Jarring Tips10:30 AM
One of my favorite projects that I recently tackled, was teaching myself how to jar and preserve food. I had picked up the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving on a whim at Costco a few years ago, and it sat in my kitchen for the better part of a year. After our harvest at the end of last summer, I ended up with more tomatoes than I knew what to do with, so I taught myself how to make tomato sauce, as well as spicy salsa. After playing around with some mint jelly, I taught myself how to make peach and strawberry jam this summer-best idea ever! Homemade jams and jellies are awesome. I cannot wait to learn how to make more varieties so that I can give them away as gifts. Free homemade food and a mason jar, how cool! My inner grandma is geeking out right now.
Anyway, I thought I would do a little post with some tips for jarring since I have been having a lot of fun with it.
First up: You are going to need some instructions. Like I said, I have an actual copy of the book, but Ball actually has quite a few recipes online for free, so just check out the website. If there is something specific that you want to make, just type it in the search bar. If you feel like browsing, I would probably just get the book (it is pretty cheap, like $12) and there are loads of tips in it.
Second: You are going to need supplies. Most importantly, you need something to sterilize and pressure-cook the jars in. You can get all fancy with something like this (an automatic home canning system), a regular pressure-cooker, or, you can use a giant pot. I use a pot that I bought from Ikea, just make sure that it is big enough to fit whatever size jars you are using as well as room for water (you will need to cover the jars with water and boil them). You can also go as far as getting a jar lifter, but I use a hand one like this. I honestly do recommend a rubber hand one, because the grip is really good on them. The first time that I jarred something I used hot dog tongs, they don't work very well. Remember, you are going to be handling extremely hot jars, so making sure you have something that grips well is very important.
*Keep in mind of what you are making to jar. If you are making a large batch of something, you will probably need a giant pot to cook the food in. The jars will need to be sterilized while you are cooking, so you will need to keep two large pots on hand, or, cook in smaller batches.
Next up you will need jars, lids, and bands. Jars will very in size, but to start out I would recommend a few 4 oz jars, and a few 8 oz jars. Also, depending on what you are jarring up, you might want to consider the mouth of the jar. Most of mine are regular-sized, but wide-mouth jars might be best for salsas so you can dip the chips right into the jar. Which also means that you will need to buy the correct size of lids and bands accordingly.
Speaking of lids, you will need to have a small pot for sterilizing the lids. You will also need a magnetic wand to get them out of the hot water. You won't need to sterilize the bands, just wash them in hot soapy water. You can reuse the bands and jars as long as they are in good condition. The lids cannot be reused for jarring once they have been sealed, but you can reuse them if you just want to freeze a jar. I will usually just mark the used lids with a little star using a permanent marker, so I know which lids are for freezing, and which ones are for sealing.
You will also need a thick cloth for handing the jars. The book recommends a cheese-cloth, but I just use a thick, kitchen towel. You need this for holding the jars while filling them, and also for wiping any food that may have dripped on the jar before you pressure-cook them. You can get a funnel for this to make it easier, but I don't have one.
Preserving certain foods calls for extra additives, based on the recipe. Most highly acidic recipes will call for lemon juice to be added to the jars, so you might want to pick some up. Jams and jellies will need pectin, there are two kinds, powdered and liquid. I have used both, and I tend to like the powdered more, but they both work.
As far as marking the jars, I use little tiny post-its with the date they were made, and stick them to the lids. You will need to let the jars sit overnight to make sure that they sealed properly, if they didn't (the seal clicks) then there are instructions for re-sealing the jars. You will then need a cool, dry place to store them.
Well there you have it, some tips for jarring. Most of theses will be online, or in the book if you pick it up, but it is nice to have a list of supplies and options before you start on a project such as this. I personally think that handling hot jars with food I cooked myself is kind of badass. Also, it is a really cool way to store food that you grew, or have an overabundance of, AND, you know what is is in it-no mystery ingredients.