Ok, if you’re like me you probably won’t start canning until June, when you find yourself with an overflowing amount of the first big crop of the season- strawberries! We only grow a few small strawberry plants at the house because we love to go “strawberry picking” at 1 of 1/2 a dozen farms near our house. What does this mean for you? A little beginner’s lesson on how to make and can jam!
I want you to be prepared though when the time arrives so you aren’t having to run to the grocery store or find yourself trying to 1-day ship everything from Amazon (over-nighting mason jars comes with a price people).
So sometime between now and then, try to get your hands on these basic tools (click images for links):
|A large stock pot. The one I used most often for canning is a 16qt similar to the one pictured which is just a basic stock pot. You can use one that you already have, or you can buy a new pot that comes with a rack.|
|A wire rack for the bottom of your pot. This is what you set the jars on. If you set them directly on the bottom of the pot you run the risk of one exploding when the water is boiling- yikes! Make sure to check the dimensions to see if it will fit in your pot.|
|Jars, of course. I usually use 8oz jars for jams and jellies, but feel free to use 4oz ones if you plan on giving them away as gifts (think teachers, friends, and relatives). Most grocery stores and Walmarts/Targets have them, or you can order them from Amazon.|
|Jar lifter– just get it, you’ll thank me. No one wants to try to lift a wet boiling hot jar with a tongs…no one. Any brand is fine.|
|Funnel– to help you fill all those little jars. This is the one we use and I love it.|
|Scoop Spoon– any large spoon will work for this, really, but I happen to find this one very handy. It shape is great for pouring and it has a little hook to sit on the edge of your pot.|
|Pectin– this is what you’ll use to thicken your jams/jellies so they’re not watery and runny. I use Ball’s brand, but any brand is fine. I typically find it cheaper in stores than on Amazon.|
|Spatula/Bubble Remover– for releasing air bubbles before your seal your jars. You can use use one from a canning tools kit, but I just use the handle end of a regular rubber kitchen one.|
|Jar Labels- I like these because they wash off easily when it’s time to reuse the jar.|
|Clear-Jel- if you plan on canning any pie filling, this is used to thicken it. Some people use corn starch, but this tolerates heat better.|
|Pickling Spices– you will use this if you plan on canning pickles- you can make your own from scratch or buy it at the grocery store|
|Books- even though I will be walking you through the canning process, it might be helpful to get a book. Even if you just read the intro and a couple recipes, it will help fill you in on the basics. There are many books to chose from, but this is the one I started with- it’s a classic.|
Other helpful items:
- Larger jars. I typically use 16oz/pint jars for salsas, sauces, small batch applesauce and many fruits; 32oz/quart jars for pickles (wide mouth jars), applesauce, pie fillings, and soup; and 1/2 gallon jars for cider.
Someone asked me the other day: “Wouldn’t it just be easier to buy something like this??”
Well, yes and no. My husband actually bought this for me, and while it was nice to start out with, I wouldn’t recommend buying it. Yes, it is great for beginners because it has pre-programmed recipes, it will steam sanitize your jars, and you can literally set the timer and walk away.
But what I don’t like is that if you ever plan on making anything besides their pre-programmed recipes (jam, jelly, applesauce, salsa, pickles, or tomatoes), you’re kind of out of luck. If you’ve never canned before that might sound like a lot of great things. But trust me, you’ll want to try something else at some point! Then you’ll have to learn basic canning techniques anyway, so you might as well learn the right way from the beginning.
“Will I need all of these extra ingredients that I’m seeing online?
You can get them if you want to, but you certainly don’t need to. The recipes I’ll be using won’t require them.
- Citric Acid is a substitute for lemon juice
- The pickling mixes are just that- mixes of pickling spices, salt, sugar, dill, and Ball’s “pickle crisp”
- Pickling spice- you can make your own from scratch or buy it at the grocery store
- “pickle crisp” is not necessary but I’ve heard great things about it and will be using it this year.
I hope this helps. No go get your canning stuff so you’re all set when mid-June arrives!