Tag Archives | canning equipment

Canning Peaches with True Value

I’m partnering today with True Value to share some canning tricks and recipe for canning peaches in syrup. Make sure to read through to the end for a chance to win a $50 True Value gift card! 

As someone who does a lot of canning, I am often asked about my favorite places to get canning jars and equipment. One of my favorite places to recommend is True Value hardware store. Most locations carry the canning basics (though it’s always a good idea to call your local store and ask about their stock before hopping in the car).

If they don’t have it in stock, you can almost always order the jars online and use their ship-to-store option. That way, you can get exactly what you need, you don’t have to pay for all those heavy jars, and you support a local business.

For this post, I took a little field trip out to a True Value location near me. They had a wide range of jars, as well as pickling salt, basic canning tools, a copy of the latest edition of the Ball Blue Book, and even a replacement pressure canner weight (while it looked like it had been there for awhile, those things don’t expire, so it was still good).

I came home from my outing with three cases of jars (regular mouth half pints, wide mouth half pints, and some of the new smooth-sided pints). I also picked up a new utensil set, some extra lids (because while jars and rings can be used over and over, the flat lids can only be used once), and some pickling salt (I was out!).

Any time you tackle a canning project, you want to take stock of what you have. You’ll need a large pot to serve as your boiling water bath canner (you can find more detail about that here), as well as a rack to drop in the bottom. This lifts the jars off the bottom of the pot and allows the water to circulate. I often use the flexible silicone trivet pictured above, but a round cake cooling rack is also a really good option.

You also need the tools that come in the canning Utensil Kit (jar lifter, wide mouth funnel, and headspace measure), and a heatproof spoon or spatula with which to stir.

When you’re ready to get started, take the jars out of their packaging. Remove the lids and rings and wash the jars, lids, and rings in warm soapy water. I’ve been in the factory where Ball jars are fitted with lids, boxed, and sealed and it not a sterile environment. Those jars my look clean, but they’re filled with factory dust and residue. Wash them.

Once your jars squeaky clean, fit your rack into the bottom of the canning pot and arrange your jars on top. Fill the jars with warm tap water and then fill the pot up to the rims of the jars.

Set that pot on the stove, add a healthy splash of white vinegar (this helps keep your jars and pot clean, and if you have hard water, will prevent any minerals from depositing on your jars). Bring the pot to boil and reduce the heat to your lowest simmer, to keep the jars warm.

The rule of thumb is that hot food needs to go into hot jars. While mason jars are designed to withstand temperature changes of up to 90 degrees F, any more of a change could cause thermal shock which will lead to breakage.

Now that your jars are ready, it’s time to start making your preserve. We’re in the midst of peach season here in Philadelphia and so I opted to make a small batch of preserved peach quarters, packed in a light syrup. For those of you concerned about the amount of sugar, know that it doesn’t really sink into the peaches too much, and will greatly help prevent the peaches from browning. However, if you prefer, you can also pack these peaches in fruit juice.

First, make the syrup. Combine 3 cups of water with 3/4 cups granulated sugar in a 4 quart saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice (this is present to help prevent browning) and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally to ensure that the sugar dissolves.

Cut three pounds of peaches into quarters, remove the pits, and arrange the peaches in a heatproof baking dish (it’s best to do this in your sink). Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Once it is hot, pour it over the peaches and let them sit for 2-3 minutes.

When the time is up, run cold water over the peaches. Provided that the peaches were ripe enough (peeling underripe peaches is torture), the peels should lift off easily. As you work, gently slide each peeled peach quarter into the hot syrup so that the amount of time the peaches are exposed to the air is limited.

Once all the peaches are peeled and in the pot, bring the syrup to a boil and cook for one minute. Remove the pot from the heat. Pull the hot canning jars out of the canning pot and arrange them on a folded kitchen towel. Position a wide mouth funnel on top of a jar and use a slotted spoon to portion the hot peach quarters into the jars.

Top the jars with syrup and use a utensil like a wooden chopstick or the bubbling tool that comes in the utensil kit to ease out any trapped air bubbles. Fill the jars with syrup, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel. Center a clean lid on the jar and apply the ring. Tighten it only until it meets resistance. You don’t want to overtighten it, as that could cause the lid to buckle during processing. Place the jars in the canner, put the lid on, and bring the pot up to a rolling boil. Process the peaches in your canning pot for 20 minutes (if you live at elevations above 1,000 feet, you’ll need to increase your processing time. Check out the chart here).

