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Can anyone recommend a home canning/jarring kit (like with the glass mason jars) and a book to self-learn home food preservation? Our budget would be around $100-150 and we'd like to avoid plastic. We intend to grow tons of food this summer and learn how to preserve it for the winter. It can't be that hard ...
 

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ARe you planning to just do water bath canning or also pressure canning? I can't think of a "kit", but I would recommend Ball's Blue Book. I also really like the book Putting Food By. The best thing to do, though, is to learn from a veteran, like I did from my granny. I still had to update her methods to the modern safety standards, but it really helps to see someone doing it. You can check in to your county's homemaker's extension to see if they have any classes.

It's not "hard" to can, but it takes many meticulous steps that cannot be ignored or skipped. It can be dangerous if utmost care is not taken. Even after many years of canning, I still refresh my memory ever year and use notes when canning. I do mostly pressure canning.

Also, check freecycle and craislist for free/cheap canning jars.

Good luck!
 

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As the PP said, I don't know of a particular kit either. I have a copy of the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserves. There are lots of canning books out there...the only thing I would say on that topic is to make sure you buy a recent book, as there have been some changes over the years as they have learned more about food safety.

Jars: yup, these can be gotten very cheaply, either in places like Goodwill, garage sales, etc. And if you buy them off-season, they are also very cheap brand new. The jars can be bought 2nd hand, but don't buy the lids 2nd hand, for safety reasons. You can find packages of lids anywhere, in the grocery store even, for very little. Depending on the amount of canning you are planning on doing, you might not even have to spend your full budget.

You will also need a little basket to hold your jars while they're in the water bath, and while not absolutely necessary, the tongs made especially for holding hot jars are extremely helpful.

I completely agree with Velochic: it's not difficult at all, but it's very important to do it correctly. When I was learning, I found there was a rather cavalier attitude among my resources (ie older members of my own family). Things like "you don't really need to sterilize the jars, just throw them in a sink full of hot water and dish soap" (no, you really DO need to sterilize the jars), and "pressure canning is not really necessary for meats and low acid foods, just boil the jars for a bit longer in the water."
 

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You might also want to sign up for your hardware stores emails. They're about to start having canning supplies sales. Ace hardware usually has some good canning supplies.

I found half-gallon jars at a hardware store around here. Not at Lowes or Home depot, but at those little hardware stores, that's where you find the good stuff.

That canning kit at kitchen crafts looks like it'll work too. Canning is pretty easy once you do it the first time. It's all prep. work.
 

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The set linked above is the one I was going to recommend. It's the one I have and it is very good for beginners or anyone else.

Also, watch for jars on Freecycle or craigslist. I've gotten a lot that way. Most of the lids & rings are available at your local grocery store, usually either in the bags & wraps aisle or the baking & kitchen supply aisle.

A few books I really like in addition to the blue book:
Better Homes & Gardens America's Favorite Canning & Preserving Recipes
Well Preserved
Small Batch Canning
 

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I agree with the PP about not listening to anyone who says, oh, we always did it like this and it was fine. I knew someone who canned chicken with a water bath canner and just boiled it for several hours. Just like her mama and grandma before her. Apparantly since no one had gotten sick from it , it must be ok. You can always freeze and dehydrate things if you're not sure about using a pressure canner safely and correctly. The Ball Guide is the simplest book to start with and inexpensive as well. While canning isn't that hard, it can be time consuming. If you're growing your own produce, be sure and space your plantings so you aren't overwhelmed all at once with more than you can put up. Also, I made a nasty discovery last year after I bought more Ball jars. They weren't shaped the same as they had been previously and 7 of them did NOT fit in the rack at once like they were supposed to. They were too wide at the shoulders. I believe they've since remedied the problem, but it is a good idea to make sure your jars fit the rack before you fill them.
 

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OP, you haven't replied yet as to whether you are going to just waterbath can or pressure can.

I'm assuming that you will be doing both. You can waterbath can pickles, jams, and high acid foods. It's important that you follow recipes that have been tested when waterbath canning because the Ph of the food has to be within a very specific range. Even tomatoes, the hybrids that most people grow, are not all within this range. I actually pressure can all of my tomato products because I don't like to add acid to them and I can't guarantee that the Ph is within range.

Everything else has to be pressure canned... beans, corn, peas, mixes of veg, meat, whole meals (like stews and chilis).

Assuming you are going to be pressure canning, your money is best spent on the best pressure canner you can buy. You can waterbath can in your pressure canner - all you need to waterbath can is a large pot and a way to keep your jars off of the bottom of the pan (you can use the canning rings to do this if it doesn't have a rack).

In that kit linked above, there are a couple of things you don't need... you don't need the tongs (you probably already have some and I don't know what you'd use them for, anyway) and you don't need the jar wrench (your lids should never be so tight that you have to use a wrench to get them off). If you get a pressure canner or already have a large pot, you don't need the waterbath canner, either. The jar lifter, funnel, and lid lifter are necessary.

Again, your county's homemaker extension will be a treasure trove of information, as well. I will reiterate that it's not "difficult" to can, but it can be dangerous if you've not learned how to do it properly. Especially pressure canning. It's perfectly safe when done properly and no steps every skipped or "shortcuts" taken.
 

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No one's mentioned this book... Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I found it at my library and ended up buying it because it has so many yummy recipies!

OP I don't know where you live, but I'm in MN and Fleet Farm and Menards are cheap places to find jars and supplies in early summer.

On a side note, although I love canning some things, if you're trying to preserve a lot of garden veggies, freezing is the way to go IMO!
 

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I never bought a kit, but the things I like are a canner (used to be just water, but now I have a pressure one), the Ball book, jar lifter tongs (easier for me to use than regular tongs), a wide mouth funnel, and jars, of course.

I have both wide and regular mouth jars. The wide mouth are easier to pack, but for long term thinking, the lids on the regular one are cheaper year after year. And, when you aren't using them for canning, you can use plastic mayo lids on them for storage.
 

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There are also a TON of websites about canning with current food safety info. Many states have university extension websites about canning and food preserving. I've been canning for about 8 years, and I've never bought a book. I learned how to can from reading the instructions that came with my canner and by extensively reading websites. When in doubt about timing, I always err on the cautious side.

I grew up watching my grandparents can, but was never truly involved in the process. By the time I wanted to learn, I lived too far away to learn from my relatives who had canned for years and years. But it truly wasn't difficult to learn on my own.
 
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