Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Getting Started - Equipment You'll Need

I know I said I would post the grape jam recipe next. However after thinking about it, it makes more sense to begin by defining the equipment you'll need and the steps of the canning process, followed by the recipes. So today's post will be about the equipment you'll need.

Most kitchens have everything you need to process jams and preserves except the jars. You can purchase canning kits that include special tongs, a big pot, a rack for the pot, magnetic tongs for lifting the lids, etc. The kits can get fairly pricey. So far I haven't purchased a canning kit. However it looks like this might be getting serious, so a few specialty canning items might make my Christmas list this year!

I have found that I can improvise using what I already have. The point I'm trying to make is all you may need to purchase to get started is a box of jars and the ingredients!

Here's how I improvised while canning:
-Instead of a jar grabber, I use my tongs, the kind for turning hot dogs on the grill. They look like this






-Instead of a canning pot, I use my big chili pot, it's stainless steel. Note: You cannot use an aluminum pot for canning.
-Instead of a canning rack for the bottom of the pot when processing, I use a Farberware steaming rack with the handle bent up. I have processed the jars resting on the bottom of the pot. It's a little noisy and they could break so I don't recommend it.
-Instead of a magnetic tong grabber, I use my hot dog tongs.
You get the idea.

What about the jars?

I like the jars for my jams to be a little fancy. Why not? The jars I have used have a crystal look with a colorful lid. They come in a 4 ounce or an 8 ounce size and include labels that match the lids. The average price for a package of 12 jars with lids and rings is $8 to $10. Here's a photo of the two sizes with my recent batch of peach preserves inside.



















That pretty much covers the equipment.

Check back for information on preparing, filling and processing the jars and testing for gel point. At first this all seemed somewhat intimidating to me. When I read the instructions I found in various places there was too much information all at once. So for beginners, (like me), I will present these steps in three separate posts: Preparing the Jars, Testing for Gel Point, and Filling and Processing the Jars. I hope this simplifies things for you. Once you do this a few times you'll get the hang of it and look forward to the next time.

Thanks for reading,
Trish

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