There’s not much that you really need to get started canning. A canner with rack and some canning jars with 2-piece lids will get you started. And maybe a jar lifter, magnetic lid wand, funnel and timer. Altogether all of this can cost you as little as $10 if you buy it at rummage sales or thrift stores. If you buy it new it will cost $50-75. That’s not much for something that guarantees you’ll always have good food sitting on your shelves.
The tedium of prepping
But when you’re canning, the thing that that will consume most of your time and energy will be prepping the food. Here are my suggestions for tools that will make food prep quicker and easier. Starting my favorite, the Victorio Strainer.
A genius tool
The name “Victorio” is like Band-aid or Jello. It’s a brand name for a tool that is so well-loved that the brand-name is now the tool’s name. This tool really is amazing. Put any soft food (tomatoes, steamed apples, grapes, berries, etc) into the chute and turn the handle. The pulp comes down the chute into your bowl and all the skin, seeds and stems are expelled out the end of the cone.
With this tool, applesauce and tomato sauce take a fraction of the time to make. Different spiral cones or screens allow you to process pumpkins or squash, berries or grapes. There is also a screen that process tomatoes into coarse pieces for salsa.
Essential for apples
Next on my list is the apple peeler/slicer/corer. This nifty gadget does it all in one pass: peels, cores and slices. (Nifty?!? Who says “nifty” any more? I think I just embarrassed my teen-aged son.)
Seriously. This is so slick. Zip the apple through and slice down the middle and you have perfectly even
apple slices for pie filling or drying. Several slices and you have diced apples for drying. I prefer the model that attaches with a suction base instead of a table clamp. They usually cost $15-$25 but I see them all the time at thrift store for $5 and last summer our local hardware store also had them for sale for $5.
Slicing and dicing
If you can much soup or do a lot of dehydrating, you will do a lot of slicing and chopping. Mostly slicing. So get something that slices quickly and evenly. A slicer will slice your cabbage nice and thin for sauerkraut. It’s also great for nice even slices of veggies for dehydrating. But I also like using a food processor to chop onions, celery, peppers or other veggies when I am making relish, salsa or soups. You can get food processors that both slice and chop. In that case, I recommend getting one that ejects the food through a chute so you don’t have to stop all the time to remove the sliced food from the bowl. There are a zillion different types, so choose one that fits your budget and cooking preferences. The cost varies but I’ve found some very good processors and meat slicers at thrift stores and estate sales for as little as $6. Expect to pay $40-$180 for new.
OK, these are the three biggies that I think are must-haves for your food prep. Now let’s look at some smaller (but very handy) tools.
Smaller prep tools
Now here come four smaller gadgets that are very helpful. But, depending on where you live and what food is available, you might not use these as much. These are all pretty inexpensive and most are under $20.
Cherry pitter. Pit your cherries with one press of the plunger. As with the apple peeler, I prefer the one that attaches with a suction base. You can get simple hand-held models for as little as $5-$6 but trust me, they aren’t what you want. You want one with the spring-loaded plunger poker thing. A good model (like the one pictured) will cost $14-$30.
Bean frencher. My boys normally hate green beans but they like them a lot better when they are French sliced. You can get more French sliced beans into a jar than regular cut beans and they just look fancier. Cost about $14-$19.
Pear corer. Prepping pears for canning is fussy work. If you’re making pear sauce, pear butter or pear leather, the Victorio strainer will make quick work of them. But if you’re canning them in halves or slices, this little gadget will make it go a lot faster with very little food waste. It costs about $5-$6.
Corn slicer. If you freeze a lot of corn, you can slice it off the cob by hand or you can use this handy little gadget. Not only does it make the job quicker and easier, but it also saves your fingers from accidental cuts. This particular model pictured here costs about $18-$20. There are cheaper versions–between $6-$12–but they can be a little difficult handle with just two hands. You’ll have to rig up a board with a nail in it to impale the cob and keep it steady while slicing.
Look for bargains
I’ve included links so you can find these on Amazon. It’s always my favorite place to start looking for kitchen gadgets. You can read customer reviews to get an idea of what others think of these. That will help you decide if it’s really what you want. But you
can get most of these at any hardware store or good kitchen store. They are also available from online and catalog stores. You’ll save even more if you can find them at a rummage sale or thrift store.
Finally, check out my previous posts discussing other tools that that you may also want to consider. If you don’t yet have a pressure canner, I hope you’ll read my review of pressure canners.
With the right tools (and maybe some help from your kids or a good friend) you can get a lot canned in just a little time. Happy canning!