The Biggest Kitchen Table - Preserving/Canning

26 February 2009

The concept of the world's biggest kitchen table was hatched in January when we discussed chickens; now we go on to preserving/canning in a water bath. The idea is that I write my post here, and if you have a blog, you write a post about preserving/canning the way you do it. When you write your post, leave a comment, with a link to your post and we'll all move around, reading all the kitchen table posts. If you want to use the biggest kitchen table badge (above) please do so. When you visit someone's blog who is part of the kitchen table discussion, please be kind enough to leave a comment. If you're a learner, and want to ask a question, do so in the comments section, and anyone with experience can answer. Hopefully, each question will have a few answers. I don't have time to transfer the links like I did last time. Please leave your link in comments, and we'll all find you from there.

The weather is to blame. Cold, snowy winters in the northern hemisphere and mild winters in Australia, have given us differing ways of processing our food. My understanding is that in North America, meat, fish, vegetables and fruit are all processed in pressure canners and stored for those long cold months when nothing can be grown on the farm or in the backyard and it's too cold and snowy for hunting. Of course, people back in long gone days relied on having those stores to tide them over, now many of us are able to go to the store to buy pineapples from Thailand, salmon from Alaska and peaches from Greece. Modern commerce has bypassed the seasons and the need for having the skills to 'put up' enough food to keep a family going for many months is fading fast.

In Australia, where the climate is not so harsh in winter, preserving food to see families through the winter hasn't been seen as such a priority. There is a long, fine tradition of homesteaders 'putting up' food, because they were so far away from the shops, and they would do that when the season was high and crops were plentiful. But in the cities, apart from bottling a favourite tomato sauce, jam or chutney, or backyard peaches, plums and cherries, which were all done in a water bath, preserving took a back seat.

So let's acknowledge that southern and northern hemispheres do things differently, and work from there. Also, this post is about preserving/canning in a water bath, not pressure canning. I don't have a pressure canner so I cannot advise you about them. However, these kitchen table posts work because we all write about what we do, so if you're preserving/canning with a water bath or pressure canner, and want to write about that on your blog, please leave your link so we can read it, and learn.

I also want to warn you that preserving food in jars has been done for a long time so many different methods have been developed. But there are dangers. People have died from Botulism poisoning, but it is very rare. Don't use an old preserving/canning book as a guide. Most of the guidelines have been updated in the past 20 years. Please be guided by your thermometer, the information available and your common sense.

Water bath processing is suitable for high acid foods like tomatoes, rhubarb and sauerkraut and some foods to which acid, in the form of vinegar or lemon juice, has been added.

I have written about preserving in the past, and will give you those links for easy reference later in the post, times and methods are in those posts. I want to use this post to tell you about setting up a water bath from scratch and, hopefully, from what you already have in your home. You can do that by using the largest stockpot you have. You will need a pot that you can boil on the stove, that will allow you to have at least an inch of water over the top of your tallest jar. You'll also need a tea/dish towel folded up to prevent the jars touching the hot bottom of the pan. You could also use newspaper or a round cake cooler.

The other requirement for this poor man's preserving setup is a collection of jars. Jars that have been used for food, can be used for this task. Check the lid, it's best to have those little poptop lids, that have a thin ring of rubber on the inside. That will help you seal the jar. I have a large collection of jars of all shapes and sizes. I use them for preserving and for storing a wide rage of odds and ends. Jars are valuable - don't throw them away. Some people advise against using old jars but I have been using them for many years and have never had a problem. You must make your own decision on what equipment you use and make sure you check your jars and lids and throw away any that are damaged, dented, rusted or chipped. When recycling jars, don't use anything larger than a litre/quart as there is no guarantee that the heat necessary to kill bacteria will penetrate into the middle of a firmly packed large jar.

When you've finished processing your jars according to the times suggested, take them from the pot and place them on a towel on the bench. Now you'll have to check that the jars have sealed correctly, because if they haven't, you won't be able to store them in the cupboard, they'll have to be eaten straight away, or stored in the fridge. To check the jars, look at the poptop on the lid. Sometimes they invert while they're in the pot, sometimes they invert when sitting on the bench. Push them with your finger to check. When they're cool, if any have a poptop that hasn't inverted, it hasn't sealed properly; put it in the fridge.

You will need a thermometer. I use a milk thermometer that I bought for $15 at a kitchen store. I clip it to the side of the pan and monitor the temperature while the jars are in there.

The basic idea behind preserving/canning is that you add your fruit or vegetables to a jar, or make up your favourite jam, sauce or relish as normal, then add it to hot clean jars, seal and place in the stockpot, not touching. Bring the water to the boil, then time the load, keeping it at the necessary consistent temperature. A time guide is in the instructions for water bath processing below. And that's it - you remove the jars when the time is up, let them cool on the bench, check that they have sealed correctly, then store in your cupboard. This sort of food is not suitable as kitchen decoration, light will make the food lose colour and the shelf life is much shorter if it's exposed to light. Use recipes suitable for preserving, there are many books around with a wealth of good preserving recipes.

