So can you, to expand that list of what you can do with water bath canning, can you pickle... I know you pickle a lot of different vegetables.

Carolyn: Absolutely.

Josh: So can you pickle your carrots, your green beans, whatever-

Carolyn: Corn.

Josh: ... and then water batch can them-

Carolyn: Yes, you can.

Josh: ... if you're wanting to do as much as you can with water bath canning, without getting into pressure canning?

Carolyn: Yes.

Josh: So that's cool. That's an expansion of-

Carolyn: Absolutely.

Josh: ... what's doable.

Carolyn: Yeah, and for a long time, that's why in our history, there's so many pickles, is because it's a very doable thing for people at home-

Josh: Okay.

Carolyn: ... without the pressure canner. So you can pickle all sorts of things, but again, you need to use an approved recipe, because you have to make sure that for whatever the food you're pickling, the acid you're using, usually vinegar for pickling, brings that down into that safe PH level. So just make sure you're using a safety approved recipe, or a recipe from somebody who's following the latest recommendations for safety.

Josh: Right. Be careful what you follow on YouTube.

Carolyn: Please.

Josh: They are a lot-

Carolyn: Yes.

Josh: ... of people that are giving you a lot of advice that isn't-

Carolyn: Safe.

Josh: ... accurate.

Carolyn: Right.

Josh: Safe, yeah. So moving on, so let's dive into pressure canning. That's the next main approved way of canning.

Carolyn: Right. So here's the thing, you can kill off yeasts and mold at boiling water temperatures.

Josh: Is that water bath canning?

Carolyn: Okay, so that's water bath canning, yeah, but bacteria is not reliably killed off. Now, bacteria can't live in high acid environments. So those high acid foods are fine. All we have to do is kill off the mold and the yeast. We don't have to worry about bacteria in high acid food.

Carolyn: But when you move toward your lower acid food, like your vegetables, your meats, most of your sauces, your soups, things like that, you need to realize that bacteria can grow in that low acid environment. Most bacteria, or the most important bacteria, like the botulism spores, is not killed off at boiling water temperatures. We need to get it hotter. The only way to do that in a home environment is to add pressure. That's why you need a pressure canner, because you're actually bringing that canner up to 240 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit on the inside and holding it for a specified amount of time. That's about 116 degrees Celsius.

Josh: And just to clarify that, that's the pressure canner, that's what it does, so people understand.

Carolyn: Yes.

Josh: The tank... Excuse me. Retaining the pressure is what helps capture that heat and increase the heat, otherwise, you can just basically boil it an lose all the heat-

Carolyn: You're just evaporating the heat-

Josh: ... off the top.

Carolyn: ... right off, yeah.

Josh: So kind of giving the mechanical-

Carolyn: Exactly.

Josh: ... so people understand that. That pressure, it's not really the pressure. It's the pressure that retains the heat-

Carolyn: Right.

Josh: ... by capturing everything and allows you to get those temperatures.

Carolyn: Right. And this is really important, you have to know how much pressure you're canning at, according to your elevation. It has to do with the temperature that water boils at. It's really important to make sure that you're canning at the specified pressure. Now, that's really easy on a home pressure canner, but this is where people ask me all the time, "Can I use my instapot for pressure canning?"

Josh: Oh.

Carolyn: You... There is no way to test your instapot to see what pressure it's actually at. So I'm a rule breaker in a lot of ways. I bend rules. I break rules. This is one I'd never, never break, for my family. It is not safe. You have no idea if you are canning, or if you're pressurizing that instapot to 10 pounds of pressure, 15 pounds of pressure. And just because of electric pressure cooker has a dial on it or something that says this is what it's at, there's no way to test that. So it's really important to know that you're actually canning at the pressure you need to can at to safely kill off the bacteria.

Josh: So scratch the instapot.

Carolyn: Please.

Josh: Take it off your list of options. It's a great tool for pressure cooking your foods-

Carolyn: Yes.

Josh: ... and your wild turkey or whatever it is you want to make. It's got a great purpose, but it is not for canning. So many people, we get so many requests on that. So many people want to know, can we use the instapot.

Carolyn: Right.

Josh: And no, no, no, no.

Carolyn: And there are versions out there right now that say that they're safe for canning. Just know that at this point, as of last week when I checked, there is absolutely no method that is approved by the National Center for Home Food Preservation, no electric canning, pressure canning anything out there that is actually approved. They don't exist. None of them have been approved.

Josh: Oh, then why do they say that? Interesting.

Carolyn: Yeah, so just know that. You need to know what pressure you're at.

Josh: So real quick before we move on, what do you recommend then for a canner?

Carolyn: Okay.

Josh: What is the preferred-

Carolyn: I highly-

Josh: ... pressure canner?

Carolyn: We already talked about it for a second. I highly recommend the All American canners. They will last for a really long time. They're really good quality and they're very, very safe. I really like them, plus you don't have to replace parts year after years. They have metal to metal seals, so you don't have to replace the rubber gaskets. I really like that, but another thing that I really like about them is they use a weighted gauge, which means you don't have to get your dial gauge tested.

Josh: Yeah.

