I will start this by saying, when I first started water bath canning I was really intimidated. Seriously, preserving my own food seemed like a huge mountain to climb. How long would it take? Would I completely screw it up? What if I gave my family botulism???
I figured though, if I was switching to a more self sustainable and independent lifestyle, I needed to start preserving my own food. So, I started with what is considered an easy recipe, strawberry jam. I took a recipe from the good old-fashioned Ball canning book.
Water bath canning is used specifically for acidic foods. Do not, I repeat, do not, can anything non-acidic for water bath canning. You will need a pressure canner if you want to can something non-acidic.
This is what you will need:
A humongous canning pot ~ this thing is huge! I honestly had no idea I would need one this big. The suggestion is that you do not use it on a glass top stove, but that’s what I have. I took the risk and canned anyway, my stove is fine.
A canning rack ~ as you would guess, this holds the jars in the pot so that you can place them in the pot and take them out.
A canning set ~ which includes tongs to lift the hot jars from the canner, magnetic lifter (this isn’t necessary but helpful) which magnetically grabs the hot canning tops from the boiling water, a funnel to help transfer the good stuff from a boiling pot to your jars, and lastly, a little wand that helps you get rid of air bubbles and measures how much space you should have in your jars. The wand is not at all necessary but kind of helpful. The first time I canned I completely forgot about it and didn’t use it.
Small Jars with lids ~ this can be any brand, I like to use the Ball brand mason jars because they ‘pop’ when you finish canning them.
For the Jam you’ll need:
Lots of red, delicious strawberries
First, you’re going to want to fill up your extra large canning pot with water and begin heating it up to a warm bath.
Then place your jars, with the lids off, onto the rack and put them into the hot water. This will heat up your jars for when you place the boiling deliciousness into them later.
While you have the jars heating up, place the center lids of your jars into another pot of hot water. It doesn’t need to boil, but it does need to get really hot.
Next, you are going to take your strawberries and mash them up as best you can. You can leave some chunks, but try and mash them up pretty good. You’re going to need 6 cups of mashed strawberries. Scoop them into another pot.
After you have completed the difficult mashing task, add 4 tablespoons of lemon juice to your strawberries. This will make sure your strawberries are acidic enough for canning. When you water bath can, the more acidic, the better. You can also use juice directly from a lemon, 4 tablespoons usually equates to one lemon.
Pour in your package of pectin and whisk until blended.
Then, add half a pat of butter (which is about half a tablespoon?) I’m not sure if it’s a real measurement. The butter will help decrease the amount of foam you will have at the top of your boiling jam.
Next you are going to turn on the heat and slowly bring the strawberries to a rolling boil. You will want to stir them in this process, but do it gently!
Now, add 7 cups (yes you read that right, 7 cups) of sugar into your boiling strawberry mixture and stir. All that sugar is what makes the jam taste SOOOO good.
You’re going to want to turn the heat up and get it to a rolling HARD boil. Please see the link below.
Once you achieve hard boil status, boil it like that for a few minutes.
Turn off the heat and allow it to cool slightly. This is where you will notice a bunch of foam that has gathered on the top of your jam.
Carefully, so you don’t burn yourself, scrape off all the foam that you can. It’s not a huge deal if you can’t get all of it. But, do the best you can.
When the foam has been removed, you get to do the fun part of filling up your jars!
Start by taking your tongs and removing the jars from the hot water. Pour out any water that gets into them.
Use your funnel to fill your jars until there’s about a half inch of space left at the top of the jar.
Take a wet rag and wipe the top of your jars, making sure there is no jam on the top to prevent the lids from sealing.
Take your fun, magnetic wand and fish for a center lid out of the hot pot it’s sitting in.
Place your lids centered on top of the jar, and then screw on loosely the out top of the lid. Do not screw them on tightly, but just enough so they stay on.
Place all your jars onto the rack and into the canning pot.
Submerge the pot with the full jars, place the lid on the pot and bring to a hard boil.
For water bath canning, you will boil for at least 15 minutes (once it gets to a rolling boil). If you live in high altitude, it will need to boil for a bit longer. I had it boil for an extra 15 minutes because I live at about 7,000 ft. It takes longer to do basically any cooking here.
Once you have boiled for 15 to 30 minutes depending on your elevation, turn off the stove. I allow the jars to cool slightly in the hot water. It just makes me feel extra good that they are still cooking in there.
I then remove all the jars and place them on a surface that will allow them to cool. It can take up to 24 hours for all the jars to pop! Ball jars pop pretty loudly which is just so dang satisfying. Other brands may pop, or you may just hear the air escaping from the jar. Once you know the ring has been sealing, screw on the outer lid and store in a cool, dry place.
It can take up to 2 weeks (yes you read that right) for jam to set. So, if it looks like your jam is a bit runny, just give it some time. Also, if it never sets, just use it as syrup! It’s some of the best syrup you’ll ever have.
Now that you’ve finished canning, pop open a jar and enjoy! It’s seriously so good, you’ll never go back to store bought.
*if you have jars that don’t pop or seal, just stick them in the fridge and use them first. They are still good, just can’t be stored in the cupboard.