Country Living Series

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Seeking questions from novice canners

Dear readers, I would like your input.

I am going to be putting out a series of ebook pamphlets for an inexpensive price, probably $1.49 each, downloadable on a Kindle. While eventually I'll be writing on a number of different subjects, I'm going to start with a very simple beginning guide to canning.

I would like to hear some of your basic questions about canning so I can be sure such information is included in the pamphlets. An example of such a question might be, "Why is it preferred to hot-pack food into jars instead of cold-pack?" Stuff like that.

Remember, these will be very basic guides. But lots of beginning canners have some very basic questions. Just because questions are basic doesn't mean the answers aren't critical.

So all novice canners -- shoot me your questions!

69 comments:

  1. Hi Patrice,

    I am a very novice canner. And by "very novice", I mean, I asked for (and received!) a pressure canner for Christmas because I dream of canning our garden produce, but have no idea where else to start! I am really looking forward to your pamplets!

    My first question: why the pressure? Do you have an easy way to remember what pressure to can different things at? An acronym maybe?

    Where's a good place to get mason jars? would you buy them used? Can I reuse spaghetti sauce jars?

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  2. Not to discourage you from your enterprise, but the Ball Blue Book: The Guide to Home Canning and Freezing is about as basic as you can get. It answers all the basic questions about canning, both pressure and water bath, and freezing food. It's been around forever. I refer to it whenever I have a question about canning.

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    1. I have that book and still have questions...I think this is a GREAT idea Patrice--the way I'm understanding it you want to publish quick and easy to read and understand pamphlets that we could refer to easily. Great idea!

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  3. Have you thought about putting them on itunes too? They would be great for an ipad, ipod, and iphone.
    I think that's a great enterprise!

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    1. I would buy them for my iPad too. =)

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  4. How about recipes for ready to eat foods in a jar, like meatballs, chili, or vegetable soup?
    I loved your post on canning bacon.

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  5. Could you cover why there is a need to add Lemon Juice to certain foods when canning and also the use of canning salt vs. regular table salt.

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  6. Bacon? Bacon? She did a story on canning Bacon! I love bacon! Nothing smells like Bacon! Where's that article on Bacon cause I love Bacon! Omg my inner dawg has taken over!

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    1. Oh, I needed a good laugh! "I love bacon...I love you...I love bacon....I love you..." So funny!

      Just Me

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  7. How about these:

    1] Why won't my lids seal?
    2] easy-to-read pressure settings for what types of food you are canning and how long. (Such as the pressure and time for meat,e tc...)

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  8. I've been canning for a while, but at first I was never sure how much water to use. Do the jars need to be totally submerged, or water halfway up? Does the amount of water change if you're using a pressure canner? I had a hard time finding that info.

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    1. This is one I want to know too...=) I have a pressure canner and I haven't canned any quart jars in it because I don't actually know the answer to this. The bigger jars would be so much more practical for me both at home AND at work.

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  9. Could you cover safety? I always heard such horror stories about people dying from home canned goods when I was growing up, makes me nervous. You would think some one would have invented a testing strip you could dip into canned goods to test for botchilism or something.

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    1. Safety is a concern for us, too. A neighbor gave us two jars of canned fruit last Christmas, and one of the jars had some spots of mold in the fruit. We threw it out, although another friend said that wasn't a problem. Are spots of mold in the fruit a problem or not? We just didn't want to take a chance. --Fred & Deb in AZ

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  10. I struggle with timing-maybe you could address that.

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  12. I'm a novice canner myself... and really I'd love simple easy "real life" recipes. I love LOVE the ideas of "ready to eat" foods in a jar. I also loved your canning bacon post (even though we didnt like the canned bacon, LOL). I love the simple step by step with pictures actually, because it makes me feel better seeing (Im a visual do it myself type learner) over just reading words in a book. Practical. Man, I need a kindle!

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    1. You can go to www.amazon.com and download kindle for pc for free.

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  13. I keep hearing 'don't stack your canning jars' but I saw a pantry photo and many others elsewhere that had jars stacked two deep. What are your recommendations?