Most of the preserving I do is not to keep us going through the leaner seasons, our garden does that, it's to make a delicious sauce from a glut of tomatoes, to make the most of a cheap or free box of peaches, or to make jams and relishes. All those things I make are family favourites now and all much tastier and cheaper than anything bought at the supermarket. If I make a small amount of jam, chutney, beetroot, bread and butter cucumbers, I pour them into hot jars, and when they're cool, they're stored in the fridge instead of being processed and stored in the cupboard. Larger portions of all those things would be processed in a water bath and stored in the cupboard. At the moment, I have three jars of rosella jam, six jars of strawberry jam, and some relish. At other times I might have double that amount, plus a few jars of peaches. All our beans, corn, carrots and peas are frozen, we dry other things like chillies and herbs, but most of our food is fresh.

So as you can see, a lot depends on your climate, whether you have a garden or not, or access to cheap seasonal fruit and vegetables. I think preserving/canning is a great skill to develop. Used in conjunction with other methods of long term storage, it will give you good food out of season, or allow you to make your favourite jam or tomato sauce and have it ready in the cupboard.

Instructions for water bath preserving + some recipes
More water bath preserving
Preserving your harvest
Rosella Jam
Making ginger beer
Fruit cordials
Roasted Capsicum and Tomato Relish
Bread and Butter Cucumbers
Strawberry jam

If you're already well into preserving/canning, please share your knowledge with us. If you're a novice, I hope you decide to learn about processing food this way. Do some reading, if you know someone who is already doing it, ask if they will teach you. There is nothing like hands on learning. Start small, by putting up a few jars using recycled jars and a big stockpot, and if you like the process, and intend to carry on in larger quantities, look around for a cheap processing unit. Make sure you're aware of the dangers before you start, and we guided by that knowledge and your readings. It's a big topic, but well worth the effort. I hope you enjoy this discussion around the world's biggest kitchen table, now it's over to you.

Thank you for coming by, leaving your comment and sharing yourself with me. I so enjoy reading about what you are doing. I live in my world, but I also live in THE world, and I am thankful that we can connect here and learn from each other. Take care.


  1. Here's a link for water bath canning Basil-Garlic Tomato Sauce that I posted last summer:

    The following is NOT my own post, but it's a link to a tutorial that I followed to make the best grape jelly that I've ever tasted!!! It's also using water bath canning:

  2. Hi Rhonda and all,
    I preserved fruit, jams and pickles in the past but now I will only preserve what my garden gives me. I find there is no saving if you have to buy the veg/fruit, unless of course you have a special recipe or taste or access to inexpensive ingredients. Last summer was my first growing season in my current home and my garden gave me lots of fruit and veg which I preserved for very little money. You can't imagine how happy I am every time I pull somthing out of the freezer or open a jar. Last year I canned cherry and plum jam, tomato salsa, jam chutney, zuchinni relish, pickled beets and pears. I'm happy to supply my recipes just send me an email via my blog.
    I do have a question, can I reuse the metal lid from a canning jar? The lids were all brand new last year and although I've been told I am not to reuse them I want to know if anyone has and if so did the jar seal.



  3. Thanks Dana and Margaret. Margaret, I reuse metal lids as long as they aren't damaged, dented or rusty.

  4. Wonderful post as usual Rhonda Jean.
    If you go to my post on 2/26 I have given you an award.
    And once again thank you for all your wonderful advice and lessons you teach each of us.
    Hugs,Bobbi Jo

  5. How interesting to hear the difference between Northern and Southern Hemisphere people in the amount of preserving they do! I'd never thought of it! No preserving information from me, unless you count putting pumpkins on the shed roof!

  6. We have a large garden every summer and I can and freeze a large portion of what we eat every year. I taught myself to can, freeze, and make jellies through trial and error and with the help of "The Ball Blue Book of Canning." Also, the internet is a treasure trove of recipes and advice in this arena. I bought my pressure canner new from a local hardware store and my grandmother gave me her hot water bath canner. I inherited jars from people, bought some at yard sales, and bought some new. I by new lids every year -- I never reuse them for canning. If you do you run the risk that it won't seal properly and then all your time and effor and food have gone to waste. I store my equipment in a huge closet I am lucky to have in my laundry room. I have shelves to accomodate all of my empty/full jars, canners, and accessories.

    This is what I grow and preserve every year:

    Tomatoes -- I can whole tomatoes in juice, salsa (using tomatoes, peppers, hot peppers, and onions from the garden), spaghetti sauce, tomato juice.

    Peppers -- I wash them and prepare them in two ways. One, I cut them into strips, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and freeze them. I then place them in a ziptop bag and freeze them to use for grilling and stir fries. Two, I chop them in my food processor and freeze them in bags. When I need some for a recipe I just take what I need and use it.

    Onions -- We store these and I also chop some fine in my food processor and freeze them in ziptop bags to use in recipes.

    Zuchinni -- I shred this and bag it in recipe size portions (2 cups for my recipe) for zuchinni bread and muffins. I have sliced them in the past and blanched and froze them but the jury is still out on this method. I'm not sure I really liked them this way. I might try it again this summer.

    Broccoli -- I wash the heads, slice off the flowerets, and blanch and freeze them in bags. I use them as a vegie sidedish, in stir fries, and in soups.

    Cucumbers -- I make dill and sweet pickles that I process in the canner. I also make refrigerator pickles that are really yummy. A friend slices them and freezes them with onions and a vinegar/sweet sauce and they are delicious. I need to get her recipe.

    Sweet corn -- We farm and my husband plants a good sized patch of sweet corn every year. We spend a day blanching, cutting off the cob, and freezing corn in bags. Absolutely delicious.

    Brussels Sprouts -- I blanch in hot water and freeze.

    Sugar snap peas -- I blanch and freeze these.

