Since I am right in the middle of doing so, I thought I would write a little something about canning. There is really nothing to be afraid of when it comes to canning. I am going to talk about what I am currently canning and that is spaghetti sauce and apple sauce. We had a plethora of tomatoes this year, and access to Dave and Chrissy's apple trees. So we have been slicing, dicing, boiling, and pouring over the last week. It is labor intensive, but very rewarding. The best book I have is BALL BLUE BOOK OF PRESERVING. I bought it for $5 at the Utah Agricultural Extension Office in Provo. They have LOTS of great information there. Your city might too - you can always check your city building. If you are in Provo, the Mending Shed in Orem (state st on the way to Walmart) is FABULOUS. Oh and apples are nice because if you live in apple country, you can usually get "drops" for very inexpensive (think .40 a LB) which makes it affordable even if you don't have an apple tree.
What you need to can
jars that are clean and sanitary
lids, the rings can be used again, but the top part that actually seals the can must be new
High Acid foods use a method called hot water bath. The pot is large and there is a rack that fits inside to hold the cans.
funnel with a wide mouth
blender, food processor, or food mill
produce and ingredients
2 1/2 - 3 1/2 LBS apples per quart; a mix of types of apples is best but whatever you have works
Cinnamon stick (optional)
Scrub apples in soapy water. Peel, core, and chop your apples and put them in the stock pot (may I say an apple peeler, corer, slicer makes this so easy). If you want pink apple sauce, you can leave on the skins of clean, mildly blemished, red apples. But for me, my apples are pretty wild so I removed the skin to remove the blemishes. Turn on the heat to low. Add sugar to taste (2-4 TBS should be fine, but it depends on the apples too. I like brown sugar, but it doesn't matter). If making cinnamon applesauce, add 1-2 cinnamon sticks and some nutmeg (go easy on the nutmeg - it is strong and you can always add more but you can't take it away). Place the lid on and stir occasionally, making sure the apples don't burn on the bottom. It will eventually turn to mush. At this point, let it cool a little bit as to not burn yourself. Then place in a blender, food processor, or food mill and blend until smooth. Follow canning directions at the bottom of this post.
So the specific recipe for this uses 45 pounds of tomatoes! So I will tell you what I did since, well, if you have that many tomatoes you probably know how to can.
10 LBS tomatoes (this was 1.5 plastic shopping bags of tomatoes for me)
1 onion chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
seasoning - basil, oregano, bay leaves, whatever you like, to taste.
a little sugar - 1 tsp
Basically you are just making a yummy homemade spaghetti sauce. Don't get too caught up in what should go in - make it so you like it.
Wash tomatoes (hope this is a no brainer). Cut off both ends (stock and bloom) and cut into quarters. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil in a large stock pot on medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, and everything else. Cover and let simmer about 20-30minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool enough to put into a blender, food processor, or food mill. If the tomato seeds bother you, strain to remove. They don't bother me enough to bother with straining, but to each his own. Place back in the stock pot and simmer until it is reduced by half. Follow canning directions to follow EXCEPT place 1 Tbs for pints and 2 Tbs for quarts of lemon juice in the jars before you fill them.
Canning your product
You want your jars to be warm/hot. I usually dunk mine in hot water and let them dry next to my work station on a clean cloth. The lids (the part that seals) needs to be SIMMERED NOT BOILED (low heat) for 10 minutes - then keep them in the warm water until ready for use. This helps the seal do it's thing. The rings that hold on the top need to also be clean.
Fill your hot water bath half way and set on the stove as high as your heat can go (you want them to be at least 180 by the time you put your jars in, and 212 to process). For me with my low BTU stove, I used two burners.
Remember - hot liquid into hot jars. We don't want anything growing in there. So use your funnel to fill the jar to the 1 inch mark, which is right where the ring part of the lid ends when it is on (the jars usually have a ring around the neck) or you can just measure down from the top before you pour.
Put the two piece top on the jar, making sure the ring of the jar is clear of food particles.
When you have all your jars filled, place them in the hot water bath (they have a utensil that works great for this to keep you far from the hot water). The water needs to cover by 1-2 inches. If needed, pour more boiling water in to cover. The water needs to come to a boil (specifically 212 degrees) to process. Don't start counting until it hits this mark! When they are done, let them cook 5 minutes in the pot. Then take them out and let them rest for 12-14 hours. The lids should seal down so that they don't bubble on the top when pressed down.
Processing times: tomato sauce 35 minutes for pints, 40 minutes for quarts (don't forget your lemon juice!). Applesauce is 20 minutes for both size jars.
Now go take a nap, you deserve it.