It's almost that time of year again. Unless you're me. I jar up food all summer as the harvest comes in. So far this year I've done pickles, broccoli, and zucchini. Canning can be a lot of fun, especially if you have a mother-in-law who lets you use her kitchen because it was bigger than yours (I say was, because we moved last fall into a bigger house). Canning around here is a family affair. Every kid comes home that weekend, and every kid helps. No less than 8 people usually in that kitchen.
Here are some tips to help you have an easier time of it if you don't have as much help as I do:
---Make sure you have everything ready before you start. Nothing is as frustrating as realizing that you have 3 more jars than lids.
---A jar lifter is the single most helpful item you can acquire.
---Use newspaper on the table for easy mess cleanup, and a helpful place to put hot jars.
---Involve everyone you can. Many hands make light work. All the helpers get some to take home around here!
---You don't need to store the jars with the rings if they have a good seal on them. Re-use your rings after they seal so you don't waste money on buying rings for every jar in the house.
---Don't try to can when it is 90 degrees outside. Pick a cooler day if you can. (Yes, I'm speaking from experience in a house with no A/C.)
---Experiment with recipes. Just don't mess with the acids. Measuring the correct amount of vinegar to water and sugar is necessary to avoid spoiled food. I added jalapeños to my sweet pickles and made the most amazing sweet/hot pickles. SO GOOD.
---Use a kitchen towel to handle hot jars. Pot holders are usually too thick to wrap around the jar for a good grip. Towels work wonderfully.
---Do the dishes as you go. Trust me.
And the #1 tip about canning I can give you, is HAVE FUN. You're feeding people, and that makes them happy!