    Green beans -- I can these in the pressure canner in quart and pint jars. I also make dilly beans that I can.

    Strawberries -- I freeze these and also make jam.

    Chokecherries -- These grow wild here in Nebraska and are delicious in jellies. I make a bunch of this every year.

    Apples -- I peel, slice, and freeze these for pies.

    Peaches -- I don't have peach trees but can buy several lugs each summer from a gal that gets them from Colorado. I can these in quart jars.

    Herbs -- I often chop these and freeze them to use in recipes.

    Turkey -- I can at least 3 turkeys a year to use in soups and casseroles. I cook the turkeys in roasters, debone them, and pack into jars. I cover them with hot broth and pressure can them for 75 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure.

    Beef -- I raw pack cubed beef roast into quart jars, cover with hot water, and can these in a pressure canner and use the directions from the Ball book. I also have canned chili soup and meat sauce for spaghetti, again using the Ball book.

    This is very windy and I don't know if it's helpful to anyone. I love to read what everyone does with the fruits of their labor. This kitchen table talk is so inspiring!


  7. Good morning Rhonda,

    Great topic for discussion. Is there any other method for sealing a glass jar if you have a damaged or in fact no lid at all for your glass jars. I know that in days gone by they used, I think paraffin wax to seal jars but is there anything available now that you know of. My jars last forever but the lids give out. any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Blessings Gail

  8. Hi Rhonda,
    I am one of the North American readers. I have been canning produce and fruit for just over 30 years now. I agree with Margaret that if you have to purchase produce to can it can be very costly. I try to can from my garden, berries and fruits that we can pick either in the wild or from someone else's bounty and sometimes from things that have been purchased (for example peaches, which my family love). I usually try to use my sealer lids (Kerrs or Bernardin here) for two years, as long as they haven't been damaged in the process of removing them from the jars. I haven't had any problems doing this to date and as the cost of the lids is going up it helps a lot to be able to reuse. Just a comment on the pressure canning, we do not pressure can fruit, it can be safely done in the water bath canner. I do pressure can tomatoes (it greatly shortens the time required for processing from about 85 minutes in the water bath to 15 minutes in the pressure canner), beans, vegetable soup, beets, spaghetti sauce. I do fruit, jams & jellies, green tomato mincemeat and pickles in the water bath canner. This is a great series, I am finding that some of the younger ladies that I know are starting to be interested in food preserving once again and many of their mothers don't know how so it is good that there are women who can share this information with them.

  9. Thanks Bobbi Jo. I appreciate your kind thoughts.

    Kristina, thank you so much for your post. I found it very interesting.

    Gail, using recycled jars will give you jars and lids at no cost. Fowlers Vacola still make the paraffin wax discs, I saw them at my local IGA last week. I've never used them so I can give you any info. They maybe someone else later who has some experience with them.

  10. I just began canning last year, but I jumped right in preserving all sorts of things. What satisfaction there is in doing this! Though it is a lot of work when you first start out,especially with no one around to help, I've found it totally worth it and look forward to this next growing season.
    I wrote a bit about it all here.

  11. I have been considering doing my own preserves for a couple of months. Thanks for your detailed instructions Rhonda. I thought I would have to purchase a bottling kit before I tried. But since I have been saving jars for a while have what i need onhand already.
    I did have a go at making lemon butter last weekend with excellent results. That has given me some confidence to go ahead and give jam and pickle making a go. Cheers Julie

  12. Hi Rhonda, I too have been preserving for just over a year now but am not doing it as regularly as I should. My problem is that when I am done and they sit on the shelf in my pantry, I can't use them. They are so pretty. Crazy hey. I was hoping that you or a reader could tell me if I could preserve potatoes. And if so, how? I have heaps of them just about ready for harvesting and don't want to waste any of them. They are sooo much better than the store bought. I get the 10kg for $5.00 straight from a farm near where I live and still mine taste alot better. They use chemicals on theirs and I don't. Makes a huge difference.

    Thanks Damaris, Maryvale, Qld

  13. I love your blog!
    -Sharon in SC, USA

  14. damaris, I've never tried preserving potatoes. If you grow your own, you can leave them in the ground for an extra month or two, as long as we don't have a lot of rain, or where you are, frost. Even in the cupboard, fresh potatoes will last at least two or three months. Store them in a basket, not in plastic. Maybe someone here has another method of preserving.

    My Son Shane lives near you, he's a chef at the Spicer's resort, but he's leaving on Sunday to spend a bit of time in NZ.

  15. Hi Rhonda,

    I love preserves but I don't know many people that make their own these days. Growing veggies year round does reduce the need to preserve.

    Still, here is my post for today on preserving:

    Looking forward to reading others thoughts over the weekend.


  16. I've made jams for years. Last summer I planted my first veggie garden and taught myself how to pressure and water bath can. Some produce I picked locally in a u-pick field. This coming summer my garden is expanding by a few more beds. We have to fence everything due to deer and moose that wander about our property. This winter after cleaning out my pantry, I had six pounds of beans to be used up so I pressure canned 'pork and beans' and pinto beans. Any left over amounts of cooked beans were put in bags and placed in the deep freezer to use in soups. This is a good winter time project to practice canning skills. I purchase whole local chickens and cut them into different portion sizes to freeze. I save the backs and when I have about eight I get out the large water canner pot to make a delicious stock ... this is then pressure canned into pint size jars. It's much better that store bought and easy to make. Here is a link to my blog with the first canning projects from last summer.

