Yes, We Can! (A Guide to Canning)

Big R Guide to Canning

Why Canning?

There are many great reasons to take up canning and preserving your own food. Do you want to be able to keep eating tasty fruits and vegetables from your harvest throughout the year? Then canning is a good way to do just that. Do you want to enjoy high quality food that you know is free from harmful additives? Well, canning your own harvest means you’re in control of what you put in each jar. Do you want to save a little money? Canning is like meal prepping – it can save you money and time on future meals. In fact, you could call canning the original meal prep.

The science behind canning is quite simple. You add the food mix to a jar and seal the lid. Submerge the jar in a boiling water bath and wait. The process removes excess air, which is the reason that food spoils. The escaping air creates a vacuum tight seal that keeps your food fresh, flavorful and ready to enjoy any time over the next 12 months!

The process of canning can be intimidating, but with a few tools and a little patience, you can be a canning pro in no time.

How to Can in a Pressure Cooker

When it comes to creating the boiling water bath, there are two options. For highly acidic foods, like fruit jams, salsas, or pickles, you can create the water bath in a dutch oven or high walled pot. For foods with lower acidity levels, like vegetables, poultry, or meats, you’ll want to use a pressure cooker, which can heat up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit to kill foodborne bacteria. If you’re mixing high and low acid foods, be safe and employ the trusty pressure cooker.

To begin, gather the necessary tools: tongs, a wide-mouth funnel, a jar lifter,  measuring cups, and jars with 2 piece screw on lids. Don’t have these items laying around your home? You can pick up a 4 piece starter set  or 6 piece canning set, and these limited edition Ball jars at your local Big R store.

Now that we have all our tools, it’s time to assemble these cans!

  1. Choose a delicious recipe – Find something tasty on Big R’s Pinterest page or from a canning recipe book. Canning is the perfect way to save this season’s foods, so make sure to use only the freshest produce you can find – even better if they come from your own backyard!
  2. Heat the jars – Place the jars in hot (not boiling) water until ready for use. Fill a large stockpot halfway with water, making sure to fill the jars with the hot water to prevent floating, and bring to a simmer. You’ll want to keep the jars hot until you’re ready to fill them or they’ll break when filled with hot food. You can leave the lids and bands at room temperature. TIP: To simplify this process, you can also use your dishwasher to wash and heat jars.
  3. 2 step filling – First, fill the pressure canner with 2 to 3 inches of water and place over the stove to simmer. Keep the water at a simmer until you add the filled jars to the pressure cooker. To fill the hot jars with your prepared food mix, use a jar lifter to remove them from the hot water bath, and use a jar funnel to slide the mix in. If needed, remove air bubbles with the bubble remover and headspace tool.
  4. Clean the rim and threads – Use a cloth to remove any food residue that may have made its way onto the rim. Next, seal the jars and add water to the pressure cooker, which should still have 2 to 3 inches of simmering water at the bottom.
  5. Start cooking – Lock the pressure cooker’s lid, but keep the vent pipe open. Once steam is steadily escaping from the vent, allow it to vent for 10 minutes to release remaining air. Now, close the vent. Adjust the heat and pounds of pressure to the amount specified on your chosen recipe.
  6. Cooking complete – When cooking is done, you’ll need to cool the pressure cooker down by removing it from the heat. Once the cooker naturally returns to zero, wait 10 minutes before removing the weight and unlocking the lid. Wait another 10 minutes before removing the jars from the pressure cooker. Set the jars on the counter and let them be for 12 to 24 hours.
  7. Check the lid – First, remove the bands from around the jar. If you cannot lift the lid with your fingertips, then the jar is successfully sealed. Store your jars in a cool, dry and dark place for up to a year. Should your lid come off with the fingertip test, not all is lost! Instead of leaving your food in your pantry, move it to the fridge.

That’s it! You are just a few easy steps away from preserving your harvest bounty and enjoying those flavors for months to come.

Bonus Recipe

Here’s one of our favorite recipes for beef stew to jumpstart your canning inspiration! Rich beef chunks are in perfect harmony with tender potatoes, carrots, and celery. This recipe is courtesy of the canning superstars at Ball:

Ball's Beef Stew Canning Recipe | Big R

Ball’s Beef Stew Canning Recipe | Big R

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 2-1/2 lb beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1-1/2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 6 cups cubed and peeled potatoes (about 6 medium)
  • 4 cups sliced carrots (about 8 small)
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped onion (about 2 small)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Water
  • 3 (32 oz) quart jars or 7 (16 oz) pint glass jars with lids and bands

Directions:

  1. Prep the pressure canner – Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.  Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.
  2. Brown the meat – Add the meat to oil in a large saucepot. Add vegetables and seasonings to browned meat. Cover with boiling water. Bring stew to a boil. Remove from heat.
  3. Fill the jars – Ladle hot stew into hot jars leaving 1 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
  4. Time to cook– Process the filled jars in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure for 1 hour and 15 minutes for pints and 1 hour and 30 minutes for quarts, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

To test your new canning skills, follow Big R on Pinterest for more delicious recipes!

About Big R

Bill and Pat Crabtree originated the Illinois Big R Stores in 1964. The first store opened in Watseka, Illinois. To date 18 stores have been opened in central Illinois and northern Indiana.

We have 11 stores in Illinois including Watseka, Gibson City, Danville, Tilton, Pontiac, Morris, Washington, Rochelle, Pekin, Homer Glen and McHenry. Our 7 Indiana stores include Warsaw, Wabash, Crawfordsville, Michigan City, Elkhart, Marion and Rochester. We recently expanded to Northwest Ohio, adding stores in Lima and Findlay (Coming Soon).

The offices and warehouses for Big R remain in Watseka, IL. Joining the company in 1973, Jerry Gibbs now provides family leadership for the company. New generations of the Crabtree family continue to participate in the business.

Farm and Ranch store owners in the western states started the Big R brand name; they chose the name “Big R” to convey the “Ranch” identity. The Big R group is now comprised of 12 independent owners with a growing 75 + stores throughout the U.S. They all are members of Mid-States Distributing Company of St. Paul, MN. The Mid-States Coop has over 600 stores throughout the United States and Canada.