I've been planning to do some home canning ever since I bought this big-assed ham from Aldi a week or so ago, and it's pieces are crowding my freezer...so I looked up all of this info to share!!
You can get some cheap canning tools and THE Ball book here, at ABCDistributing. $9 for the book, $8 for the tool set.
There are a million places to get canning jars. My favorite place has been at yard and estate sales and on craigslist. I've also scored some on freecycle, too, but my current area doesn't have freecycle, and the closest one won't let me join. Don't pay more than .50 a jar...people try to jack up the price, calling them "vintage" but most of the time they're not, and they're sure not worth more than .50! In any case, no matter what you pay, if you reuse the jars, over time you can call them "free". Currently, the USDA recommends jars made specifically for canning (not leftover pasta sauce or mayo jars) and metal rings and lids. There are some neat European brands available, like Weck, but they haven't been tested for pressure canning in the US, and should only be used by experience canners for boiling water bath canning. Plus, they're crazy expensive.
Here's what some of them look like:
Ball or Kerr jars in a couple of sizes. Notice the pickles in a wide mouth jar. I prefer to use wide mouth for all of my jar, so I don't have to have a lot of different sizes of rings and lids. New jars come with enough lids and rings for them. You can get these anywhere. Or here, at the Ball and Kerr store.
Here are some that I found online the other day. I'm totally intrigued! They're very pretty! They're Leifheit jars and you can get them from their online store or from Target, online, for about the same price. No bargains to be had here, though. They're about $20 for 6- 2cup jars.
I love the look of these jars, but HOLY COW they're expensive!! They also carry a tall straight-sided jar called an asparagus jar. Very elegant. The lids for these are glass with a rubber seal, and they're clamped on to process.Very fancy!! WECK Home Canning jars
Canning food saves so much more energy than freezing (comparing foods that could be stored either way) Most of the food preparation is the same, then you either freeze or process. For freezing, you use the electricity from the time it's frozen until it's eaten. With canning, you use fuel (gas or electric) to process, but then the food is stored at room temp in a reusable jar. Nothing special. And, you save your freezer space for stuff that has no option other than being frozen...like ice cream.
My favorite resource for canning meat and other ordinary things is my Amish Cookbook. It has things like "bologna for canning", "meatballs for canning" with these gigantic recipes using tons of ingredients. It's kinda cool!! However, it's not a cookbook you can find on half.com, so you may want to keep an eye out for similar older cook books.
I came across this blog today while searching for resources for this blog entry. Frugal Canner. WOW!!! If you want to can, check out this blog! So much common sense here.This entry on canning potatoes was really interesting. The blogger is not high-tech but there's a lot of info to be gained. Check it out!
Another good resource is the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning. Its in six sections in PDF form. Lots of recipes here, and they're tested for safety.
A lot of people are intimidated by canning meat, but it's the most practical time-saver EVER!!! I've canned stuff like Hungarian Goulash (round steak in tomato sauce), Pepper Steak (round steak w gravy), meatballs, shredded barbecue beef, and beans with ham. My mom would can crab meat, clams and clam chowder when we lived by the bay in New Jersey. I find having "meals" canned and ready to go is much more a time saver to me than having meals that I've frozen, especially because of the size. If freezer cooking appeals to you, then you will love canning even more!! You can preserve ground beef, stew beef cubes, chicken, chicken or beef enchilada filling, tuna (imagine your OWN fresh canned tuna!!)....any thing, really!
Don't forget about my own yummy favorites I've shared on here: salsa, blueberry preserves, and grape jelly!
Both my Stupidly Easy Pasta Sauce and Chicken Enchilada Filling would be great canned, too.
Ok, go can something!!