Making jams and pickles involves more than just throwing the contents into a glass jar; if you plan to store the canned item for several months, the cans must be processed using a method of suctioning the seal of the cans to preserve the jar's contents. But before attempting any recipe that calls for canning, it's important that you have all the equipment on hand, especially if you are making jam or pickles for the very first time. Here are the essential items you'll need and the purposes they serve.
- Glass jars with metal seals and lids: Ball and Kerr mason jars are the most well-known brands on the market, and for the best deal, buy them in bulk. Some sources will say that you can reuse the glass jar, but the seal and lid should be replaced after each use. Others have reused the items without any problems. If you notice any rust forming or if the seal does not snap when processing, discard the items and swap them out for new ones.
Find out what else you'll need to start canning.
- Fine mesh sieve or chinois: If you are making jam and need to strain the fibrous skin and seeds of the cooked fruit, a fine mesh sieve or a chinois is the easiest way strain the juice. The Williams-Sonoma chinois strainer, pestle, and stand ($120) is a jam-making life-changer. Simply place a bowl under the nifty stand, and with the other hand, use the pestle to extract every last drop of cooked fruit juice from the chinois.
- Jar funnel: It's important to prevent any liquids from contaminating the spiral seal on the outside of the glass jar. To do so, use a jar funnel like this Norpro stainless steel wide-mouth funnel ($11) to cleanly deposit the jam or pickled vegetables into the jar.
- Pressure cooker: These deep, large vessels make it easy to boil water faster and to submerge several glass jars in the water. Pressure cookers are used to sterilize the glass jars prior to filling them with jam or pickles. Then after the jars are filled, they go back into the pressure cooker for processing. This Fagor nine-piece pressure canning set ($130) is great for newbies, because in addition to the pressure cooker, it also contains all the canning equipment.
- Stainless steel canning rack: When processing the cans in a pressure cooker, store them on a canning rack like this Victorio stainless steel canning rack ($25). The design prevents the cans from touching the bottoms and sides of the pressure cooker, so the cans are surrounded by boiling water and not scorching metal. The side handles also help ease the cans in and out of the hot water.
- Jar lifter: Once the cans have processed in the pressure cooker, us a jar lifter to safely remove them from the boiling water. This Norpro 600 jar lifter ($5) will prevent you from burns, accidental slips, and glass breakage.
- Jar wrench: An essential tool for closing and opening jar lids, jar wrenches like this Norpro jar wrench ($5) help you tighten jar lids when the jars are still hot. The rubber grip also is useful for opening the cans with ease.