Methods of Canning

What Are the Different Types of Canning?

When most people think about preserving food, they think about canning. A pantry full of jams and pickles is perhaps the ubiquitous image of home food preservation, and there’s just something about the way those filled jars make you feel. It is a tie to our grandmothers and a hedge against disaster — a magical way of preserving the essence of summer in winter.

That said, however, canning is time and energy intensive, and can be expensive if you can’t get equipment used. And there are risks to canning that don’t apply to most other methods of food preservation. I know many people who put up food who never pressure can. I mention this not to be discouraging, but so because even though our memories of grandmother mean that many of us think that canning is the most important food storage technique, it is just one of many, and one that didn’t even exist two hundred years ago. For millennia, people relied on other forms of food preservation and did just fine. That said, however, there are lots of tastes that you can only get by canning, and it is a skill well worth having in your repertoire.

There are two kinds of canning, both of which use high temperatures to create a vacuum seal that prevents air and bacteria from forming on food. First, there’s canning in a water bath, which is done by immersing sterile jars filled with high-acid food (more on this in a minute) in enough boiling water to cover them and boiling for the required amount of time. The second, used for foods that aren’t acidic, is pressure canning. That involves a special piece of equipment, a pressure canner (not a pressure cooker) designed to achieve higher temperatures than boiling water can. This is for food that isn’t acidic enough to prevent the growth of a particular toxin, botulism, which can kill you.

So given that last bit of information, the very first thing I’m going to say is that I don’t want you to be scared, and I don’t want you not to try this, but I do want you to swear up and down before you do any canning that you will pay attention, read instructions carefully and follow the rules. Because, even if your Mom always did it a different way, you really can die from not being careful with canning. It probably won’t happen, but why mess with it? Properly done, canning is easy and safe.


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