Thursday, October 9, 2008

Food Preservation Series: Boiling Water Canner

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Today we are canning pears using the Boiling Water Canner method. In the short time I have been canning, I have canned tomatoes and peaches (I do live in the South) using this method, but I have never canned pears before. So I relied heavily on my Mom and this website which has pictures. Can't do a darn thing without pictures.

This is a boiling water canner. It is basically a gigantic pot. Barely fits on my stove.

It comes with this little wire contraption that holds seven quart size jars. This keeps them upright and from knocking into each other and it helps you pull the jars out without scalding your hands.

So here we go!

Prep work first--fill your canner with water and get heat it at (med/med-high). Also fill a saucepan with water, drop in your lids, and bring to a simmering boil, just like we did when we made jam. Also, wash your bottles. I did it in the dishwasher because I'm lazy. You can do it by hand if you're feeling extra domestic.

Next prepare the simple syrup. You can use fruit juice if you'd rather. I decided to go with the light syrup which is 2 cups of white sugar to 6 cups of water (making 7 cups of syrup) boil until the sugar dissolves and keep warm.

Wash the pears. Want to know why I chose to do pears? Because they were free. That's how I operate. My garden didn't produce enough tomatoes this year--could have something to do with the rate at which I eat them--and I was wondering what to do, when a friend dropped off bags of pears to me. Tender mercy? I think so.

Next peel your pears. Not a big fan of this. When you can tomatoes and peaches you dip them in boiling water for a minute and then transfer them to ice cold water and the skin all but falls off. So much easier.

After you peel your pears, you need to core them . You can use a melon baller, but I just used a knife. I tried to use a melon baller, but the one I had didn't work so well. Could be because my melon baller came from my kid's play kitchen stuff. It looked so real I had to try it.It's not real. But melon ballers make this nice shape. Very pretty. For a pear. This is how I would prepare the pears for the jars if I were using quart size jars.

But unfortunately I'm not. I can't find my jars anywhere! So I'm using half-pints (which in hind sight was a really bad idea). I sliced the pears up so they'd fit better. But really, don't do this! At least use pint size jars, but I really recommend quart size jars. Slice the pears in half and core them. That is how my mother always did/does them.

While you are prepping your pears, periodically sprinkle them with this FruitFresh. You can get it in the grocery store. It just keeps the fruit from going brown.

When you have enough pears to fill seven jars, go ahead and fill your jars up. Leave enough room at the top to have 1/2 inch or so of head room. Seven is the most you can process at a time, but you can do as few as you want as long as it balances in your canner. But if you are going to take the time to process, you might as well do as many as you can.

Once the fruit is in the jars, fill with the syrup. After the syrup you can run a knife around the inside edge of the jars to release any air bubbles. Sorry about the fuzzy picture, I wish I had three arms, really I do.

Make sure you leave at least 1/2 inch of head space.

Wipe off the edges of the jar with a clean damp cloth. You don't want anything left on the rim of the jar that would allow bacteria to grow.

Transfer a lid over to your jar, they should be hot so be careful.

Screw your rings on tight.

And carefully place them into your canner. Be careful of balancing when you're putting the first ones in. This is another reason NOT to use half-pint jars, they just slide right through the rack. I had to lower and raise it very carefully. I'm feeling very silly right now for even attempting to use such small jars.

Lower your rack down into the water gently. Make sure your jars are covered under a couple of inches of water. Crank up the heat!

Process time starts from the time it boils. So keep an eye on it and when it starts boiling set your timer. Processing time will vary for jar size and altitude. You can check with your local extension service or check out the online chart here. Many canning supply companies will have that information also. I ended up processing these for ten minutes.

When your timer rings, carefully lift your jars out of the canner. There is a cool tool for lifting jars out, but I don't have one, so I use my tongs. Be careful because they are slippery.

Place your jars on a clean towel, not touching each other. Walk away! This is my favorite part. I sat down at the computer to check email and after a while I heard a pop! And I knew one of the jars had sealed. The others soon followed suit. I'm always relieved when they seal. I mean, otherwise we'd have a lot of pears to eat in a few days.

