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Where to Go to Learn to Can

Short of coming from a family of canners how does one go about learning how to can?  My mom and grandma both canned when I was young, but I was too young to really help and by the time I was old enough to learn the canning equipment had been put away.  It wasn’t until I was newly married that I became interested in canning.  But by then my mom was too far away to come up for canning lessons.  So I did a little digging and I found three main resources where I learned to can. 

Extension Service

My first resource was the local extension service through Oregon State University.  Every state has an office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices throughout the state.  The services they offer and their proximity to you may vary.  The OSU extension service website is how I found out about the Master Food Preservers (MFP).  They are a group of volunteers that put on monthly canning classes in the summer and fall months and cooking and baking classes in the winter and spring months.  This website can help you find if there is an extension service near you.  In March, I’m taking a class on grains (what they are and how to cook them) and in April I’m anxiously awaiting their cheese-making class (that is always wait-listed, it’s that popular).  I have taken just about all of their canning classes at least once.   The best thing is they have a Master Food Preserver hotline you can call 5 days a week and ask an expert you’re preserving questions.   An MFP class is also where I learned about my second resource for canning information; the volunteers call it “The Canning Bible.”

Ball® Blue Book Guide to Preserving

This book is my go-to reference when I’m elbow-deep in the kitchen and have a quick question like what does ¼” headspace look like?  They have a handy illustration.  Also, commonly canned foods like tomatoes, green beans, and jams have a quick guide with step-by-step instructions (complete with illustrations) to follow.  There is a section in the front that explains, in a way that’s easy to understand, the how and why of both pressure and water-bath canning.  Plus, there are tons of recipes for everything from whole tomatoes to honey-spiced peaches, mincemeat to chutneys.  The back section is how to preserve by freezing or dehydrating and has recipes for homemade fruit leather (which are easy and yummy!).

National Center for Home Food Preservation

I found this third resource from my own online research, but then heard about it again at an MFP class.  The NCHFP abounds in recipes, tips, publications, and even a self-guided online canning course that anyone can take.  At the end, after passing of course, you get a certificate you can print out, which at the very least made me feel like I did know what I was doing around a canner.  The best thing about this website is that there are tons of USDA-approved recipes.  I have come across lots of canning recipes online, most of which are perfectly fine to use.  However, I’ve also come across some recipes which are downright dangerous.  Most often its recipes that say to use a water-bath canner when a pressure canner should be used instead.  Also, there are certain foods (like some squashes) for which there is no USDA-approved way to safely can.  However, unless you know the basics about canning before you begin it’s hard to judge which recipes you can trust or not.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the canning resources out there, but three important ones I have found when I first began canning and still use to this day.  Are there any books or websites that you would recommend?  I would love to hear about them!

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