    Thanks for opening up this topic at the 'Biggest Kitchen Table' discussion.

  17. I have only attempted to make strawberry jam once, so far. I am hoping to have a bountiful garden this year, and preserve a lot more food!
    I only use my lids once. They are lined with BPA (the toxic stuff that was in the baby bottles that were recalled last year--in N. America, anyways). And I know that once heated, they become much worse for you--so from what I've read online, I prefer to only use them once, since they're heated so much. I don't know if this is fact,'s just what I prefer.
    I'm hoping to learn a lot from the posts on this topic!
    Melanie in Canada

  18. Hello!

    I love reading your blog, I have just recently begun preserving our food. I make most of out butter and am working on a way to make it shelf stable.

    I wrote a post today on saving vegetable scraps for stock and also using the tops to grow your own winter greens indoors. For us here in the Northern part of the Northern Hemisphere winters are long and sometimes green things are hard to find and very dear when you do find good ones. Thanks for hosting the kitchen table!

  19. All of my canning posts can be found here:

    I do a lot of canning, used to run teh canning section at the Fall Fair, and was trained as a canning judge. Not that that helps at all for canning at home, show canning is different than big batch canning for home use.

  20. Just a quick question re Kristina's Pressure Canner. Is this what we call a pressure cooker. I have a really good Italian pressure cooker but the info book for it is not very good and I don't want to end up with my preserves stuck to the ceiling. Can I put jars in this and pressure cook them. Would I put the lids on after they are done or is it safe to pressure cook them with the lids on.
    It does not have a temp gauge. Does anyone use this method and can you give me some hints.

    Blessings Gail

  21. Hello, Canner for 25 + years...
    Responding to the query of paraffin in canning.
    Years back my specialty was pomegranate jelly. I had the most wonderful tree at the other home we had for some 16 years.

    Using paraffin is easy!
    I would boil jars, add the completed jelly (that was some time consuming project:) use a canning funnel and keep those rims clean. Melt the wax in a double boiler use great care and do not do this with children or pets around. Do not let it get too hot for it can flame.
    You can reuse clean wax by skimming off the top of the wax when it is hot. I found that the use of a paper towel wadded loosely worked well. Use care it is hot!Leave a 1/2 head room in jars. then ladle at least 1/4-1/2 inch of wax to cover . As long as wax sticks to the side of the jar and seals the full surface it is good.
    Now wax sealing is only good for certain uses and the jelly was pantry shelf safe for up to 6 months. Of course it never lasted that long. I would put up 2 gallons and give it as gifts to my neighbors and family for Christmas. It was also the prize longed for at every thanksgiving dinner. Miss that old tree...
    I would sit on my porch in the shade of the orange tree. With a huge aluminum bowl on a tree stump I adopted for the purpose between my knees. I would have the garden hose flow gently into the bowl. The cracking of the fruit and the ridding of the rind inside the fruit was washed of the top of the bath and the scrap would collect on the grass at my feet. By rolling the fruit under water with my hands I would have little ruby kernels of pom.
    This I would cook in a water bath that only covered the fruit. Once the juice was harvested by crushing the cooked fruit and straining the seed it was used to make the jelly.
    The jelly was a sugar/juice recipe.
    Man I have made so many jars of that stuff.
    Miss that old tree :)
    One day I might just use some bottled juice to make some. It has added ingredients though.
    I butcher my own meats from solid cuts into burger where that burger has only one cow represented in it.
    Do the corn thing that was spoken of above by Kristina as well as all the other freezer gathering.
    Lemons this time of year ...Juice and freeze it in ice cubes. It is used as a flavoring in many of the things to be canned. It is the acid for many of the things that call for it in the processes.
    I will be doing a lot more canning when the garden comes in.

    Remember to always check the lips of your chips allowed those jars are done to the use of canning.

  22. I have a Q!

    I have an old canning booklet from the 40's (a how-tocan your victory garden harvest!). In it it speaks of using a roaster or oven to can. I've never heard of this in recent canning guides but I tried it. It seemed to work so I'm wondering why this method isn't still talked about. Anyone know?


  23. Such great recipes and ideas so far! Click for my jam and jelly recipes with super cute pictures :)

  24. Hi Rhonda,

    I have a quick question for you. My husband and I tried preserving fruit for the first time last weekend - to take advantage of the late summer harvest. We bought new jars - an italian brand - that seem to be pretty common here in Melbourne.

    We sealed and processed our jars in the oven following the directions in a preserving book - our jars were too big for the crockpot. All the lids sealed correctly and the indent seemed fine. HOwever, last night during dinner (a full week since they were processed) we heard a 'pop' and one of them has unsealed. It was holding peaches and since last night now seems to be 'foaming'.

    Do you have any idea why this might of happened or if the fruit is safe to eat?