    (http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/lewis133.html)

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  14. I don't have a question so much as a suggestion. I've known a few new canners that have made quite dangerous moves while canning. One doesn't bother to waterbath, and just places pickle filled jars in a low oven for a bit until she hears the seal pop. Another tried making pesto in her first canning attempt. I've yet to find a recipe for home canned pesto due to the low acid issue. (and if you have one that's tested and true, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE post it!!!)

    Canning is fun and easy when you choose foods that meet your experience level, AND you follow the directions. Please explain the potential dangers of food poisoning when not done properly!

    Not trying to scare anyone off from the joy of canning their own food - just hoping you can encourage that the rules of basic chemistry be followed to avoid wasted food and damaged health!

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  15. How about a Really basic question like mine. How do I get over the fear of canning? I just know it's going to explode or that I won't know that something I've canned has developed Botulism. Also, I would like to know the answer to the sample question in your post. JanieB

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  16. Salsa making...it's such a good way to use summer tomato crops, but after adding all the other ingredients needed to make it good, I'm worried about having enough acid to keep it safe.

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  17. I'm stuck on pressure canning. My instructions say NOT to can on a glass top stove! That's what I have in this kitchen. UGH!
    --K in OK <><

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    1. I can all the time meat, soup, veges, etc... I have a glas top stove and have had one for years. I have never had a problem... Just be careful to not slam it down. Christine in AR

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    2. I also can on my glass top!! Never a problem. Just a couple of things though....First check your stoves booklet. Mine said it was ok to do so using a flat bottom canner, also I regularly clean and polish it to keep any scratches and etc. from marring the finish. I guess the main thing is to check your book or if you dont have it call the company wjth make and model number and ask them.
      Florida Mom

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    3. In our "canning kitchen" that we have set up in our basement we use a 20+ year old "bare bones" gas stove. You can "can" on anything that makes heat...but long term...canning on an expensive range doesn't make much sense....high heat...pots boiling all day equals wear and tear...

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  18. I'd love to have basic info on shelf life of home canned goodies. Veggies I don't worry about as much as I do meats. Oh, and freezer life as well.

    Also, I've canned my own chili's and soups that are my own recipes. Do you need to be concerned about the effects of canning on your spices? Will it make them more intense? Can you use any old recipe and can it?

    I taught myself to can from Ball's Blue Book but there are wholes that it does leave open...or you have to dig to find. I think your idea is great!

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  19. Hopefully I didn't duplicate this comment but here ya go:

    What is the shelf life of canned meats and veggies? I always try to go through my canned meat quickly because I don't know for sure.

    Are spices effected by the canning process? Can you can up any recipe that you use? I can my own chili recipe but it seems fine.

    And I taught myself to can through Ball's Blue Book but there are some holes or the info really has to be searched for. Thank you for your time and energy with this! I think it's a great endeavor.

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  20. Looking back, my first canning experiences could have been on the big screen. The canner was in the kitchen, but I was in the living room, occasionally peeking around the dividing wall (on my knees) while listening intently for the timely jiggle. I was scared to death that it was going to blow at any time! Now I often have three canners going at the same time.

    I can everything I get my hands on - from bacon to chicken to beef to meatballs to ham and beans to (real) mince meat to all kinds of relish and fruits - all because of a not-so-good experience involving an ice storm and 5 days without power to my freezers. That will NEVER happen again!

    I encourage friends who are new to canning to read the intro in the Blue Book, pointing out the importance of using quality equipment and following instructions to the letter.

    My thoughts for your book:
    ph and how to know whether hot water bath or pressure canning is required;

    shelf life and how to tell if the food is "bad";

    how long I need to cook the canned food before eating;

    how to tell if jars at a garage sale are for canning or recycle;

    how to prepare different types of meat for canning; Must I cut off all the fat? Can I leave the bones, skin, and fat on the chicken? Will bones affect the taste? Will bones shorten the shelf-life?

    If I don't cover the meat with broth, does that shorten the shelf-life or alter the taste?

    Can I reuse Ball/Kerr lids?

    Canning is a blast when shared with friends! Thanks, Patrice!

