Canning food is a wonderful skill for any homemaker to have. You can stock up on in-season produce at farmer’s markets, grocery stores or a CSA and be able to store it for winter eating. Before you begin though let’s go over a few supplies you need to start canning.
What You Need to Start Canning
The most important things you need to start canning come from inside yourself.
You have to want to put up your own food because of personal conviction to provide healthier food for your family. Because of your desire to learn how to provide for your family in this way. You have to have a bigger desire to do this other than “saving money.”
Because let me say, putting up your own food isn’t cheaper these days!
Especially if you count your time invested.
This is the reality of living in the United States. Fresh food is so affordable year round. There is an abundance of food in any grocery store. Canned and frozen food is even cheaper than fresh food!
Saving money cannot be your only “Why” for wanting to can your own food. That desire will fade after only a season or only one hot, sweaty day stuck in the kitchen when you’d rather be at the lake swimming with your kids. What you need to start canning has to be deeper than the desire to save some pennies.
When Canning Your Own Food Could Save You Money
Only if you have your own garden and can all your vegetables from it can you come close to saving money. But at my stage in life, I don’t have any children old enough to help me in the garden or with canning food, so it’s questionable whether the “saved money” is worth it.
Once I have older children who are able to plant, weed and till the garden that will offset the “cost” of putting up my own food. Older children can also snap beans, shell peas and peel carrots to prepare them for canning.
It’s at this stage that gardening and canning can instill in your children a great work ethic, responsibility and pride in growing their own food. Those lessons and character traits are priceless.
What do you need to start canning?
Where to Buy Your Canning Supplies
Before you begin canning you will have to gather your supplies and equipment. If you have the resources you can buy everything at your local hardware store or online.
Otherwise, keep your eye out at garage sales. Especially country garage sales. I found my pressure canner in pristine condition at a garage sale for $25!
Jars are another great garage sale find. Although I will say you should check brand new prices first. Name brand jars have become popular crafting items so the second-hand prices have sky rocketed lately.
My mom found my Squeezo at a thrift store! It was missing one part but she went online and bought the missing part and surprised me with it as a wedding gift.
Auctions are another great second-hand place to buy your canning supplies. Check online listings or the newspaper to locate country auctions or estate sales.
And perhaps the most overlooked source is to check with your mom and other family members! A lot of times people have canning supplies stacked in the basement from years gone by.
Canning Supplies You Need to Start Canning
- Water Bath Canner – You will need a water bath canner for foods that are acidic enough to inhibit bacterial growth without intense heat.
- Pressure Canner – A pressure canner is needed to process low-acidic foods. If you don’t
want two large canners sitting around you can use a pressure canner as a water bath canner. Just don’t let it create a seal.
- Jars – I am a jar hoarder! I keep all my spaghetti and alfredo sauce jars to re-use in water bath canning. For the pressure canner I recommend only using name brand jars so they don’t break.
- Rings – Jar rings hold the lids on during the canning process. They are removed after the jar has sealed so you really don’t need a ton of rings.
- Lids – I buy the one-time use lids. Although I am dabbling in the re-usable lids to see how I like them.
- Jar Grabber – This is essential to save your skin. Literally! You will want this to get the hot jars out of the canner afterwards. Actually, with this water bath canner from above you get it included in the kit!
Canning Ingredients You Need
For the most part you probably already have the ingredients needed to can a variety of foods.
- Sea Salt or Canning Salt – This is one ingredient that can’t be substituted. You must use salt that has only one ingredient: SALT. Most sea salts have only ‘salt’ as the ingredient. Canning Salt is specifically labeled for canning because it only has ‘salt’ as the ingredient. Your regular table salt usually has iodine and/or an anti-caking agent added that will make your finished canned food soft and soggy. Nobody likes a soggy pickle! Most vegetables you will want to can with salt.
- Vinegar – If you are making any pickle recipes (cucumbers, okra, beans, etc) you will need lots of vinegar on hand.
- Good Water – Water will be the base for all types of canning recipes. It is important to use good quality water in recipes that you want crispy (like many pickling recipes). I’ve never canned with city water so I don’t know how fluoride affects canned goods. My mother-in-law has a reverse osmosis system and always has deliciously crunchy dill pickles. I always have great crunch in my pickles using my well water. However, I have a friend who gets soggy pickles every time she uses her well water. You may have to experiment with your water source to find the best option.
- Additional Recipe Ingredients – Before you jump in whole hog make sure you have sourced the rest of the ingredients needed for your recipe. Last year my dill didn’t come up in my garden so I planned on buying from a neighbor when I needed it for dill pickles. Yep, everyone else’s dill was a flop, too! So I was stuck buying dill from the store for a pretty penny! Garlic can be another expensive ingredient. Check out farmer’s markets ahead of time as they will usually be your cheapest and freshest option.
As you can see, taking up canning requires a bit of planning ahead. Put some of the supplies on your Christmas and birthday wish lists. Ask around your family and friends to see if they have unused canners stashed in the basement.
Once you have gathered all your canning supplies you can pick out your recipes and make sure you have all the ingredients.
You now have everything you need to start canning!