When the time is up, turn off the heat, pull the canner off the hot burner, and remove the lid. Let the jars cool in the canning pot for five minutes (this helps prevent liquid from siphoning out of the jars and produces a stronger seal). Once that time is up, remove the jars from the pot and set them back on the folded kitchen towel.

Let them cool undisturbed for at least 12 hours. Once that time is up, check the seals. If the lids are concave and seem strongly adhered to the jars, you are good. Wipe any sticky residue off the jars and store in a cool, dark place. For the best quality peaches, eat them within a year.

This post was written in partnership with True Value hardware. As part of our agreement, they gave me $100 to spend on canning gear at my local shop. I only ended up spending about half what they allocated and so I’ve decided to share the remaining $50 True Value gift card with one of you! Please use the widget below to enter.

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of True Value. The opinions and text are all mine.

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of True Value. The opinions and text are all mine.
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A Handy Way to Store Your Canning Rings and Lids

bag of canning gear

Here in Portland, it is raspberry season. I couldn’t resist picking up a half flat of gorgeous berries on Saturday at the Beaverton Farmers Market. When I got home, I asked my mom to pull out her canning stuff so that I could make a quick batch of jam. She ducked into the garage and came back in with her shiny stainless steel stock pot and a plastic comforter bag filled with canning jar rings (as well as couple boxes of new lids).

canning rings close up

Using a stock pot and blossom trivet as a canning pot is a trick I taught her, but using an old blanket or comforter bag to corral canning gear was entirely new to me and I was stunned by the simple brilliance of it. At home, I use a pair of two gallon zip top bags to keep my rings in check. However, they’ve always been an imperfect solution because the zippers eventually fail and they’re just not quite big enough. The comforter bag has a real zipper, the plastic is sturdier, it holds a ton, and it does a good job of keeping the dust and dirt out.

If you have one of these bags floating around your house, consider doing like my mom and using it to store your gear.

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New to Canning? Start Here: Equipment

canning pots

For months now, I’ve had it in my head to do a series here on the blog that would give new canners everything they needed to know to get started. A collection of posts that would detail necessary equipment, the boiling water bath process, best safety practices, good starter recipes, tips for successful jam making, and hints on how to make flavorful, texturally pleasing pickles.

As is the case with so many ideas, it’s taken me a while to bring it from concept to execution, but my plan is to start this series now and continue for the next six to eight weeks. As we move along, if you feel like there’s something that belongs in a canning primer that I’m missing, do get in touch and let me know.

trivet canning rack

One of the misconceptions about canning is the belief that you must have a dedicated canning pot in order to can. This is not true. All you need is a pot that is tall enough to hold a rack, your jars, an inch of water above the jars and an additional inch or so of space where the water can boil.

Most often, I use this 12 quart stock pot made buy Cuisinart (in the picture above, it’s the one on the left). For batches that only make three or four jars, I use the yellow stock pot in the middle of the photo (made by Dansk, that one was an eBay find). And for when I only have two or three half pints to process, I use a 4th burner pot.

Any time you turn a stock pot into a canning pot, you need to find a small rack to drop into the bottom. I’ve used round cake cooling racks, kitchen towels, a layer of old canning jar rings, dedicated racks like this one from Progressive International (it’s quite good). However, my favorite is this silicone trivet. It folds up for easy storage, never rusts, and because it’s flexible, it works in a fairly wide array of pots.

Obviously, you don’t need to have all three of these pots when you’re starting out. The idea is simply to show that nearly any tall pot can serve as a canner and that if you’re only canning a few jars, you can use a smaller pot, should you have one in your kitchen arsenal.

jam pans

Once you have your canning pot figured out, you need a pot in which to cook your product. For jams, jellies, tomato products, chutneys, and other products that need to be cooked down, I typically opt for a roomy Dutch oven. I really like the my nine quart Le Creuset that’s pictured above for its ability to conduct heat.