Carolyn: If you're using any form of a dial gauge pressure canner, please get it tested before you can on it. I've seen them very wrong, right out of the box. And you need to get them tested every year to make sure that dial is correct, but if you use the weighted gauge, you never have to get it tested.

Josh: So let me ask-

Carolyn: So I really like that.

Josh: ... you, because we get this question all the time.

Carolyn: Okay.

Josh: What about the, I think it's the Presto?

Carolyn: The Presto.

Josh: That's a question we get a lot and I think it's a decent canner-

Carolyn: Right.

Josh: ... but can you tell us a little bit about that one and why you'd buy it and why you wouldn't?

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: Because it's-

Carolyn: I started with a Presto, because they're a lot cheaper, and you can usually find them on your box store shelves, like-

Josh: It's easier-

Carolyn: ... Wal-mart, or whatever.

Josh: ... to find?

Carolyn: They're a lot easier to find. And they're a decent machine. They're going to get you started. They're not going to last forever, like the All Americans are, and they are generally a dial gauge. So you have to get them tested. You have to go to your county Extension office and you have to take the whole lid of your canner in and leave it with them and pay some money. Sometimes it's $2.00, sometimes it's $20.00, depending on your office. And get it actually tested, so you know that your gauge is working properly.

Carolyn: But for most of them, you can actually get a little aftermarket kit. I don't know if they call it aftermarket kits for canners, but to turn it into a weighted gauge instead. So you might-

Josh: Which I take it, you'd highly recommend?

Carolyn: I would highly recommend that. Just don't mess with the dial gauges, absolutely.

Josh: Yeah, you've got better options.

Carolyn: So the Presto can work for you. It just is as great a machine. Yeah.

Josh: So one other method of canning, and I didn't even realize this was a viable method, and it is for some things, but not for others, and you'll explain that to us. Talk to us about oven canning.

Carolyn: Again-

Josh: I get a lot of questions. People want to can things in the oven.

Carolyn: Okay. So there are two different types of oven canning, and this is where I think people get into trouble is they don't realize they may not be talking about the same thing as somebody else.

Josh: Okay.

Carolyn: One type of oven canning is where you're taking dry shelf stable things, let's say flour, dried beans, something that is shelf stable as it is in its packaging. You're putting it into jars, you're putting it into the oven and then you're tapping it down and it's creating a seal.

Josh: So you're essentially just sealing it, is what you're doing?

Carolyn: All you're doing is vacuum sealing it. That's really all you're doing.

Josh: And the benefit of that? Why do you people do that?

Carolyn: That you don't have a vacuum sealer. I don't know. I, personally, I would not do that. I'd just go get a vacuum sealer with a jar attachment and do it that way. Jars are known to break in the oven for that dry heat. If you didn't have a vacuum sealer and you just wanted to do just a few jars, it'd probably be fine. Just make sure you don't have any nicks or chips in your jars already that would make them leak.

Josh: Okay.

Carolyn: Now, here is the thing that people do that is highly, highly dangerous. And it's that they take their, I don't know, beef broth. I've heard of people doing this with chicken broth and beef broth. They put it into jars, they slide it into a tray in the oven, and they turn that oven to 240 degrees, because they think, well, that's what the pressure canner goes to. And they leave it in there for a specified amount of time, bring it out and tap it down, and then get a seal that way. This is not safe.

Josh: Okay, why?

Carolyn: This is not remotely safe, and that is because dry heat and wet heat are very, very different things, okay?

Josh: Okay.

Carolyn: You can sterilize a jar, if you need to, or any sort of thing, by putting it in boiling water for 12 minutes. It will not be sterilized if you put it in the oven for 12 minutes.

Josh: Even at a higher, 250-

Carolyn: Right.

Josh: ... 300 degrees?

Carolyn: Yes, yeah. They temperature you'd have to take it to to make it safe for that would most likely break your jars.

Josh: Wow.

Carolyn: Okay? So this is not safe. Please, don't do it. Just because somebody's done it for generations and nobody's gotten sick does not mean you want to be the person that gets sick.

Josh: Because people have gotten sick-

Carolyn: People have gotten sick.

Josh: ... and do those things.

Carolyn: And they will get sick.

Josh: We're forgetting those stories-

Carolyn: Yes.

Josh: ... because of our modern technology.

Carolyn: Yeah, absolutely. So anything that does not use an actual pot of water is not safe. Your dishwasher is not safe to can. And I've heard so many amazing different things that people can with.

Josh: I know.

Carolyn: Yeah, just don't can in something else. It's not safe. Don't do it. Let's just make that the bottom line, okay?

Josh: You'll have to get the right tools for the job.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: And the job is just so much easier, so much more dependable, and really you're going to be way, way more efficient, anyways.

Carolyn: Yeah, right, absolutely.

Josh: Yeah.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: Cool, well, we better move through here. We're getting close to getting done, but you have some thoughts on just the practicality of approaching canning and making it work for you and for your household and your family.

Carolyn: When you start canning, if you're a beginner canner, the temptation is to try to reproduce the grocery store, kind of make it so that you can eat whatever you want year-round.