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  21. I always have to go online for pie filling recipes and it is annoying. You might have nice success with a few recipes, and be clear on how much a qt size jar will fill (shallow pie or deep dish)? That into is sorely lacking. Could do peach, cherry (include kind), blueberry if that can be done. I think applesauce can be done much simpler than Ball Blue Book--you could also explain why skin left on the apple is not a good idea (it gets so hard) and where to buy Clear Jel...stuff people go nuts trying to figure out! Best wishes! Oh, and how about WHAT to use to wipe rims and do you really need to boil lids, and how about those reusable lids---those are cool looking---where to buy though...ok, HTHs!

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  22. If I heat up a lid for canning and don't use it, is it still good? If I find a lid, in a drawer, how can I tell if it's been used?

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    1. when canning for the first time place a black X with a sharpie on the top of the lid. I re use these for storing but not for canning. No X means I haven't canned with it.

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  23. I can all the time. Every week. What I would like more information on is the strange things we all do that are not considered safe by the powers that be.

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    1. like drinking raw milk from my milk cow?

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  24. Back when I was starting, I wish I would've at least *known* about some different shortcuts or the basic "hows" and "whys" of things.

    Like now I raw pack my peaches (and green beans and pears) because, well, I'm lazy.
    And I don't sterilize my jars per se - just make sure they're clean (they go through my sanitizing dishwasher after use/emptying, then stored so they stay clean), warm, and the canning time sterilizes things (I boil everything for 15 minutes minimum, even jam, to cover my bases with everything sterilization/bug/altitude wise).

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  25. What is a kindle? Jeff ps: sorry to comment as anonymous, but I don't know how to use the other options

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  26. A very new canner might appreciate a booklet with several tried-and-true but simple recipes for jam, salsa and other boiling water bath items tutorial-style with lots of pictures.

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  27. Is it bad, dangerous if there is too much air in the jar after the jar has been processed?

    Is there a test for botulism? (I'd like to avoid having the husband or dog be the test!)

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  28. Stuff I'd wished I'd known or things I was unsure about when I first started just a couple years ago:

    - Differences between jars - mason, quarter-turn, wide-mouth, pint, GEM, etc.
    - Guidelines for how much headspace to leave for canning all kinds of different things, and why.
    - Some discussion of how tight (or not) to pack things; how to cut things up so they pack best and serve best.
    - Guidelines for how much water to use.
    - How important is it (or not) that I get all the bubbles out with a spatula (and why).
    - How tight is "finger-tight"? Best explanation I got is "as tight as a 6 or 7 year old kid could tighten them".
    - Information about minimum equipment. For example, even as a complete novice, a jar funnel and jar lifter is helpful.
    - I wish someone had told me sooner about partial sieving for really seedy jams.
    - Some explanation of the different kinds of pectin.
    - How to can leftover turkey/chicken (warm it up again? what size to cut it up into? Stock or water?)
    - An explanation of why you don't want to release pressure or artificially cool down the pressure canner when done.
    - The simplest pickling solution for beets, carrots, etc. I wasted a ton of time trying to find the right amount of water, vinegar, sugar, salt. All the recipes were different, and almost all added some secret combination of spices. I just wanted to keep it simple to start.
    - Sanitizing (clean) jars in the oven as an option.

    Not to be down on the idea of a very basic pamphlet, but, it was being unsure about these complexities that kept me from even getting started sometimes. There are a lot of basic guides out already; what I really needed was some of these FAQ-like answers to all the things the basic guides were silent about or didn't give complete enough explanations for.
    Thanks!

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  29. Patrice, I write articles on canning for a survival blog and I have had questions about how to can on a wood stove. I suggest they practice keeping a big pot of water at a rolling boil for 90 minutes before trying with a pressure canner. Christine in AR

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  30. Question I think about is the screw lids-when do stop reusing them? They seem to get rusty and I am not sure if they are bad, or can they keep being used.

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  31. It might be worth touching on things like discoloration and pickles (or other items) that rise to the top of the jar; I know many people worry about whether such items are safe.

