>>I have a son’s bar mitzvah coming up for which my mom is coming, and she is going to try to bring a small number of canning jars with her - maybe a dozen…they sell basic canning supplies from Ball right in the grocery stores, at what I considered to be very reasonable prices. However, I have never canned and wondered if you might have suggestions as to brands of jars, lids, etc., and also what other canning supplies are necessary for water bath canning and where I might purchase them cheaply (in the US). I assume I need to purchase something that the jars rest on to keep them off the bottom of the pot?<<
As many of you know, I was an avid canner in the US and had a huge collection of canning jars (about 1000) but downsized my collection along with everything else when we moved here.
The reason I felt able to do this was because I had an alternate plan for canning supplies when I moved to Israel . This is a good tip for anyone interested in canning, wherever you live, but for those in all countries but in countries where you can’t get canning supplies, it makes the difference between being able to can food or not being able to.
Here are the jars that I use – below they are filled with rendered beef fat, but I use them for just about everything – like storing foods in the pantry and refrigerator as well as for canning.
These are glass jars recycled from store bought products – in my case, marinara sauce. You can use jars of any height or width, small or large. The main thing is that they have pop top lids. You see these safety seal jars everywhere – the lids pop up when you open the jar. The lids operate as a vacuum – and these lids can be resealed again and again if you’re canning (the heat of the rendered fat in the photo above also caused the jars to seal). The lid will be indented when the seal is strong, popped up when the seal is broken. If you don’t buy foods that come in this kind of packaging, then ask friends to save jars for you – I have one friend who has been the source of all of my jars; I probably have about fifty jars thanks to her!
It does take some preparation to use these jars. If you’re a religious Jew, they will need to be toiveled, and completely getting the sticky residue off of the outside of the jars so you can do this is where the real work comes in. What I do is put the jars in boiling water to loosen the labels, peel the labels off, pour a bit of oil on the outside of the jar on the residue, then scrub it off with steel wool. I usually save up a bunch of jars and do them all at once. Fortunately it only has to be done once!
Foods that can be waterbathed include jellies, jams, chutneys, fruits, juices, and pickles. All of these are high acid foods which means they are low risk and easy foods to can. I believe that it would be possible to safely pressure can with these jars – assuming you have a pressure canner and follow proper safety guidelines – but I don’t have a pressure canner anymore so I haven’t tried. Pressure canning requires a lot more knowledge and caution since you’re dealing with low acid foods, so my recommendations right now are just regarding waterbath canning.
If you want to buy canning jars, it doesn’t really matter what company you buy. Most of mine were Kerr or Ball, which are the name brands, but honestly I don’t think there’s a qualitative difference between the generic jars. They are all a standard thickness and the same size. So go for whatever’s cheapest.
The other things that you’ll find helpful are a funnel (to get the food in the jars neatly), a canning jar lifter (to lift the jars out of the pot of boiling water) and a magnetic wand (to lift the lids out of hot water). You can buy these as a set online; I’ve also seen them sold at Walmart. I bought a new set of these before moving, but one of my lovely children took it out of the box it was packed in and I’ve never seen it since. It probably ended up in a box of things that were given away – along with some other new items that were purchased for our move and didn’t make it into the boxes – and whoever bought these things at the thrift store wondered why anyone would have given away those brand new items! When you get a canning jar lifter, if you’re planning to do a lot of canning I strongly recommend getting a good quality one that is solidly constructed and will last.
>>Also, where could I purchase kosher pectin – the low sugar variety, specifically?<<
I bought the low sugar pectic made by Ball, which had a kosher certification. I remember a reader emailing me information about buying pectin in bulk but don’t remember the specifics.