The cold-pack method of canning is a popular way to preserve fruits and vegetables at home; canning makes it possible to enjoy these foods fresh throughout the year and to save on the high cost at supermarkets. Previous generations did canning to preserve food for the winter. Pickles, peppers, relish and salsa are just a few recipes that use a cold-pack method of canning. The cold-pack method uses a water-bath canner instead of a pressure canner.
Purchase pint- or quart-size canning jars. Use only canning jars for processing food at home. Do not use mayonnaise jars or pickle jars; they are not safe for processing. Ball, Kerr and Mason are the most popular canning jars. Purchase the appropriate size lids and rings for the jars you purchase. In some cases, the jars you purchase new will have new lids and rings with them. If you are reusing jars, new lids and rings need to be purchased.
Purchase a jar puller, jar funnel, ladles and colanders. A jar puller looks like a wide pair of tongs. The wide end fits snugly over a hot jar to lift it out of the boiling water. A jar funnel fits perfectly inside a jar for ease of pouring.
Purchase a water-bath canner. Once your jars are filled with your recipe, they will go into the canner for processing. Water-bath canners are available in 7- or 12-pint-jar capacity. They have a removable wire rack on the inside of the canner that enables you to lower and raise the jars in and out of the water without being burned. Typically, jars are processed for 10 to 20 minutes in boiling water to preserve their contents.
Follow your recipe exactly. Canning recipes have been tested and are accurate to accomplish a sealed product that is safe for consumption. Choose recipes like salsa, spaghetti sauce, chow chow or other canning recipes that only require water-bath preserving. Pickles, pickled peppers and other pickled products are also processed with a water-bath or cold-pack method.
Place the jars and lids in the dishwasher and run the dishwasher on a regular cycle to clean and sterilize the jars. If you do not have a dishwasher, place them in a large pot with enough water to cover the jars and boil them for 10 minutes on the stove. Remove them to a towel on the countertop to have them ready for filling.
Fill the water-bath canner half-full of water, without the rack, and set on the stove on medium-high heat to heat the water while you sterilize the jars and assemble the ingredients for your recipe. Keep this water hot but not boiling.
Follow your recipe for filling the sterilized jars. Fresh vegetables and fruit are packed into the jars and then your cooked liquid ingredients from your recipe are poured over the product in the jars. If you are making salsa or another cooked product, fill the jars with this product. Once you fill the jars, put on the lids and rings.
Set the wire rack onto the sides of the water-bath canner, positioned above the water. Place the prepared jars into the wire rack and lower the jars into the water. Place the lid on the canner and heat to boiling. Once again, follow your recipe for processing times, as they are different, depending on what you are canning.
Remove the jars from the water-bath canner when processing is complete and place on a towel on the countertop to cool. Once the jars are cool, you will need to perform a fingertip test to the center of the lid. If the lid does not spring back at your touch, the jars are sealed and can be stored in the pantry for 6 to 12 months. If the jar lids do spring back, that particular jar is not sealed and will need to be placed in the refrigerator. This jar will need to be eaten first, within three weeks.