Let’s make canning less of a chore
Canning can be a pretty overwhelming task, especially if you want to put up enough food to last your family all year. But if you have the right tools for the job, you can make the job a lot easier, saving your hours of work and headache.
Let’s start with something small
Canning lids. After you’ve invested in jars and canners, you still have the ongoing expense of buying lids. The metal lids we buy in the store are one-time use. And they are starting to get expensive.
But a few years ago I bought a box of Tattler Reusable Plastic Lids. Despite reading numerous testimonials I was still a bit skeptical. Reusable lids? And they are plastic–that can’t really work, can it?
Well, I’ve been using these lids now for four years. Each lid being reused several times and I can tell you, they do indeed live up to their well-deserved reputation. It’s pretty much like using metal lids except you put the canning ring on a little looser than you do with metal lids and you tighten the ring after removing the jar from the canner.
There’s a new brand of reusable lids: Harvest Guard. It appears there was a split in the family that created the Tattler lids and they created a separate company. The lids are identical, so just get the ones that are more affordable or available.
The lid is comprised of two pieces (rubber ring and lid), so you’ll want to have a designated storage box for them. Be sure to instruct everyone who does dishes to put put both the ring and the lid in that storage box after washing them.
More reasons to buy Tattler Lids
- These lids won’t rust. In our humid midwest climate, rust can be a problem. But not with these plastic lids.
- They are made in the US.
- They are BPA free. Did you know that the plastic lining your metal lids from the store contains BPA, a chemical that has been linked to several health concerns?
- Reasonable price. Especially if you combine orders with some friends and buy in bulk. Then the price is less than $6/dozen. That means that after 3 uses they will have paid for themselves.
- Good support. The people at Tattler are very knowledgeable and helpful. You can call them with all your questions about ordering and how to use them. You will find them very friendly and helpful.
There’s really only one disadvantage to Tattler reusable lids, and it’s a small one: If you give canned goods as gifts, you either need to ask for the lid back or be sure to use metal lids for things you might give away.
Here is an idea that is long overdue: The JarBox. Just in time for your canning season, the JarBox is pure genius. It’s much more than a box to store your canning jars. It is molded plastic that fits
1-quart Mason jars perfectly and protects them from breakage. The lids snap together and round grooves in the bottom allow you to stack the boxes and not worry about them slipping around.
Why not just use a cardboard box?
Cardboard boxes don’t last that long. All it takes is a little humidity or a leaking jar to soften the box and see everything fall apart when you go to pick up your box filled with jars.
I was tired of using flimsy cardboard boxes. So a few years ago I asked a friend to make me several boxes out of wood. He made them to accommodate 12 quart jars. He cut slots on the sides of the box to serve as handles. But still there were a few problems. First, there was always the risk of boxes slipping if I tried to stack them. Second, they didn’t fit pints size
very well at all. Third, if I had a couple odd-sized quart jars (like older, thicker jars or mayonnaise jars) there wasn’t enough room for 12 jars in the box. And the boxes were kind of bulky and heavy.
But then I read in Backwoods Home Magazine about the entrepreneur who designed the JarBox and I knew I’d found the answer to all my problems. I am now the proud owner of several sets of JarBoxes and they are just as advertised.
A JarBox for every jar
They now have a JarBox made specifically to hold pint jars. It will even accommodate the new taller style jelly jar without any problem.
It’s not just for canning. Use it to store other jars in your food storage: Mayonnaise, pickles, jam, peanut butter, just about any 1 pint or 1 quart jar.
I am so impressed with the JarBox. I don’t get a commission for endorsing this product. I say this because I am really impressed. I hope all my Dear Readers will give it a try.
Update: It looks like JarBox is out of business. Their website and videos are gone. I’m so sad! But I found something called Canning Safecrate that looks to be very similar. Since I haven’t tested this one out, I’m not sure how the quality compares to JarBox. If you try it and like it, let me know.
A small investment that will save your stove
Canning heats up everything: your kitchen, your stove and you. A good air conditioning can work wonders for you and your kitchen, but did you ever consider what a little air circulation might do for your stove?
If you do a lot of canning, your stove’s heating elements may overheat. Depending on the age and design of your stove, you may have difficulty keeping a steady temperature while canning. Some burner elements may burn out if you do multiple batches over a period of days. You can increase air circulation around your burner with a canning burner element . There are several to choose from that cost between $30-75. The $30 model I have linked below fits almost all stoves that have plug-in burners.
As you can see in the picture, it sits up about 1/4″ higher above the spill pan than your standard burner. This helps increase air circulation and keeps the heat at a steadier constant. An added bonus is that it also helps prevent the discoloration on your stove-top that sometimes comes from high heat.
If you all you do is just a few batches of jam and pickles every year, you might not need a canning burner. But if you do lots of canning, especially if you do multiple batches in one day, you might want to consider investing in this handy burner.
Invest in a good pressure canner
If you are serious about pressure canning, then you want to invest in a good pressure canner. Trust me, you can’t get a better one than the All American Canner. This baby will last you all your life and longer. You will pass it along to children or grandchildren.
(Because you taught your children how important canning is and they are all following in your footsteps, right?)
Most canners have a twist-and-lock lid with a rubber gasket. The problem is if any of the little flanges gets bent or dented, you’ve lost your canner. And if you use it a lot, the gasket will dry out and start to crack and it will need to be replaced. If you drop your canner you’ll likely break a handle (I’ve broken the handles twice.) And sometimes they’ll even dent if you drop it. You can usually replace all the broken, worn out or missing parts (gaskets, gauges, weights, handles, etc.) But there’s nothing that can save the canner if it gets dented or bent.
The All American, however, is sturdy—I don’t think running a car over it could dent it. The handles are all one piece with the canner, made of heavy-duty cast aluminum. And the lid has no flanges and no gasket to wear out or crack. Instead, it has screws that clamp the lid down. The only maintenance it needs is a coat of Vaseline on the rim every 3-4 uses. You should also take the pressure gauge in to the Extension Service once a year to have it checked for accuracy. (You should do that with all pressure canners that have a gauge, regardless of what brand or size it is.)
This canner has both a gauge and a weight so you always know that you have the right pressure. The instruction booklet is a great resource and tells you exactly how to use the canner.
A size for every kitchen
Here’s what’s really cool: This pressure canner comes in different sizes and there’s a perfect size for you. Here are the three most popular sizes, but if none of this fits your needs, one of their other sizes is sure to fit the bill.
Now, usually I’m all about spending as little as possible. But with pressure canners, you get what you pay for. Seriously, when it comes to pressure canning, there’s no more sound investment that the All American pressure canners. (Again, not a paid endorsement. I just really like them.)
If there’s just one tool for processing food I couldn’t live without, it’s the Victorio Strainer. Like I’ve said in a previous post, it is the quickest and and easiest way to make tomato and apple sauce. Use a different cone and you can also process grapes and squash.
It’s so easy to make sauce quickly and efficiently. Just put the food in the hopper and turn the crank. Sauce comes out one side and peels, seed and stems come out the other side. No more chopping, peeling or straining. Just turn the crank and voila’! You have yourself a batch of sauce.
Start looking now for sales and special deals so that you are certain you’re getting the best prices possible. But consider these tools and investment. They will certainly make the chore of summer canning quicker and easier.