Preserve the goodness of your garden when you learn how to can tomatoes and the rest of your garden’s produce. When the harvest starts rolling in, be prepared with everything you need to preserve, including jars, bands and water bath canners at The Home Depot’s Garden Center.
There’s no great mystery to canning. It’s simply the process of applying heat to food in a closed space such as a jar. Air is removed from the jar, creating a seal and stopping the natural spoilage process. Follow the proper procedures, and your jars of food will be shelf-stable for up to a year.
The latest trend in preserving food is the innovation in small batch canning. No more clearing the kitchen counters to mass produce jars of tomatoes. These days, you can make a small batch, three pint jars, of jam or salsa after work, or in a weekend afternoon.
Begin with the freshest produce from your garden, the local farm stand or grocery store. Always choose unblemished fruit for canning. Not sure how much you’ll need for a recipe? Check Ball Canning’s Produce Purchase Guide for guidelines.
In canning, there are two types of processing. The first, water bath canning, is for high-acid foods like jams, jellies, fruits and fruit juices, salsas, tomatoes (with added acid), pickles and relishes, chutneys and vinegars.
Pressure canning is used for low-acid recipes for vegetables, meats and poultry. This process keeps foods fresh and safe to eat by heating the contents under pressure to 240 degrees Fahrenheit and eliminating the risk of foodborne bacteria. Pressure canning is necessary when you mix high-acid foods with low-acid foods.
The Basic Steps in Water Bath Canning
- Ball 21-quart waterbath canner with a canning rack, or for small batches, a Ball Canning Discovery Kit (used when preserving tomatoes, salsas, pickles, jellies, jams, fruits and other high-acid foods)
- Ball glass preserving jars and bands
- Kitchen utensils like a sauce pan, measuring cups and spoons, kitchen knives, large spoons, dish cloths, cutting board, ladle, non-metallic spatula
- Fresh produce and the ingredients for your recipe
1. Prep your gear:
- Wash jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water and rinse well.
- Keep jars warm until ready to use.
- Fill canner half full with enough water to cover jars with at least one inch of water and heat to a simmer.
2. Select Your Recipe:
- Prepare recipe. For inspiration, see FreshPreserving.com.
- Fill each jar with prepared food. Leave headspace for food expansion.
- Remove air bubbles.
- Wipe any food from the rims of the jars.
3. Preserve your Food:
- Place filled jars into canning rack, then lower into simmering water, ensuring jars are covered by one inch of water.
- Turn off heat and let jars stand in water for 5 minutes. Remove jars from water and cool upright on wire rack or towel on countertop for 12 hours.
- Press on center of cooled lid. If jar is sealed, the lid will not flex up or down.
- Store sealed jars in pantry for up to 1 year.
- Enjoy your homemade food or give as a gift.
Get more details for canning: Intro to Canning.
Salsa is a perfect first-time canning recipe with the bonus that it uses lots of ingredients from your garden. Pick those tomatoes, banana peppers and jalapenos from your garden or the farmer’s market for this delicious salsa.
Yield: 6 pints
- 10 cups chopped tomatoes (about 6 pounds)
- 5 cups chopped banana peppers (about 2 pounds)
- 5 cups chopped onions (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 2 1/2 cups chopped jalapeno peppers (about 1 pound)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/4 cups cider vinegar, 5% acidity
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
- Wash tomatoes and peppers under cold running water; drain.
- To peel tomatoes, blanch 30 to 60 seconds in boiling water. Immediately transfer to cold water. Cut off peel. Cut tomatoes in half, core, and remove seeds. Chop tomatoes; measure 10 cups chopped tomatoes.
- Stem and seed banana and jalapeno peppers. Chop peppers, keeping them separate. Measure 5 cups chopped banana peppers; measure 2 1/2 cups chopped jalapeno peppers.
- Peel onions. Chop onions; measure 5 cups chopped onions.
- Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer (180 degrees Fahrenheit); simmer 10 minutes or until thickened.
- Ladle hot salsa into a hot jar, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Clean jar rim. Center lid on jar and adjust band to fingertip-tight. Place jar on the rack elevated over simmering water (180 degrees Fahrenheit) in boiling-water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.
- Lower the rack into simmering water. Water must cover jars by one inch. Adjust heat to medium-high, cover canner and bring water to a rolling boil. Process pint jar for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and remove cover. Let jars cool 5 minutes.
- Remove jars from canner; do not retighten bands if loose. Cool 12 hours. Test seals. Label and store jars.
Note: When cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned.
Images, resources and recipe provided by Ball Canning.
Got questions about this article or any other garden topic? Go here now to post your gardening ideas, questions, kudos or complaints. We have gardening experts standing by to help you!