  25. My mother used parffin to seal the top of all her hot jams and jellies{I think both jams and jellys}.... She bought a little block of paraffin from the grocery store and kept a little pan with a little pour spout just for this purpose. She would heat it till it was liquid and pour the parafin on the top to a layer of about one forth inch making sure to get it all the way around the edges snugly. This is very importnt to keep it air tight and safe. The melted parffin can easily burn you so be Very careful! When it was cool {turns white} and the jellys were cool too, she put the jelly jar lid on. She used any old jelly or other food jar just as you do Rhonda. Reused the same ones year after year. I don't know if the tops would pull down using this method as it was not waterbathed. I don't know if this method is still recommended. You should ask your Agriculture Department or call Ball. Don't take a chance on your health..check and double check before using any method you are told and are not positive is safe. As a side line..make sure all your metal canning tops and rings and the jar tops are kept out of any damp areas so they will not rust. I do have one question. I have a waterbath canner I use but if I were to not use the wire basket it has and put a cloth on the bottom as you mentioned would I also have to put a cloth between each jar so they would not clink on each other in the process of canning? I was afraid this cloth would float up to the top of the canner. Thankyou. Jody

  26. Great post Rhonda, and how very interesting to see the bottling with one piece lids! We use the two piece here and don't reuse the lids.

  27. OH my goodness! This is so inspiring. I haven't done any canning for a long time because of my arthritis problems, but now I'm tempted to get back into it on a small scale.

    I used to make my fruit jellies & jams preserved in sturdy drinking glasses sealed with 1/4 inch of parafin as described by a couple of your readers. Then if I was giving them away, I tied a small square of calico over the top with a little ribbon or yarn to dress it up.

    I will post my 3-generation recipe for SWEET RED PEPPER JAM and let you know when it is available. This is a wonderful condiment served with any meat and especially added to deviled eggs!

    Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge.

  28. Just a novice here, reading about all the different methods and a little stuck on where to start and the 'best' method both dollar and health wise.

    I'm here:
    if anyone has any advice.

    With thanks and off to read some more!

  29. Great post! Here in the Mid-US, it is a long, no green winter. I grew beans for the first time this past summer. I blanched and froze them. They did not turn out well, with tons of freezer burn. Next year I will can them I think. Any advice on green bean preserving would be great!

    I make jelly from fruit at my in laws, and pickled beets from the garden. I agree that buying to preserve doesn't always pay! :)

    I make apple sauce from cousins apple trees.... it is so good that I almost don't want to open a jar! I want to save and savour it!

    I, too use the Ball cookbook. I have collected some "old world" canning books and cookbooks but I just read them for fun, I believe we have come a long way for safety with some newer standards of home preserving.

    Thanks for a fun post!

    cathy c

  30. Gail,
    I don't know if my pressure canner is the same as your pressure cooker. I don't think so. My pressure canner is large enough to hold 7 quart jars or 10 pint size jars. It's a Presto 16 quart canner (it can hold 16 quarts of water if filled up) and is specifically for canning. I think a pressure cooker is smaller than this and is only for cooking. I could be very wrong, though. When I process my quarts or pints I follow the instructions in the Ball Blue Book -- it is the Bible of canning! You get the lids (I call them flats) really hot in hot water and then place them on the jars after wiping the rims of the jars really well to make sure there is not food stuck to the rim of the jar. This will cause your seal to fail. Then attach the rings and finger tighten. Then I process accordingly. I hope this helps! As I said above I learned all I know through trial and error and research! The Ball book is so helpful! Good luck!!


  31. Another time-honored way in the American northeast to preserve the harvest is root cellaring. It's a wonderful way to keep apples, cabbage, hard-skinned squashes, potatoes, onions, carrots (biennials or "storage" fruits) tasting fresh through cold winters. If stored properly at cool temperatures, your produce can keep its flavor and texture for a long time! I don't have an actual root cellar but I had a hand-dug dirt-floor basement at my old house where I could store lots of veggies for quite some time! I used a book my dad found at a goodwill store, called Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables by Mike Bubel and Nancy Bubel. It's incredibly helpful.

    Other resources for root cellaring:

    how to use one:
    how to build one:,7518,s-5-19-173,00.html

    And let's not forget fermented vegetables like sauerkraut!! My favorite!

    Happy preserving!

  32. I agree with Ann. It's important to have the motto of "each one teach one" when it comes to passing on all of the old-timey skills, as they are rapidly being lost altogether.

    Love your blog, Rhonda. It's like having a daily conversation with my auntie! (Can't wait for your book!)

  33. A Northern hemisphere Czech reader here! :-) I'm not my family's canning expert, that's mum. Plus it's not the canning season here, so I really can't write a blog post. But I know one recipe and I can share it with you; it's the favourite in my family.
    It is elderberry bloom syrup (technically, it's inflorescence, but I doubt anyone says that! - it looks like this:
    You need elderberry blooms - make sure you pick them away from roads and other pollutants!; lemon juice, sugar and water. You put the blooms into water for 24 hours; then remove the blooms (better strain it so no little blooms remain in it) and add sugar and lemon juice, stir thoroughly until the sugar dissolves (this takes a long, long time). Or maybe you add sugar and let it dissolve and THEN add the lemon juice... I can't remember the details properly in the winter. :(
    Basicaly, it's 20 blooms - 1 l of water - 1 kg of sugar. The amount of lemon juice is up to your liking - unfortunatelly, I don't remember how much we usually use, but I believe it was 3 lemons...
    And then pour it into jars and can it in water bath. It usually survives the whole winter, unless we drink it out sooner - now, there's only one jar left in our pantry, and the elderberry bloom season is late May to June! Occasionally some jars get mouldy, but I suppose those are those that didn't can completely.
    We use glass jars from store bought yogurt for this syrup, BTW. And if I remember right, we "sanitize" them in the oven.

    We used to make jams and compots, too, but now nobody in my family has enough time for that... we get them from grandpa.

