I haven't done it in years, but this week I decided to reinstate a much loved ritual from my childhood - late summer canning. My mother and I would often spend a weekend in the country at the end of school holidays making enough peach jam and tomato chutney to last through winter (and dole out as emergency Christmas gifts). Before I start my canning project I have a few bits and pieces still to buy - like jar tongs, muslin bags, and pickling spice. So in the mean time I thought I'd share this home canning guide... and next week I'll be posting a few favourite recipes for jams, chutneys and stewed fruits if you'd like to get in on the preserving party!

Home Canning Guide: Equipment

large pot // jar tongs // jars & lids & bands // pot rack // dish towels // funnel

The Science

Water bath canning is the easiest method of preserving food in jars. The science is simple - you fill jars with acidic food such as tomatoes, berries, or cucumbers in vinegar, cover them with lids and boil them in an open pan until a seal forms under the lid. This action forces air out of the food and jar creating a vacuum in an acidic environment so bacteria cannot survive. Your preserves will last up to a year in the pantry, and you'll feel a warm, satisfied glow every time you open the cupboard door and see them sitting there.

Steps for Water Bath Canning:

1. Prepare your stewed fruit/jam/sauce/chutney.

{tip: your food must be piping hot at the beginning of the canning process}

2. Sterilise jars and lids in boiling water for 5 minutes.

{tip: setting a glass jar on direct heat is clearly a bad idea.... so.... if you have a wire rack that fits into your large pot, place your jars on it. Otherwise, arrange a dish towel or two over the bottom of your filled pot before putting your jars in}

3. Remove jars and lids from the pot and on a clean dish towel.

4. Fill jars, almost to the top.

5. Wipe the rims.

6. Screw lids on loosely.

7. Place filled jars back in boiling water for 15 minutes.

{tip: stay close and listen for the sound of each lid suctioning shut... it'll sound like a pop... it sometimes happens in the water, and sometimes on the counter when the jars come out of their bath}

{tip: it's very important that your pot is large enough so boiling water completely covers the lidded jars, or they won't seal}

8. Remove jars from boiling water & make sure bands are on tight.

7. Repeat these steps until all the jam/sauce/relish has been canned.

Catherine Roberts