    As a food safety instructor, I would also like to ask that you point out to people that where they're getting their recipes from matters. There are smart, safe canners (like you and Paratus Familia) online with great recipes and then there are yahoos posting their favorite recipe for whatever that they just decided to can - with no actual basis for their decision how and for how long to can it! Until you've gotten enough experience and enough basic reference tools (Ball's Blue Book, etc) to verify recipes, you need to make sure you're using a vetted source.

    Also, please consider recommending that people clearly label their jars with the kind of food, date it was processed and (if necessary) the batch number. This alone will go a long way towards promoting a feeling and habit of safety in canning.

    Oh - one last thing - it might be good to note that substitutions and alterations to recipes are NOT a good idea! Ingredients like sugar and vinegar are crucial to creating the right chemical balance; some gels and thickeners are very canning friendly and others are a disaster. Until you understand the chemistry, don't try to change a recipe!

    Thanks :)

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  32. I'd like clarification on some equipment - specifically the pressure canner. If you have a larger canner and want it slap full you have to stack the cans. In the All American, it has those metal inserts, but the direction are lacking in how to use them. Also, how much water to use. I like a lot of the other questions regarding botulism - I still have concerns that what I'm doing is right, or if my good food went bad. Also, what about canning my own recipie? Everything I've heard is to follow someone else's (book) recipe due to safety, but I don't want to. I'd much rather have the foods that I like best rather than give it up so I can follow someone else's culinary tradition. How does a newbie do that?

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  33. I'd like to get into canning; we live in an area with wonderful fresh produce. I don't even know where to start! What are the basic supplies I need? Do I need a pressure cooker? -H

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  34. How about a basic soup recipe for pressure canning? I bought a pressure canner last year, and now I'm afraid of 'doing it wrong', so I haven't canned anything in it!

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  35. try this...I'm English and have no understanding of the whole idea......HELP

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  36. please include a section on canning using metal cans and sealing them and pressure canning them.
    also a list of useful commercial metal can sizes with the corresponding quantity they hold, and their common names, ie: 303, No. 10, etc.

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  37. deal with : glass stove top, cost of electricity, use of outdoor cooker burner with high BTU not advised but is it possible ? PG&E in Central CA
    Other:
    Liquid separates;bubbles left;liquid absorbed and not all covered; mushy tomatoes.

    Don't have kindle but cannot wait as sure will be other options. Love Tattler ! How bout the new rings ?

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  38. I'd like to know how to get crispy pickles, dill and sweet. Also I'm concerned about dying from botulism!!
    Kay

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  39. Is it true that you can't use a glass top stove? If so I feel like I am already eliminated from canning. I can't buy a new stove right now.

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    1. Could you can on a small gas ring (like a camping one)?

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    2. I can (both water bath and pressure canner) on a glass top stove all the time. Probably done each at least a dozen times. I was initially concerned about this too, and scoured the web for information about why people said you couldn't. I can't remember the "why" exactly - I'll try to find it again. But I was eventually satisfied that I would be fine, and the manufacturers were being over-cautious. However, I do recall you need to make sure your large pot and pressure canner are "flat-bottomed". Some are apparently slightly concave on the bottom, and this causes a problem, but I don't remember what. And be gentle, given the weight, as mentioned earlier by someone else.

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    3. Here's the reference I found helpful:
      http://www.pickyourown.org/cannings4glasstop.htm

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  40. I've been water bath canning for one year. I just started using a pressure canner. When I tried to pressure can some meatless spaghetti sauce, one of the lids came off. What a mess! I was using the resuable Tatler lids. I know you use these. Do you have any advice on how to use them properly?

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  41. How about a recipe for how to make a condesed soup? To save store space, it would be nice to have a condensed veggie soup so that I could dump it into the pot and add water.

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  42. I know you have canned mustard before, and it is fairly viscous and densely thick.
    How do you can peanut butter?
    What about really thick meat sauces, like sloppy joes?
    How about pre made corn pollenta or baby's oatmeal or creamed rice and cream of wheat?
    how do I can alcohol based tinctures or homemade brandy?
    How to cold pack, cured or fresh ham chunks or link and patty sausage?
    How to can pickled eggs, beets and hogs feet?
    How to can cheese?

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  43. Are steam canners safe even though they don't have USDA approval?

    A good no sugar jam recipe?