I also regularly use an 8 quart stainless steel All-Clad Dutch oven, particularly when I’m cooking something that I know has a tendency to burn (my tomato jam springs to mind). You can always scrub a burnt spot off stainless steel. It’s harder to do without ruining the finish on an enameled pan. I also recently added a Sur La Table 8 quart pan to the set of cookware I take to canning classes and I like it. It’s not quite as low and wide as the All-Clad model (a plus when trying to encourage evaporation), but is of equal tri-ply quality for about $100 less.

I also use a stainless steel skillet for a lot of my very small batches. The one I have is from that crazily high rated set of tri-ply cookware made by Tramontina that only Walmart* appears to sell. It’s also a third of the price of a comparable All-Clad model. Sur La Table makes a nice one that falls in the middle of the price range. Because these small batches quickly over very high heat, you want something that will perform well under those conditions and I’ve found that any heavy, low, wide stainless skillet will do.

For heating pickle brines, I always turn to the 4th burner pot pictured above. Because it’s got both the spout and the handle, it makes it a breeze to pour the brine into the jars.

favorite canning utensils

Finally, we come to the small tools. You’ll need a knife and a cutting board, but I figure most of you have those, so they’re not pictured here. A heatproof tool for stirring and scraping is always good and that silicone one on the left end is my favorite because it can go in the dishwasher (have five of them, to ensure that at least one is always clean).

A wide mouth funnel is always useful for getting your products into jars without a huge mess. I like the stainless steel ones just a little bit better than the plastic, but use both regularly. A jar lifter is a handy tool to have and I’ve found that the one made by Progressive International is my favorite (it’s got a stronger magnet than most, which makes retrieving lids a bit easier).

Jar lifters are designed to give you a secure grip on the jars as you move them in and out of the water. Though the jar lifter has been redesigned repeatedly over the last few years, I find that I still like the classic model the best (even if the rubber on the grips does have a tendency to peel away over time).

Finally, you want a good tool to move your product from the pot and into the jars. For years, I used an 8-ounce measuring cup to do this job (since it’s the same size as a half pint, you knew that with each scoop, you were getting enough to fill a jar). However, since getting this canning ladle from Progressive International last year, I find that I turn to it for almost every batch. Like my measuring cup, it’s sized to hold one cup,  really does a good job of getting those tricky last drops out of the bottom of the pot, and has a little hook that allows you rest it on the pot between scoops so that it doesn’t slide away and make a mess. If they made it in stainless steel, it would be the most perfect ladle ever.

bubbling the relish

Other tools that I like.

  • Potato mashers! They help break down large chunks without pureeing like an immersion blender does. I like this one and this one.
  • Skinny silicone spatulas! They are the perfect tool for easing air bubbles out of pickles and whole canned fruit because they can slip in without doing a lot of damage.
  • Paper towels or reusable cloth towels, like these from Athena Creates. I use these for wiping jar rims, cleaning up spills, and generally controlling the mess of canning.

As you’ve read through this post, you’ve probably noticed that a number of the things I call for are items that already exist in your kitchen. And if you don’t have exactly what I’m recommending, chances are you have something similar. Truly, it’s a kitchen task that many are already equipped to do.

Finally, remember that this post details just my opinions. You may have or discover favorites that aren’t mentioned here anywhere. Such is the way of life.

*I know Walmart isn’t for everyone (and they aren’t typically for me), but this particular line of cookware is of amazingly high quality and is ridiculously affordable.

Disclosure: This post is liberally peppered with affiliate links. If you follow those links and subsequently make a purchase, I get a few cents. Additionally, the Progressive International tools I mentioned above were received last year for review and giveaway. The opinions expressed here are the result of a year+ of regular use. No one asked me to update my thoughts or include them in this post, I wrote about them because they’ve proven to be useful. 
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Finding Equipment: Greensgrow Farms in Philadelphia

greensgrow canning cabinet

I was recently out at Greensgrow, an urban farm in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood and got a chance to take a peek at their canning cabinet. They have just about everything a home canner could want (and at competitive prices, too).

Greensgrow
2501 E. Cumberland Street
Philadelphia, PA 19125

If you have a local shop or market with a good selection of preserving tools and equipment, take a picture and send it over along with the store’s information and I’ll feature it here!

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Canning 101: The Tools of the Trade

canning pot

Recently, I got an email from a reader, asking that I tell her what she needed in terms of tools in order to get canning. I realized that though I’ve been writing this site for more than a year and a half, I’d never managed to outline my favorite canning equipment.

