Monday, April 21, 2014
What About the Water, Wendy?
I canned chicken soup the other day. Five pints. I also had two quarts of water in the canner. Just plain, filtered water from our Brita pitcher. Nothing special.
But I wanted to explain why.
As I mentioned in my post about canning, I don't have a canning season any more. In fact, during canning season, it's rare that I have a whole canner's worth of most things. My garden just doesn't work that way for me, and the only time I have a huge bulk of something where I'll spend the entire day peeling, slicing, stuffing and boiling is when we go to a PYO farm or when I happen to purchase a bulk lot of something like tomatoes from the local farmer. Most of the time, I have a few pints of jam or a couple of jars of tomatoes.
Sometimes, when I have only a partial canner of one thing, I'll can several different items at a time to fill up the canner (and yes, I do pay attention to the canning times of EACH item in the canner to make sure that they are all given the recommended processing). My "canner" - the one I use for a boiling water bath - is just a big stainless steel kettle, basically a standard cooking pot. The tray from my pressure canner fits the bottom exactly, and I use that to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot. I have tongs* for lifting the jars out of the boiling water. I also have a pressure canner. Each pan holds about seven quart jars and eight or nine pints.
Sometimes, like yesterday, I don't have seven quarts or eight pints to fill the canner, and so I will add a jar of water. I use the filtered water we have in our Brita pitcher, and I top the jars with a previously used canning lid - which I know is a NO, NO, NO! in the canning world. For the record, I'd never reuse a lid on a food that I was planning to store long-term, because, of course, I don't want to poison my family, but I also don't want to waste that food. I spend a lot of time and effort putting that food into those jars to preserve it, and seriously, losing even one jar is really hard - especially if I was counting on that jar for dinner, and I discover it's not been properly sealed.
If there's ever a question about the seal on a jar, I won't use it.
The jars of water serve a couple of purposes. It helps fill the canner so that the jars don't move around, too much, and potentially break. Almost worse than discovering an unsealed jar in my pantry is having a jar break during the sealing process. I hate that.
The jars of water also increase our potable water storage. I'm not a fan of buying water to begin with, and storing stuff, long term, in plastic jugs is questionable, anyway. So, I use canning jars that aren't being used for other things and fill them with water.
The jars are sealed, and so the water is presumably safe to drink. It's been boiled in the jar for however long in the boiling water bath or it's been subjected to the high heat and pressure of the pressure canner. Any living organisms will no longer be living in the water after that, and since I use filtered water in the jars, it has the added benefit of having most things filtered out anyway.
It's a neat little trick for those who are dealing with partial batches, to justify using the energy it takes to seal those jars of food, and it also serves to increase our readiness in emergency situations.
I love these win-win solutions.
*I don't have these, specific, tongs, and that's not an affiliate link, and I've only posted it as an example of what canning tongs look like.