    There is also another kind of jars with non-screwing lids, using a special tool to attach the lids, and then, I believe, it's the same as water bath canning with reused jars... I found a picture here: - although the tool we have is different, suitable for more sizes. Do you know this kind of jars? Do they exist outside of the Czech Republic?

    And, to those who asked about canning without lids: we have an old, old package of cellophane (that's what mum called it) at home - a kind that can be "molded" when wet, and then hold the shape. Mum told me this was used for sealing the jars, with an elastic. I suppose this wasn't really used for canning, but maybe it could be?

  34. Hi Rhonda and all,
    Years ago I made freezer jam, but since my family is not big jelly eaters, I stopped making it. But hearing about the "extra" stuff that goes into our food, I think I will make jam again, even if it is just for me!
    I also can banana peppers in a vinegar/water mixture along with garlic, italian seasoning and some alum. Yum! The recipe is simple and given to me by an Italian man whose family were all great cooks, the men and women.

    My daughter just got married, I told her about your blog and how you are practicing alot of the things my mother did when I was a child and she has been reading your archives.


  35. I love homemade jam. My parents grew and preserved everything we ate. I didn't do it for a long time, but I'm getting in to it now. I love doing. We're growing a lot of our own food and preserving stuff as well. I think you're right that a lof people have forgotten, but I have found many are getting back in to it.

    Here's a link to all the stuff I canned and all the stuff I have in the freezer.

  36. Hello Rhonda (et al),

    Sorry but I have no kitchen table (i.e. blog) to link to, but would like to share what I've spent the last couple of hours researching all the same ;o) My first port of call was my Mam, who has spent the last 25+ years preserving using the overflow method - but NOT followed by a water bath.

    She says the she has never had a jar processed this way go off yet. She only does this with foods that are high acid (most fruits, brined gherkins) and have sugar or salt/vinegar in the recipe (which aid the preserving). All foods are precooked before preserving (including peaches/plums and the like). She is also careful with hygiene, taking care to keep utensils clean, and uses her dishwasher to thoroughly clean her jars. She also uses new seals every time.

    This prompted me to find out more information on whether this is safe - whether 25+ years of no problems was due to good luck or good management. Everywhere I found the recommendation of using a water bath, apparently mostly due to the risk of botulism. However, it appears that in NZ at least using my Mam's method is quite common, with even The rather flash magazine "Cuisine" publishing recipes using this method.

    I also looked up botulism and the statistics for NZ, and got this from the NZ Food Safety Authority: "Clostridium botulinum intoxication results in serious clinical consequences, with 80% of cases requiring hospitalisation. Fortunately disease caused by this organism is very rare in New Zealand, the last known case being in 1984." So it would not seem unreasonable to state that the risk of botulism must be very small, providing of course that you are careful with your hygiene.

    The reason I wanted to find out about this, is that if it is not strictly necessary to use a waterbath with this type of preserving (i.e. high acid foods as described above, NOT vegetables, which do need to be cooked inside their jars), then there is a potential for savings in money and time - keeping it simple.

    Sorry to have taken up space with such a long comment, but I am very interested in this topic and the sharing of experience, and would love to hear what other people think/know about it (any other kiwis doing it this way?).

    Thanks Rhonda, your blog is a great source of wisdom :o)


  37. Hi Rhonda, another great post, have had a great time over summer, preserving and freezing our home-grown produce. Have made plum jam, plum chutney, bottled plums, 3 batches of bread and butter pickles made with cucumbers, gherkins and rampicante zucchini. Cucumber relish, beetroot relish and tomato relish. Have blanched and frozen corn cobs, bags of raspberries, blackcurrants and blackberries. Pears, apples and grapes out now so will chutney and bottle what I can.
    This is my 2nd year of preserving and because I haven't had to "buy" jams etc ran out of jars quite early in the season. Had to resort to buying jars from 2nd hand shops and was surprised to learn that they sell out fast. The word is getting out I think and more and more people are trying to live a more sustainable life. Isn't that great!
    Regards Kim (NZ)

  38. Thanks Kristina,

    I think you're right. Mine I'm sure now is just for cooking as it is much smaller than yours. Thanks for the info.

    Blessings Gail

  39. Someone mentioned ...."I find there is no saving if you have to buy the veg/fruit, unless of course you have a special recipe or taste or access to inexpensive ingredients."
    I garden, but some items that I can like peaches or pears, I do not grow myself. I choose to can these because I beleive it is better to purchase these items locally, it helps out the economy and they always taste MUCH better, you also get them while they are in season and so the price is cheaper than that of what you would have paid if they were shipped from a foreign country. I like to support my local farmers after having grown up on a farm myself.
    Also, I live in the north western U.S. if that makes any difference, so I have to get my fuits and veggies only during the summer months... no growing all year round over here. =(

  40. What a wonderful idea Rhonda Jean!
    Thanks for your insight. In particular, the reused jars, and cordials.
    Here is my new post on Preserving and Canning:

  41. Apologies, and corrections:
    The link to the picture somehow got broken, let's hope it works better this time:
    And I remembered the lemon juice comes into the water BEFORE you pour it over the blooms - I remembered the funny, slightly acidic feeling in my hands when I take away the blooms. :-)

    And, paulalee, you're so right! We used to buy apricots from our distant family in Moravia (where the best grow!) instead of buying some Spanish or such ones (which usually have no taste) in a shop.