What you’ll notice is nearly everything pictured here is dual purpose. Most of pots, pans and other tools I use for canning are simply the tools of my kitchen that just happened to get pressed into service on a regular basis for food preservation.

canning rack

First thing you need is a nice, roomy stock pot. You want something that can hold at least 12 quarts and is tall enough to allow the jars to be fully submerged with some space left at the top for bubbling water. You also need a rack to elevate the jars just slightly off the bottom of the pot. I like this old cake cooling rack that once belonged to my grandmother, but any low profile, round rack will do.

small pot

One thing you learn quickly when you start to can is that you need to simmer your lids in a small pan of water prior to placing them on the jars. This ensures that you’ll get a good, solid seal. Any little pan will do.

jam pot

Next you need a pot in which to cook your jams, chutneys, pickle-brines and more. I go back and forth between several sizes of enameled cast iron pots and…

8 quart all-clad

This 8-quart All-Clad pot. Honestly, this is my favorite pot at the moment (as you can tell by the fact that it was actually in use when it came time to take this photo. If you’re curious, it’s holding an apple-pumpkin butter that I’ll be posting about soon). It’s nice and wide and can be vigorously scrubbed if you happen to burn something in it. My husband would like it to be known that he bought this lovely pot for me after much obsessing on my part.

kitchen tools

It’s always nice to have a generous assortment of measuring cups, measuring spoons, sharp knives and a microplane grater.

funnels and lifters

These are really the only specialty canning tools I think are necessary. Wide mouth funnels are really helpful (and once you have them in your kitchen, you’ll start to use them for other things. At least I do). A jar lifter is nice to help prevent burns and a magnetic lid wand is quite handy.

skimmers and spatulas

A little mesh skimmer is nice when you’re making a super-foamy jam. I got that one three years ago at a giant Asian grocery store in South Philadelphia for less than two bucks. It has proven its price many times over. I’m also a big fan of these newer, coated silicone spatulas. There’s nowhere that mildew or mold can develop because the coating covers the entire thing. Next to it is a very thin scraper that is absolutely brilliant when it comes to removing air bubbles from pickles and preserved fruit.

jars

Jars. But you probably knew that already. They don’t have to be brand new, although the lids should be.

towels

A stack of clean towels and a couple of hot pads keep things clean, dry and burn-free. All good things.

quince

Finally, you need your main ingredient. I’ve been playing with quince quite a lot lately and will have two (that’s right, two!) recipes that use them in the coming days.

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Juice Jar Sources

Quattro Stagioni bottle (left), Weck jars (right)

Quattro Stagioni bottle (left), Weck jars (right)

I was planning on making and writing about pickled asparagus tonight, but at my company’s first softball practice of the season, I got beamed on the forehead and so decided to pursue a less ambition post for the evening.

Sylvie from Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener left a comment a couple of days ago, asking about canning jars for juice. While I’ve never canning juice myself, given my obsession for canning jars, I can’t help but take note when I see jars that would work for juice.

The first is from an Italian company called Quattro Stagioni. They make a variety of different canning jars (and it’s their jars we’ll be using in my classes over the summer) that come in liter measures, including these handy one liter juice jars. They’re a little pricier than your standard Ball/Kerr jars, but they’re a nice shape and you can buy replacement lids for them. You can buy them individually at The Container Store or you can buy them in cases of six or twelve at Village Kitchen.

Another good option for juice canning are jars from the European company Weck. They make the most lovely looking jars, all graceful lines and elongated silhouettes. They use a system of rubber gaskets, glass lids and metal clips in order to seal, much like the bailing wire canning jars that were popular in days past (the USDA doesn’t recommend that style of canning jar these days, but you can still buy replacement gaskets for them if you want to give that canning method a try). Weck Jars are quite popular in Europe, but are hard to come by stateside. I have a few that I ordered through Lehman’s, but I use them with plastic snap-on lids for food storage, because of their wide mouths and fridge-friendly shapes. You can also order them through the U.S. Weck distributor, but they don’t offer online ordering, only via fax or phone.

Sylvie, I hope that was helpful! If anyone else has any canning jar sourcing questions, let me know and I’d be happy to offer what I know and dig up information on anything I don’t.

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