Home Canning Using the Open Kettle Method
The fun foods in home canning, and often the ones that provide the most satisfaction are the jams, jellies and marmalades in their jewel tone jars, sitting on the shelves in the pantry. Jellies are clear semisolid preserves that are firm enough to hold their shape when unmolded from the jar, yet soft enough to spread with a knife. Jams are smooth fruit spreads that are less firm than jellies. They contain evenly distributed pieces of fruit that make them thicker than jellies. Marmalades are sweet preserves that contain shredded fruit and rind. They should be firmer and clearer than jams.
The substance that causes all of these foods to become firm is pectin, a natural thickening agent present in all fruits. Under ripe fruit generally contains enough natural pectin to cause gelling, although many recipes call for the use of liquid or powdered commercial pectin to assure a flawless product.
Although there is a marked difference in each jam's or jellies' consistency and texture, there are several preliminary preparations common to each. Please follow these general instructions before beginning any home canning preparation.
Instructions for home canning Jams, Jellies, and Marmalades
1. Read your recipe carefully. Follow the manufacturers instructions for filling and sealing the canning jars and jelly glasses. Assemble all of the equipment and ingredients that you will need before beginning home canning.
2. Check your jars for nicks, cracks, and rough edges. Wash jars in hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Scald the jars in boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Leave jars in hot water until ready to use. Rinse caps and scald self sealing lids.
3. If your recipe specifies liquid or powdered pectin, use fully ripened fruit. For recipes requiring no pectin use a combination of 3/4 ripe and 1/4 under ripe fruit to assure the proper amount of natural pectin needed to jell the mixture. Imperfect or irregularly shaped fruit may be used as long as spoiled and or bruised sections are removed and discarded.
4. Wash the fruit gently in cold running water or in several changes of water. Sort, then remove hulls, stems, skins, pits, and seeds. Leave whole, slice, chop, or crush according to recipe.
5. Use a large heavy kettle with a flat bottom. 8-10 quart capacity will allow the mixture to bubble and cook rapidly within the confines of the kettle.
6. Prepare the fruit as directed in the recipe. Cook only small batches at a time. Do not double a recipe.
The Set Up
1. Make an area for finished jars to be set. Fold towels or use wooden cutting boards.
2. Heat small pan of water to boiling. Reduce to simmering. Add canning lids shortly (5-10 minutes) before you will need them. The lids need to be hot, but over-boiling isn't necessary. Set a clean fork or magnet stick nearby to use to remove lids one at a time when ready for them.
3. Arrange clean empty canning jars in your large pot or canner. (Be sure to place a rack under the jars, or fold an old towel on the bottom, so that jars aren't sitting directly on the bottom of the pan.) Fill bottom of pan with about 4 inches of water. Put lid on pan, and heat until water is at a hard boil. If your caning is going to take a long time, be sure to monitor the water level in this pan so that it doesn't boil dry. Have a potholder or oven mitt near this pan for lifting the lid each time you need a jar. Place your jar lifter** near here, also.
4. Be sure you have a heat-safe working area next to your pan of boiling food (that you will be using for canning). This can be done either on the stove top, or by placing a wooden cutting board* or potholders on your counter top. Place your wet washcloth nearby, along with a ladle and funnel (for filling jars). Place your clean jar rings near here, also.
5. You will also need your food, of course, which should be at a boil while you are canning. Not all things can be open-kettled (for safety reasons), but things like jams and jellies etc. do very well with this method.
6. Lastly, be sure that you can give your undivided attention to the process once you have begun. It's inconvenient to stop while open kettling, for your food won't turn out as nicely.
When you've gathered all of your supplies, and you're all set up, here's what you do:
1. Remove one hot jar from your kettle, replacing the lid. Set jar on heat-safe working area next to your pot of boiling food.
2. Ladle food into jar using funnel, filling to between 1/2 and 1 inch from the top.
3. Wipe top of jar to remove any food residue from rim (where lid will be placed) to ensure sealing.
4. Using fork, remove one hot lid from your simmering saucepan of lids, and place lid on top of jar.
5. Screw a home canning jar ring onto your jar, tightening snugly (but not as tight as you can possibly make it).
6. Place finished jar on the towels or other heat-safe area you have prepared.
7. Continue filling jars until your food is all canned. Jars will seal as they cool.
8. Wait until jars are completely cooled (about 12 hours) before you remove the rings, wash the jars, and label with item and date.
Open Kettle Home Canning is not really recommended today because of safety issues. If you have old recipes that call for this method, most can be processed in a water bath canner for 10-20 minutes.
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