    Root cellaring: Preserving apples and potatoes in a cellar or other cold places is, I believe, what everyone with a garden does here in the Czech Republic. When we had a garden with several apple trees (not anymore), we always stored them this way. They survive the whole winter - they're the only fruit I know of that does. They lose their shape a bit and they become a bit farinaceous. (Sorry for that word, that's what the dictionary told me. I wonder, do you ever refer to that quality of old apples and potatoes, when you have such a word for it in English?) But that is allright.

  42. We are still in the planning our garden season, so I wrote a kitchen table post about how to plan decide how much you need to preserve to feed your family. It's here:

    Thank you so much for your blog, Rhonda.

  43. It's important to appreciate the differences between vacuum sealing and paraffin wax caps.

    The water bath method relies on heat, cooling, to create an air-tight vacuum seal. If you put the lid on a jar that's been sealed with paraffin wax, before the contents have cooled completely however - you'll create condensation. The moisture trapped between the wax and lid will grow mould relatively quickly.

    So if you are going to use the paraffin wax method, make sure there is no residual heat in the jar before putting the lid on. Once the wax begins to set it's not going effect the food, leaving the jar lid off anyway.

    Putting it on before the contents have cooled completely however, will effect the hygiene of the seal.

    People need to be aware of the different techniques, so they don't accidently get confused. Both techniques rely on heat in the beginning stages, but must be treated very differently towards the end.

    So no lid on the jar with a paraffin wax seal, until the contents are *completely* cool. Then leave it for an extra hour to be sure.

  44. Great post and some really good links to follow up. Guess how I'll be spending my weekend!! :)

  45. Somebody mentioned they blanched and froze some green beans only to discover they were freezer burned. I have used this method in the past. The first time, like you, they freezer burned. The second time I asked a neighbor lady and this is what she told me to do. After blanching and shocking them in ice water to stop the cooking process the key is to get them drained and get as much of the water off of them as you can. She told me to drain them in a strainer and then lay them out on a very clean kitchen towel to wick off as much water as possible. Then lay them on a large cookie sheet in a single layer and freeze them. Then, bag them up getting most of the air out of the bag as possible. I have a vacuum sealer that I inherited from my grandma and this really helps prevent the freezer burn. Hope this is helpful.

    Also, when canning I find that if my kitchen is absolutly organized and ready for the process the day goes much more smoothly. I put away all clutter and get out only what I need for canning. It also helps if you can have someone come in and help you. Many hands make light work! My husband helps me when I am doing tomatoes by blanching them outside in his big turkey cooker to remove the skins and then brings them into the kitchen where I process them.


  46. Hi Rhonda!
    Thank you for this wonderful information. I can't wait to do some canning this summer season.

    Hey, this is off topic, but I have a soap making question...
    Do I have to have containers and a stick blender that are exclusively used for soap making, or is it okay to use the containers and blenders I use for my other kitchen tasks??? Will they be ruined?

    I'm going to try your soap recipe as soon as I can afford the ingredients, which is fast approaching!!

    Hugs to you this day,
    indigo52 at cox dot net

  47. I preserve about a 1000 jars of food of various types a year. My husband brought me a pressure CANNER from Lehmans, Ohio, USA. It cost about $420 NZ incl. postage. One should not preserve meats, vegetables or soups with a normal pressure cooker.
    I do use the overflow method for all my fruit however and have never had any problems and the same with tomatoes ( not acid free though).
    This week I have preserved peaches, apples and pears and will make quince jelly today. I will can spaghetti and meatballs tomorrow. I do buy my fruit and am very frugal in the price I will pay. Dh likes peaches so I do a few jars for him but overall 2nds apples and pears at the orchard work out the best cost per jar of fruit. We have planted fruit trees but am waiting for them to produce. Our strawberries keep us in jam for a whole year and we now have boysenberries, raspberries, blackberries and blue berries planted.

  48. I have been reading the comments on the difference between northern and southern hemisphere prserving but (unless I missed a comment) have seen nothing that mentions preserving in England. We make a lot of jam and chutney in Britain but almost never use water baths in our methods. We clean and sterilise jars then add still warm jam or chutney to the jar then put on the lid, as the jar cools the lid should seal. We sometimes make jam for the short term using waxed paper discs and cellophane lids, whhich shrink a little to fit but are not a long term seal. We pickle onions in strong vinegar and they keep unopened for quite a time but we don't tend to use a water bath. I suspect Enlish pickling vinegar is stronger and has greater preserving qulisties without the need for heat, just sterilised jars.

    I believe during WW2 pressure canners were sent from America, and used by the Womens Institutes to help preserve food, I presume because it enabled the preservation meat and vegetables which cannot be done safely using our traditional methods. After the war it would seem that we ceased to use this method.

    I think it is important for English people to note that our pressure cookers cannot be used as pressure canners, they can not reach the apprpriate temperatures to ensure food safety.

    I also believe that in Britain it is not recommended to preserve food in oil as it can present a danger of botulism, whilst pickling in vinegar id considered safe as the vinegar kills the botulism.

  49. Thanks Rhonda for hosting again.

    Here is my post:

  50. Hana-

    I think the word you are looking for is "mealy".

  51. Thanks for sharing. I love reading about everyone's experiences. I miss having someone to teach me many of these lost skills of homemaking. Canning is a wonderful craft of which I am just starting to explore. My experiences are here:

  52. HI everyone. I'm sorry I've not been able to stay with these comments over the weekend. Other things in the home took my attention. I came in late yesterday afternoon but after reading the comment, I had to get dinner on the table and didn't have time to comment. I have started visiting the links posted and will continue to do that over the next day or two.

