The most important piece of equipment for canning is the processor.
This is either a boiling water bath canner, for acid foods, or a steam pressure canner, for low acid foods. By not fastening the lid securely, a steam pressure canner can also be used as a water bath.
But a water bath canner cannot be used for steam pressure processing.
After the canner itself, the most important part of your equipment is the jars in which you pack the foods. The other tools you'll need are, for the most part, probably already included among your every day kitchen equipment.
JARS AND LIDS Standard ½ pint, 1 pint, 12 ounce, 1-½ pint, or 1 quart jars with two piece self sealing lids are the only proper containers for canning vegetables, or any other foods. These are often called Mason jars, after the man who patented a glass canning jar with a threaded top. The two piece metal lid consists of a flat metal cap, rimmed with sealing compound, and an accompanying metal screw band to hold the lid in place for sealing and processing.
Canning jars are carefully made so the home canning closures will seal well. The glass in the jars is tempered to withstand the heat of the steam pressure canner or the sub zero temperatures of the food freezer.
Wide mouth jars make it easier to pack large pieces of food and are also easier to clean. Some jars have measurement levels marked on them. Can or freeze jars can be used for either preservation method, and are tapered so that partially frozen food can easily be removed.
Most canners like to choose the size and types of jars that fin in well with their meal planning. Remember, however, that processing times differ according to the sizes of the containers. Follow the recipes processing times. The recipes tell you how many of which size jars you will need.
REUSING JARS As long as they aren't damaged, and even a nick is enough to disqualify them, you can reuse canning jars year after year. You can also reuse the screw bands used to fasten them. Lids cannot be reused; they must be new each time in order for the sealing compound to seal properly. Don't try to use jars other than those especially made for canning. Peanut butter, mayonnaise, instant coffee, or other food jars are not tempered to withstand the heat of processing, and their top rims may not be right for the lids. Don't risk losing food or cutting yourself on a cracked jar by using substitutes for canning jars. Save the substitutes for storing dried foods, refrigerator relishes, or other foods that do not require processing in a canner.
SEALING JARS PROPERLY You must always follow the manufacturer's instructions for sealing jars properly. They usually instruct you to put the lid over the mouth of the jar so that the sealing compound rests on the rim. Screw the band down firmly, so that it is hand tight. Don't use a jar wrench or other device to tighten the screw band.
During processing, there's enough "give" in the lid to allow air to exhaust from the jar. Don't tighten or loosen it after processing. As the jar cools, the vacuum created inside the jar will pull the lid down in the center until it's slightly concave. You'll hear a slight pinging sound as the seal is formed. When each jar has cooled for 12 to 24 hours, the screw bands should be removed, since the lid will be held in place by the vacuum. The lid must be discarded after one use, but the screw bands are reusable. Store the bands in tightly sealed plastic bags. Make sure there is no rust visible on the bands you plan to reuse.
Source: Vegetable Gardening Encyclopedia Typos by Dorothy Flatman 1995 Submitted By DOROTHY FLATMAN On 10-04-95
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