With bacon jam appearing on restaurant menus and artisan pickles piled high at farmer’s markets, it’s clear that canning has made a comeback. It’s a great way to enjoy your favorite fresh produce all year long; it’ll stay shelf-stable and botulism-free, as long as you follow the directions carefully. If you’ve wanted to try “putting up”—the old-timey term for preserving at home—but didn’t know where to start, kick things off with water-bath canning; it works for foods with a high acidity level, like tomatoes and fruits. (Once you’ve mastered water-bath canning, pick up a pressure cooker and try your hand at sauces and soups.) An excellent starter food for canning is applesauce; it’s healthy, delish, and makes a handy gift.
What you need:
- An extra-large stockpot or canning pot
- A wire rack, to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot (If you buy a canning pot, one will come with it, or you can make a DIY version by zip-tying canning rings together to line the bottom of the pot.)
- Pint-sized canning jars (Wide-mouth jars work best. You can reuse canning jars—like Ball or Kerr—that you find at the thrift store, but don’t reuse pasta jars or the like.)
- Canning lids to fit your jars
- Canning rings to fit your jars
- Kitchen tongs (or a lid lifter and jar lifter, to remove items from the water)
- Jar funnel
- Kitchen towels
- Sugar (optional)
- Peel, core, and roughly chop your apples (as many as you like—you can just eat whatever doesn’t fit in the jars) and put them in a saucepan with a big pinch of cinnamon. If the apples are really tart, you can add a tablespoon or so of sugar. Cook until they fall apart. If you like your applesauce chunky, you can stop here. Or do what I do, and break them down with a potato masher or a stick blender. Keep the applesauce hot by simmering it on the stovetop or putting it in a slow cooker set to high.
- While you’re making the sauce, clean your jars, lids, rings, and ladle. You can do this in a dishwasher on the hottest setting, or you can bring them to a boil in your canning pot; either way is fine. If you sterilize them in the canning pot, dump out this water when you’re done and start fresh water boiling for the canning process. Fill the pot about two-thirds of the way. If you have a wire rack, remove it so you can load it with filled jars. If you’re using the linked-together rings, keep them in the bottom of the pot. After you clean your lids, rings, and jars, keep them sterile by simmering in a small pot.
- Now you’re ready to fill the jars. Use the jar funnel and sterilized ladle to fill them up within 1/2" of the top; this is known in the canning world as “headspace.” Lightly tap the jar to remove large bubbles. Next, use a clean kitchen towel to wipe off any sauce on the rim of the jars—this’ll ensure a tight seal.
- Using the tongs or a lid lifter, pull a lid from the small pot and put on the jar. Then lift out a sterile ring, put it on top of the lid, and tighten.
- Put the jars in the wire rack and lower into the boiling water in the canner. Or, if you’re using the DIY ring rack, carefully place the jars on top. Add more water, pouring next to but not onto the jars, until the tops of the jars are covered by at least 1" of water.
- Put the lid on the canning pot and process (read: boil vigorously) for 20 minutes. Keep the lid on the whole time. If the pot starts to boil over, lower the temperature a bit, but keep the boil going. Then carefully remove the jars and place on a towel on the counter. As they cool, you’ll hear satisfying pops as the lids seal. A sealed lid will not move when you press in the center of it—it will be concave and sucked in. Unsealed ones will move and click when you press them. If any of your jars don’t seal, just store in the fridge and eat the applesauce within a week or so. The rest are sealed and safe to be stored in the pantry for up to a year.
By Jenny Rose Ryan
Photographed and styled by Vanessa Rees
This how-to appears in the Aug/Sept 2012 issue of BUST Magazine with cover girl Tavi Gevinson. Subscribe now. For detailed information on canning, pick up a copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving or visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website at nchfp.uga.edu.
The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.