    I've heard you can reuse jars from purchased goods and their lids to can with. Why does that work and not reusing the regular canning jar lids more than once?

    Food poising from canned goods seems like a major concern these days but many of the 'old time' canners arn't worried. Why is this?

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  44. A silly question I had to ask this past summer... Is it normal for your presssure canner to discolour after its first use?? (I was a bit shocked by this and had worried I had done something very wrong) I preserved 700 cups of food last year relearning dusty old skills from my grandma and learning new ones. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has an online class I took just last month that helped as well.

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  45. Love this idea. Is it necessary to have a pressure canner with a pressure gauge? I found one that just uses the weight, and it did say it was safe to use for canning. I don't want to buy it and find out later it can't be used for that purpose. It also stated it can be used for cooking. Ugh!

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  46. I have the same concern as you tea4tooo, I got a small pressure cooker with a weight. I canned a test jar of corn last summer, it's still in my pantry, the seal is good but I'm terrified to open it, let alone eat it.

    Karla in Ca

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  47. Why does head space matter? Can you can one that is half-full?
    If you forget to release the bubbles before sealing does it matter that the finished product has bubbles throught it?
    If the contents ooze out during canning (that headspace thing again) yet the lid seals, is it ok to eat? Is there a way to tell which can is the culprit in a batch?

    Newby Canner

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  48. Lids, lids, lids. What lids to use, with all the hoopla about toxic substances in the lining of one brand vs. no lining in another? Where do you find the old-fashioned glass or metal lids that use a separate rubber gasket, and what about the one-piece screw-on lids of decades ago? What are the options and what works best?

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  49. How about canning at higher altitudes? We live where water boils at 190 degrees F. Are there things I shouldn't attempt to can? Are there things that are fine to waterbath at lower altitudes that I should pressure can only? I have a pressure canner, but haven't used it in part because I haven't found good info on canning at my altitude.

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  50. You asked for it, Patrice, and it looks like you got it! (Ha ha!)

    My wife and I have a couple of our own:

    1. Everything my wife has read has said not to can pumpkin or sweet potatoes, presumably because they are too dense to get the center hot enough to be safe. Is that your recommendation, too? If so, then what other foods fall into this category?

    2. We have canned a lot of applesauce in the last couple of years using a water-bath process. When we pull the jars out after the processing time, there is some applesauce that is oozing out of the jar. It still seals, and it doesn't mold or anything while stored, we are just wondering what causes the oozing.

    3. While canning that applesauce, we will occasionally have a jar that breaks in the boiling water. What do we need to look for in the jars before we put them in the water to prevent the breakage?

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  51. hi, i came across your blog as i was investigating the tatler, reusable lids..u provided great info and pictures..thank u..i've never read a blog before, so yours is quite interesting/informational. i consider myself an experienced/always learning canner (33 years), and have 4 dtrs, that are avid preservors too!.great resources i've always used is the local extension agency brochures..good for elevations/pressure cooking times...i also came across the book "So Easy to Preserve" by the University of Georgia extension . Super book-canning, pickling, jellies,freezing, drying...i also use a steamer canner and love it...do alot of my canning outside on my 3 burner camp stove! and can with my girls...thank u... a Montana girl

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  52. a good tip: instead of using fruit fresh, to keep fruits from going brown, i just crush up vitamin C tablets and put in a pan of water, and put things like my peaches, pears, apples in them to pre-soak while i'm canning...i do this for my apple pie filling, then just pack apples in the jar, and pour my sauce over them (i don't blanch like you do)..this is so good over waffles or pancakes.! tina from MT.

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  53. I've read (here, in fact) that some foods are okay to be water-bath canned, but others must be pressure-canned.

    My question is :
    Can I just pressure can everything ?
    So I'll never have to worry whether it's okay to use the water-bath method for this or that particular food ?


    Charlie

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  54. When you all say "glass topped" stove, do you mean a flat topped electric? I have a GE Profile and had no idea, if that is in fact what you mean. I've canned a fair bit on mine and it looks well loved compared to my friend's with less kids and who don't can, but it's been fine. I'm wondering if I should be concerned though!

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