Josh: Working with what you know-

Carolyn: Yeah, that's kind of-

Josh: ... comfortable with.

Carolyn: ... your experience, so that you can just go to the grocery store in your own pantry. And it's a nice idea, but we've got to be real. Canning is a lot of work and it takes a lot of time.

Josh: Yeah.

Carolyn: Okay, there are things that make a lot of sense to can. Canning your convenience foods makes a lot of sense, because it's going to save you a lot of time somewhere else, right when you need it. It's going to save you money somewhere else.

Carolyn: Canning something that you could just live without for the season doesn't maybe make so much sense. So I would really, really recommend taking a look at your diet and starting to eat more seasonally and leaving the canning for things that are really special to you. Opening that strawberry jam in the middle of winter is a special moment. Do that. Make sure you have those things. Opening the honey-spiced peaches when it's February and there's snow on the ground and having them as a side dish for breakfast is amazing, and I totally recommend doing some of that. But let's make sure that we are making the best use of our time and energy and not just canning everything because we can get our hands on it. So that would be my practical advice.

Carolyn: For years, we've canned between 800 and 1200 jars of food in our household. This year, I'm happy to say we've actually reduced that number, because we're getting better at other preservation methods.

Josh: Uh-huh (affirmative), and growing seasonally appropriate crops, like for us, root crops that we can store without all that energy use, both ours and the power.

Carolyn: Yes, absolutely. So it's good as a tool, but let's not make it something that you just have to go to.

Josh: But talk about, what are some other things you do like to can, though, because you often tell people, don't just can fruits and jams.

Carolyn: Right.

Josh: What are some of the go-tos? What are some of the things we want to get on the shelf?

Carolyn: So it's really important that when you're spending all this energy and time canning something that it's actually going to be part of a meal later on, right? Replace something-

Josh: Right, not just a condiment.

Carolyn: Right, replace something that you would buy at the grocery store, because it's really easy. You get their canning books and you flip them open and they have all these great looking flavored mustards and fancy jams and all these things that sound like a lot of fun, but then when you get them on your shelf, you realize, I can't actually just go grab that, dump it on a plate and eat it for lunch. That's a condiment. Maybe I don't even know what to do with it really well.

Carolyn: So make sure that you are actually canning things that are going to fill a slot on your grocery bill, and that becomes much more practical. So for us, we like those fresh fruit jams. There's no way that we could afford the jam that we could eat during the winter if we weren't growing it on the trees and then putting it up. Jam's just expensive, if it's high quality and low sugar, which is what we like. So I put a lot of those up.

Carolyn: Put up a little bit of special fruits for winter eating, for on the weekends. We like to have a brunch, but really the things like the vegetables that can be a side dish, the meats that can be a great meal starter and then the complete convenience meals, I think is where it's at when it comes to canning, and having them worth their time.

Josh: Now, I notice you do a lot of broths too.

Carolyn: Uh-huh (affirmative), yes, I do a lot of broths. That is because when you're making broth at home, it's essentially free, right?

Josh: Uh-huh (affirmative).

Carolyn: And it's actually really, really easy to can in a pressure canner. And if you go buy organic broth at the store, like a little box of that-

Josh: It's very expensive.

Carolyn: ... it's expensive. And instead I can make it for free and can it really quickly, really easily at home. But I make sure I keep a lot of those on hand. You know when we have a roast chicken, I just cook it down the next day into a broth and then can it up.

Josh: And of course, that's very nutrient dense-

Carolyn: Yes.

Josh: ... so you can take that and then add it to rice and noodles and a few veggies that you've got, and even if you're low on meat, there's a lot of nutrient preservation there, right?

Carolyn: Absolutely. It's a really good way to make use of something that you might just be scraps in your kitchen.

Josh: Yeah, cool. Well, this has been a great introduction to canning.

Carolyn: Right.

Josh: Kind of canning 101. Anything else, as we're getting ready to wrap up here, you want to share?

Carolyn: Yeah, just remember that canning, when it's done safely, is a really great way to get food on your shelf. It's not that hard. It's not dangerous as long as you follow basic instructions. And if you want the step-by-step directions, we have that free four part video series where you actually get a meal on your shelf. You probably don't need any other equipment than what's in your kitchen already.

Josh: Right, it's a water bath canning, so-

Carolyn: It's a water bath canning.

Josh: ... it's real easy to dive into-

Carolyn: [crosstalk] Absolutely. Yeah, it's very safe and I go through all the safety instructions. So again, you can find that at homesteadingfamily.com/canning.

Josh: That's right. And we'll leave you the link in the description.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Josh: And hey, it's been great hanging out with you guys this week, and we will see you soon.

Josh: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Pantry Chat: Food for Thought. If you've enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate and review.

Carolyn: To view the show notes and any other resources mentioned on this episode, you can learn more at homesteadingfamily.com/podcast.

Josh: We'll see you soon.

Carolyn: Goodbye.

Great to meet you!

It is our goal to encourage you in the path to a more healthy, more secure and free lifestyle by sharing and teaching the skills that lead to greater sustainability and self-sufficiency for you, your loved ones and your community.

– Carolyn and Josh 

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