Welcome back guys! It occurred to me this morning that some people may just be getting into canning and the recipes are the least of the worries right now if you don't have the proper tools to work with. With postal deliveries backed up I want to share with you the items you will need late summer or fall well in advance. In this post I'm going to go over my most used "kitchen gadgets", as my mother refers to them, and you can decide what you need and what you want. It has taken me about 10+ years to acquire the majority of my canning tools and very few have needed to be replaced along the way.
First and foremost you are going to need to buy canning jars. You can find them almost anywhere but thanks to the Farm House Decor rage they never really go on sale anymore. Facebook marketplace is a great place to cash in on mason jars, a lot of people buy them for weddings as decor and then want to get rid of them because their special day has come and gone. Try not to pay more than $1 per jar especially if you are driving any stretch to pick them up. I have found decent priced jars at Target in the past and the only reason I had gone to Target was because I had gift cards I don't typically go there for anything. You can also let your family know this is something you would like to get into and maybe request them as gifts for birthdays, anniversaries or Christmas. A useful gift is the best gift. There are plenty of sizes of mason jars out there but my most used are pints and quarts. I try to stay away from the cute jelly jars because they're a little more expensive and contain fewer jars.I'm not saying I don't have them, because I do. Some canned goods you'll want to store smaller amounts of to keep them a little fresher and some you will want to gift. I love using my smaller half pint jars to put apple butter in to gift for Christmas.
|Apple Butter in half pint jars|
Next you will need a large stock pot to do a water bath canning method in. You can certainly get one of the pressurized canners but I had one once years ago and paid somewhere around $150 for it and didn't even use it once and I am not sure where it is today. I didn't use it because I heard horror stories of them blowing up on the stove top and destroying kitchens literally taking stoves out because of the pressure buildup inside. I wish I was able to find it because I would sell it to someone more daring then myself. Anyway, I use a regular large stock pot and I have never had a problem with it. It takes a little longer than one of those pressurized canners but at least I won't blow up the kitchen. My husband just bought me a new stock pot this Christmas off of amazon for $35 (it was on my wish list). My old one was starting to actually wear out on the bottom from the coils on the stove top. Make sure when you buy one that it is safe for your stove top as well. I haven't run into this problem but a few reviews I was reading said certain pots shouldn't be used on glass top stoves because of the heat displacement. Here is the link to a stock pot similar to ours I can't find the exact one we have but ours came with a canning rack as well which honestly is only a want you can put a dish cloth in the bottom of your water bath to keep the cans from clanking off the bottom of the pot just be sure to keep an eye on it. You will want to have something similar to this for making sauce as well I have a Pioneer Woman stock pot (gifted to me for Christmas by my mother in law) for my sauce and typically have this and that on the stove top at the same time. One for processing the other for cooking. I like Granite-Ware brand as it is made in the USA :
You will also need canning tools for removing your cans from the water bath. I like this kit because it has everything in it. I received it as a gift 10 years ago and still have most of the pieces. The magnetic ended stick is to remove your sterilized lids from the pot I like using it because it saves me from dumping out the already boiling water to retrieve them.You may be thinking "well I will just use tongs to get those out", I thought that too once and burnt my hands pretty bad, if you weren't thinking this you're simply smarter than I am. The silicone covered clamp is how you will remove the cans from the water bath if you don't have the canning rack or maybe even with the canning rack in sometimes I still opt to remove with the clamp. ( I tend to do multiple different recipes at once and some don't need to be in as long as others for processing) There is also a little jar top swipe (I'm making some of these names up because I don't know the real name it's just what they're used for) this you will use to scrape the inside of the top of the jar before putting the lid on to make sure the proper amount of "head space" is there for the processing. The funnel is such a great tool to have it makes ladling the your goodies into jars soooo much easier, I get very frustrated when my funnel is misplaced. Here is the link for that also made in the USA:
This kit has a few more tools but it is cheaper than the Ball Brand with just the items I talked about so you're getting more tools for less money.
This wraps up the basics as far as I can think right now to get you started. So now we can talk about those wants which may actually be needs depending on how serious you get about preserving your own food.
One gadget I have that I really enjoy and use for more than just canning is our food saver. This is a vacuum sealer for just about anything. We use it a lot for fresh caught fish and during hunting season to freeze duck, deer and anything else we manage to harvest. Even if you don't hunt it's worth its weight in gold for sealing food from the grocery store. I bulk purchase meat when it is buy one get one and use the sealer to break the packages up into meal size bags for our family. I also use the sealer for some vegetables like green beans and corn. You can absolutely can these items but you will save space in your canning cupboard by freezing them flat and keeping them in the freezer and honestly the green beans always seem fresher when they aren't stored in brine and keep their fresh crunch. My father bought ours for us (this is where requesting tools as gifts comes in handy) it's a bit pricey and you can certainly make do without it and use the ziplock bag method so you make the right choice for you. Here is what we have :
Unfortunately this product is made in China, along with the bags that go with it, but you can use any vacuum sealer bags with the machine. There is a company that makes vacuum sealers for food based in the US called Amerivacs and here is there page- https://vacuumsealersunlimited.com/amerivacs/ I have no experience with their equipment but I want to give you guys as much access to American made products as possible.
Another item we use quite a bit but is not required- just makes life a little easier- is our food processor. My husband uses this when pureeing hot sauce and I use it to puree tomato soup (both recipes I will share with you when we make them this year). You don't need it, a hand mixer will sometimes do the trick for what you are working with, we just happen to make a lot of different things and it comes in handy especially when I make green tomato salsa at the end of the growing season. We have a Hamilton Beach food processor my mother bought me one year for Christmas like this (American Made):
The last tool I will tell you about that you may want to consider purchasing is the backbone of my gadget arsenal. It is called the Squeezo and I use it all of the time when processing tomatoes for sauces and soups and if you are interested in making your own wine I would also highly recommend.Again you don't need it there are ways around using it they are just so time consuming. I know because I used to do it the old way by blanching my fruits and coring them myself. It wasn't until about 4 or 5 years ago I found out about this machine and I have never looked back. It is worth every single penny. Here it is:
Now I can not find anything that says this is made in the US but it does state it can only be shipped within the US and not internationally which sounds promising. Guys....I LOVE this machine. I personally have the Victorio brand of this same product but can't seem to find it online today. This cuts my time down on processing anything tomato related to minutes versus an entire days worth of work and here are some photos to show you why:
The large white funnel on top is where you put the tomatoes in. I cut them if they're too big to for the opening into the mill. You use the red plunger to help push them through and use the hand crank to work the internal parts of the mill. The first few cranks can sometimes be a little tough until the juice lubes up the parts but then its smooth sailing.
Your paste will come down the slide into whatever dish you put under it to catch the pulp. This is what you will use for your sauce etc
The seeds, stem and skin come out of this funnel here. When you are all done you can put what is in this bucket back through the mill again and I typically get another cup or two of pulp/paste to use. I learned this trick last year from someone else's blog.
You can use this for making apple sauce as well but I don't mind peeling, coring and boiling my apples as I have a few other little gadgets to make that easier as well (I will introduce you to those when making apple sauce) so if you are looking for a multi-purpose machine and plan to make enough sauces to get you through until the next summer this is ideal. It also comes in handy for milling up fruits for wine (we'll get there when we get there)
That's all for today! If you have any questions just ask! Remember beginners are my favorite students because I can teach you my way :)