    I was really pleased that answers and advice was given by the experienced women here. Thank you so much for doing that. It feels good that I can have that time away and come back to support and encouragement, just like in a little village. Thank you, friends.

    I love seeing how we all do our work, sometimes differently, sometimes the same, or similar. It's very interesting seeing what others preserve. I think it's the ultimate in independence - being able to grow or buy good food and then preserve it for future use give us an independence that must make supermarkets cringe.

    Jody, thanks for your information. The cloth on the bottom and the weight of the jars usually holds them in place. I would dearly love a wire basket for my processor but even sitting them on the raised metal platform they don't move around too much.

    Gail, I think you might need a pressure canner to process in that way.

    Hi Karen (pea), I've never seen a root cellar, though I've read a bit about them. It sounds like a great way to preserve food. When we lived in Germany, we, and most others, kept a lot of food in the cellar, especially potatoes.

    I'll be back.

  53. So it turns out the link won't cooperate... Sorry.

  54. Rhonda,
    Thanks for your wonderful website. I always enjoy reading your encouragements.

    I taught myself to can using the guide that came with my water bath canner and the Joy of Cooking's All About Canning. As a northern New Englander, I take advantage of the short summer season to preserve tomatoes, dilly beans, pickles, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. I shop locally for fruit at pick your own farms so that we can enjoy it all winter long.
    I use the pressure canner for corn and crushed tomatoes.

    You can see my posts from last summer about my canning exploits on here on my blog.

  55. Hi Rhonda:
    I took the challenge and posted about my journey in canning and "putting by" in jars. You can find my blog entry at
    It was posted 3/1/09.

    BTW: I am in the southern United States, so some of what I do might seem odd to others!


  56. I have actually always canned tomatoes and peppers the Hungarian way, cooking them pretty much half and half and putting them into sterilized jars and putting the lids on and the jars upside down under a blanket to cool very slowly. I know this cold pack method is not the favored way nowadays. They sometimes say it is because modern tomatoes are not acidic enough to make it safe. But I know many other people who do this and we haven't had a problem. Of course, you can also cook them like this and freeze it which is even less problem.

  57. Hello, Rhonda and all,

    This is such a wonderful post all the information will keep me busy reading for some time.

    Here is the link to my post

    Have a great day.

  58. I'm a bit behind here.... I found it interesting that the use of recycled jars is alright. every source I have looked up cautions against this practice in the U.S.
    I wrote a post of based on resources for beginners in the U.S.with links. I hope it can be helpful.

  59. Great post. Mrs. Dirty Boots has put a load of posts about different things she has preserved on our site.

    I think my favourite was the low energy Marmalde Orange Marmalade Recipe. I absolutely love it.

  60. Thank you so much for all of the information on your blog. Last summer I canned pickled beets, green beans and made pear honey which has been a HUGE hit with my family so I know what everyone will be getting next year. I froze several apple pies and canned some apple pie filling. Tried to can banana pepper, but we weren't happy with the result so will try a different recipe next year.

    The talk about root cellars made me think of my Dad and I'd like to share a conversation with him a few years before he passed on. He grew up on the coal mountains of West Virginia of the US and they had a small farm. They gardened up the mountain on a small "flat" area enough to sustain the family with 11 children. I asked him about preserving vegetables and he told me the potatoes, carrots, cabbage were stored in a hole dug in the back yard. They would cover with hay and I think some dirt. (I would assume hay was first!!) His job as the youngest was to go push aside the snow and hay and bring in whatever his Mama wanted! I bet he wished they had had a root cellar!!

    Thanks to all of you for your recipes and information about canning. I hope to do much more this year.


  61. Rhonda, I have been suffering with a very itchy skin for sometime. Saw your recipe for laundry liquid and made it up omitting Borax as I use all the grey water on my garden. After only two weeks the itchiness has disappeared and the clothes are looking fine.I use a bar of napisan soap on any really grimy spots on my husbands work clothes. Thank you very much.

  62. Wow! What a terrific idea for sharing the wealth of knowledge there is out there for seasoned canners and newcomers :)
    I sell my preserves at a local farmers market where I live and have done so for the past 8 yrs. I preserve full-time, year round and work especially long days in the summer months. My site does not give instruction but I could certainly answer any questions on the subject. Lots of ideas and photos to look at if you wish
    Love your website, will check back often for inspiration!
    Best regards,

  63. Huh- I didn't know you could reuse old jars. I thought you had to buy new canning lids every time. Thanks for the tip!

  64. Just recently found your blog, Its wonderful to see a revival of home-making not house making! I have been looking for a proven good way to preseve meat other than drying. Do you now of any good sites for canning meat? I have venison comming out the ears & if we loose power is all gone

  65. Hi Rahonda,

    I by new lids every year -- I never reuse them for canning.

  66. Inviting you the Carnival of Home Preserving on my blog every Friday. Hope to see you there. Laura Williams’ Musings

    The most recent edition - - open until Thursday 6/7.

  67. Hi,
    I canned for the first time the other day. I canned apple butter. I think that it all went well, the seals have taken. However, I have noticed that there is condensation on the inside of the lid. Is this normal? I can not seem to find the answer online and was hoping that someone could tell me if this is normal.
    Thanks so much.



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