Once the jars are cool, check to make sure they have sealed by pressing on the lids. If they pop down and up with your finger then they haven't sealed and you should stick them in your fridge and eat them in the next couple of days.

If they seal (which they almost always do), stick them in your pantry/food storage area and enjoy pears throughout the winter!

That was my overview of boiling water canning. I don't think boiling water canning is at all scary or intimating. And of course I recommend your parents and grandparents as the best source for this kind of thing--and the best place to get free jars. If only I didn't live all the way across the country from mine, I wouldn't have had to use half-pints.


BWei said...

Great tutorial, Abs--and too funny about the melon baller...it's amazing how real kids' stuff looks (I think my daughter's set is actually stainless steel (!)). This helps me not be so afraid of canning.

Ivy said...

Great post. You can also can pears without making a syrup ahead of time. You simply add 1/4 cup of sugar to each jar, and then fill the jar (leaving 1/2 in head space) with water. While the pears are being processed, it makes a yummy syrup. And it's one less pot to clean.

Anonymous said...

There's a tool made just for coring and stemming pears (photo at http://www.surlatable.com/gs/oxo-fruit-vegetable-corer-fruit-specialty-tools-kitchen-bar-tools-2.shtml, but available from many other places).

I originally got mine as part of a kit of tool required for a pottery class. A couple of years later, it occurred to me to try it on pears--works great! LOL

Kerrie said...

To keep pears and apples from going brown as you are cutting them, let them soak in a bowl of cold salt-water. It doesn't take much salt, and it doesn't effect the taste. Salt is a lot cheaper than fruit fresh or lemon juice.

MeadowLark said...

I thought they had to be "hot packed". Or is that peaches. Or is that any of them and I just am confused?

AllisonK said...

great post Abs. I did have a few explosions in my early canning time, but I agree that it's a great way to can.

Sheila said...

I did pears last week, and used a metal measuring spoon, and it worked great. I used the 1 teaspoon :o)

I kept my pears soaking in cold water with a little ascorbic acid sprinkled in, kept them snowy white.

This was my first year canning, and I'm so happy with what I was able to put up. Now I know why everyone does it!

Debbie said...

I did pears last week and we blanched our pears and then the skins just wiped off. Very easy!

Sara R said...

My friend April uses a grapefruit spoon, which is a spoon with little teeth, to get the seeds out. It works great! I need to borrow it so I can finish up my pears.

Stacy said...

You've inspired me. Now I need to find some fruit. My mother used to do this when I was a kid, but I have personally never tried it. I have a ceramic cooktop and probably wouldn't be able to cook it there without cracking the cooktop. I guess I'll be going to my mom's. Thanks for the great lesson!

Cox Family said...

Great post...thanks for commenting on my blog as well! I had to laugh when you posted the picture of the water canner, because only 3 weeks ago I was using what I THOUGHT was a canner...turned out I was using a steamer! Now I have the proper equip, and am loving the canning!

Thaks again, I love this blog!

Lindsay said...

I've used the little clay tool that looks like a lop-sided loop on a handle--it's got one wide end and one narrow end. Use the narrow end to scoop out the core and the wider end to scoop out the seeds. So much faster!

Also, if you do a lot of boiling water canning, you should check out the steam canner. http://www.mendingshed.com/bactobasstea.html. It is SO easy! It only takes like 6 cups of water, and it preserves things just as safely as the boiling water one. So much faster to heat up, and it keeps your kitchen way cooler too. Plus your jars don't rattle nearly so much because they're not trying to float away. I am a definite fan, can you tell? :)

Lindsay said...

I just realized that the canner I linked to is $60. Don't pay that much!!! They're usually way cheaper. Amazon has one for $40, and I've seen them as low as $25-30. http://www.amazon.com/Back-Basics-400A-Steam-Canner/dp/B0000DDUCJ

E said...

I have canned pears with skins on! Anything to cut down in kitchen drudgery type work. They are good and the skins soften up in the jar.

Aleasha said...

sorry that the jars were so dang small. its all i could find at the time. my inlaws left today and said no one stopped by while they were here. did you end up canning them all, or making pear butter too? sorry again