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Canning 101: Defining The Terms

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Last week, I wrote a post in which I rounded up some of the Canning 101 entries I’d previously published. At the end, I asked for suggestions as to other topic areas that you all felt needed some clarification. A bunch of you offered up some really great suggestions and so I’m going to spend the next few weeks working through your questions.

To start, I’m going to define some common canning terms. Like so many activities, canning does have its own vocabulary and it’s important that we’re all speaking the same language.

Boiling Water Canner: Also known as a boiling water bath or hot water bath. It is a large pot, tall enough to fully submerge your canning jars with an inch of water over top. It is for both the sterilization of jars prior to filling and also for boiling the jars once they are filled.

Canning Rack: A shallow rack that elevates your jars slightly off the bottom of the canning pot. It can be a rack designed precisely for this purpose or it can be a round cake cooling rack. Canners use these racks for two purposes. The first is to keep the jars from being in direct contact with the heat of the stove. The second is to ensure that the boiling water is able to be in contact with all facets of the jars.

Processing: This is the term most often used for the time when you submerge your full jars in the Boiling Water Canner and boil them for the amount of time prescribed by your recipe.

Set point: 220 degrees. Also known as the gel point. This is what you look for when cooking jam without pectin.

Siphoning: When small amounts of your product seeps out of the jars during process or cooling. This happens most often when the jars have been insufficiently bubbled or undergo drastic changes in temperature. You can prevent it in some cases by doing a better job of bubbling your jars, or leaving your jars in the canner with the heat off for a few minutes when the time is up.

Bubbling: The process of removing any air bubbles from your jars before applying the lids and rings. This is done to help prevent liquid loss during or after processing.

Cold Pack: This is when you pack your jars with raw ingredients (cucumbers, green beans, cherries, etc.) and then filling them with hot brine or syrup. This is of particular benefit when you’re working with more fragile ingredients that need to have their exposure to heat limited as much as possible.

Hot Pack: This is when you simmer the fruit or vegetable that you’re working to preserve in the brine or syrup prior to filling jars. I particularly like doing this with peaches, as they shrink a bit in the syrup and so I’m able to squeeze a few more slices into the jars.

Let me know if you have any other terms you’d like to see on this list!

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