The Skinny on Canning Foods - What is Canning? What foods can you Can?

The Skinny on Canning Food

Canning is one of the newer forms of food preservation used today. Before we had the versatility of canning, people largely used drying, smoking, fermenting, and freezing for preserving food. Thankfully, canning is easier, more reliable, and can really stretch your food budget, plus decrease waste. In this primer for the ultimate canning newbie, we will discuss the types of canning, why acid plays an important role in which method chosen, and ways to get started.

Types of Canning

There are two main types of canning: using pressure or water bath canning. Which method you use depends entirely on what you are preserving. Foods that are high in acid can be water bath canned (generally speaking) and low acid foods are pressure canned to ensure that all of the bacteria that may be present are eliminated so the food doesn’t go bad and no one gets sick.

Acid in food is what prohibits bacteria from growing and spoiling the food. If something has low acid, bacteria is able to grow quickly whereas high acid foods already inhibit growth that can make you sick. The big question then is, “What food is high acid and low acid?”

High Acid

  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Most fruits

Low Acid

  • Meat (all)
  • Carrots, peas, potatoes, beets, corn, etc.
  • Beans (all kinds)
  • Most vegetables

The list is much larger than this but what is shown above gives you a good idea overall and it is easy to research your specific ingredients. A good rule of thumb: when in doubt, pressure can.

Which Method for High and Low Acid Foods?

High Acid – Water bath canning is the usual method for preserving food with a high acid content. Since the acid level is higher, there is less overall bacteria and bringing the jars (and contents) up to the same high temperature in a pot of rolling boiled water for 15 minutes is enough to ensure bacteria has been killed and the jar will seal.

Low Acid – Low acid foods need more ‘oomph’ to get all the potential bacteria out so the food will preserve properly. To do that, you need to get the temperatures much higher than you would get in a pot of boiling water alone. You also need to process the jars much longer than in water bath canning. To achieve temperatures of roughly 240 F, a pressure canner is needed. As the pressure rises, so does the temperature. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s booklet and use the right pressure for your elevation.

How Do I Start?

Canning can be incredibly intimidating, especially pressure canning. It was for me! To ease into it, I started with water bath canning. My first batch of jam was a lot of fun and I was so proud when I gave some jars to family. From there, I also water bath canned some pickled garlic and dill pickle slices.  When pickling, the vinegar is a high acid liquid, which inhibits bacteria growth and preserves the food.

What Can I Can?

A better question is what can’t you can! I have gone from simple jams and jellies, to pressure canning veggies from the garden, and now I make meals in a jar, too!

Before you get into anything too complicated, you want to get several canning sessions under your belt on more simple things such as carrots and green beans. Both are straightforward as far as processing and take less time at pressure. As you get more comfortable, work your way up to things like potatoes that need to be blanched before you pressure can them. Build on your skills slowly, only adding new ones as you get comfortable. Lastly, go for pressure canning meat. It takes the longest and can really make your food budget stretch. Plus, you are creating jars of food that is ready to eat and shelf stable. No refrigeration needed!

Guest Author: LeAnn Edmondson, Homestead Dreamer

If you would like more information on canning, stop over to Homestead Dreamer’s site and learn about different methods of food preservation besides canning!

Daddykirbs Cans too! Check out these canning posts:

MY FIRST CANNING EXPERIENCE – Nectarine Jam

HOW I MADE & CANNED SWEET GARDEN SALSA

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