Tuesday, June 21, 2011

8 Canning Tips I Learned the Hard Way

As you know from my May June is Mango Month posts, I've been canning mango jam, mango salsa, mango chile sauce, and mango butter all month, to use up the mangoes that grow on the tree in the backyard.  Just when I think I've caught up, a storm comes through and knocks a whole bunch more fruit off the tree.  (Such a problem, eh?)

I had not done much canning before this, although I had the equipment, bought when I thought I'd be growing and preserving all my food.  The growing hasn't happened yet (though you never know next year!).  But I've learned a lot about canning by all the mistakes I've made.  Here are a few things I've learned:
  • Make sure you use a good manual and a tested recipe.  I made green mango salsa using a recipe I found online.  At one point it mentioned using half-pint jars; in the next sentence, it had changed to pint jars.  Confusing.
  • Read and reread all the directions before you start.  When I was making chile sauce, the recipe called for you to put all the ingredients in except for sugar and salt, cook for an hour, then add the sugar and salt.  I thought everything was supposed to go in at once.  Oops. 
  • Make sure you have all the equipment you need with you.  I was about to start the canning process the firsr time when I realized I couldn't find the funnel used to fill the jars.  Luckily I found it with just a minute's search, but it would have been much more difficult to fill the jars without it.
  • Start boiling the water in the canner long before you need it.  Do you know how long it takes for a few gallons of water to boil?  Believe me, it takes a long time.
  • Don't double recipes!  Sometimes it seems that the recipes make a small amount, and it's tempting to try to make a double batch.  But don't - the size limitations are there for a reason.  I tried to double a jam recipe, and when the jam came to a boil, it almost overflowed the pot!  And when I tried to double a mango butter recipe, the mixture spurted and scalded me a couple of times.  Not good.
  • Measure everything exactly.  Wanting to get rid of some of the mangoes, I put a little more fruit into a jam recipe than it called for.  Result: jam that didn't set.  (I'll share how to fix this problem next week.)
  • Prepare more jars and lids than you need.  Sometimes a sauce just doesn't cook down as much as you might expect.  If you don't have a jar ready for it, you'll lose the ability to can it.  (Of course, it will do fine in the refrigerator.)
  • Label the jars once they've cooled.  For me, it's hard to tell some of my creations apart just by looking.  After all, everything is orange!
Hope this helps you not make the same mistakes I did!

For more frugal tips, please check out the bloggers listed on the left sidebar under Frugal Tips Linkups. There are lots of great ideas on each blog and I'm sure you'll find lots of wonderful tips!

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Jessica June 22, 2011 at 1:01 AM  

Thank you for these tips! I'm just getting started with canning and it can be intimidating at times. I'm in PA and looking forward to canning wild raspberry jam this summer and apple butter in the fall-that mango butter sounds delicious!

Heather Bea June 22, 2011 at 7:47 PM  

Great tips! I've already made several of these mistakes! Sometimes it's frustrating, but canning is really satisfying when you look at the big pantry of preserves you've made all by yourself!

Heather at http://fakeitfrugal.blogspot.com/

LaVonne June 23, 2011 at 12:00 AM  

Thank you for these tips. I am going to can for the first time this summer and I am so excited!

I found your post at WFMW. Nice to "meet" you. Enjoy the rest of your week!

LaVonne @ Long Wait For Isabella

Mom2fur June 23, 2011 at 11:01 AM  

Thanks for some great tips! I like the one about water taking time to boil, but I have to say I knew that. We make pasta almost every Sunday in a HUGE pot and I bet it pushes nearly a half hour before it's boiling, LOL!
I recently bought myself two of those wide-mouth funnels because the one I already had mysteriously disappeared. I have NO idea where it went, but maybe someday I'll have three, LOL!

Anonymous,  March 29, 2012 at 10:28 AM  

I like to write directly on the top of the jars - you can't reuse the lid anyway. :-)
- Molly

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