canning books for the complete novice

PNWGirl(8)July 19, 2012


If this hits twice, sorry. Thought I sent this out earlier but don't see it, so creating again.

I am brand new to canning and am in the process of getting my supplies.

I am getting the Ball book but was looking at these two. Can anyone tell me if one is better than the other (for newbies)?

Canning and Preserving For Dummies

Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry

Thank you!

Sheila :)

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

IMO neither is for newbies. They are not approved or certified to meet USDA standards AFAIK. Stick with the approved books until you gain enough experience to recognize recipes that are unsafe.

Look into So Easy to Preserve from NCHFP and Small Batch Preserving. Several discussions here about safe books. Here is a good one:


Here is a link that might be useful: NCHFP

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 10:00PM
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I'm a rookie at this too. Among other things, I went to my local public library and they have a ton of books and even a video dvd on home canning. The only thing I can suggest is to make sure the books are very recent to reflect the modern current up to date methods.

You might also check and see if any local groups are offering canning classes. Your local county extension office might be a good resource too.

There are some good vides on YouTube, but be careful, some of those people are doing things NOT SAFE. But the Ball company has some of their very own videos and I think that anything from Ball has just about got to be safe and right.

This coming Saturday our local Williams Sonoma is offering a free class in preserving and canning tomatoes. I am going to be there for sure.

Learn all you can but always keep an open mind and eye, not all you learn may be true, correct and safe. If in doubt, just back off and be safe, don't take any chances.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 10:46PM
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Thank you! I did not come up with the other thread, when I did my original search. I am looking forward to getting all of my equipment and getting started!
Sheila :)

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 11:39PM
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Well, it's just my personal opinion, but I would NOT get a new canner made in china. I'd rather get a good used one made in the good ol' USA. I just don't trust anything made in china.

Best wishes, take care and be well

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 11:49PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I had a copy of Canning and Preserving for Dummies and found it appropriately safe and cautious in its recommendations.

However, there's nothing in it that you can't find on the NCHFP site, so you might as well save your money. The NCHFP provides thorough reliable instructions in all aspects of canning.

The NCHFP also provides a free self-paced online canning course. Highly recommended.

The Ball Blue Book is also a good resource or the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for a more complete selection of recipes.

I do not trust Williams-Sonoma and do not recommend their latest book. I found several questionable recipes and emailed them with questions. I never did get a satisfactory answer and found some replies condescending. (I used to love Williams-Sonoma.)

For the same reason, I don't recommend library books unless they have been vetted here or from other reliable sites. I purged the collection of one of our local libraries and found several canning books in the collection that were downright scary. Librarians tend to order what's been reviewed enthusiastically, but in canning that's not necessarily the most reliable source.

I haven't seen Canning for a New Generation and can't find enough information to draw any conclusions. The author did say all the recipes are high-acid foods, but what that means I don't know.

I just read an interview in our local big-city paper with the author of another canning book who said no one needs to worry about canning fruits because they're all high-acid. I assume she forgot about Asian pears, bananas, figs, mangoes and melons. Then they included a recipe for cantaloupe jam.

So it's really buyer beware when it comes to these things.

Two book frequently discussed here are Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard's Small-Batch Preserving and Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'em Up! but even then, I think for the beginner it's best to stick with the standards.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 3:43AM
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Carol, thank you! I did not notice the on-line course at the NCHFP site. I will do that. I did check for local classes but what is offered is a $300 course and I can not afford that (my money is going to 'start' up equipment). I got the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving as it was published a little later than the other. I kept reading posts saying to make sure that you got the latest books :)

I am SO glad that I found this forum BEFORE starting!! I had no idea. My memory, on canning, is my Grandmother- when I was a child- and times have certainly changed!!

Sheila :)

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 11:12AM
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Ask your friends if they can or know of someone. Then visit someone while canning. A possible idea is to ask to purchase produce & can together splitting the results using your own jars. Reading a book isn't the same as hands-on experience.

Another idea is to work with a partner whether family member or friend. Then someone else can remember details & keep steps in check. Countless times when canning with my school age children we worked together and discovered errors. Two heads are better than one. Our married daughter cans even more things now and is teaching her friends who are interested. It's a learnable skill for sure & valuable.

I'd suggest you practice with the easy things like jams, fruit sauces (applesauce, chutney, etc.), & tomatoes that can be processed in a boiling water bath. Save the pressure canning items for later on.

Can what you eat regularly and only try a few new things. You might decide you don't like apple butter & if you've canned an entire box of it you might be disappointed that your jars can't be used for more blackberry jam. Also, you might prefer the taste of frozen peaches over canned peaches. Sometimes we just eat the ripe peaches & save the rest in the freezer rather than can a box of peaches. Peaches are easy, but time consuming whether peeling or not. I was bummed my quarts were full and I couldn't process concord grapes into juice concentrate for winter eating.

In the beginning you can't have too many jars especially if you're doing large things.

If you run out of time just wash & measure fruits for future batches of jams & sauces. Works great for berries & plums. We've also saved measured raspberries with sugar until a cooler day when we had more energy to process them. Works fine for freezer jam, too.

Nothing beats the taste of homemade with good quality ingredients whether home grown or fresh produce purchased locally.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 4:14PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Ask your friends if they can or know of someone. Then visit someone while canning. A possible idea is to ask to purchase produce & can together splitting the results using your own jars. Reading a book isn't the same as hands-on experience.

I would agree IF that other person actually knows what they are doing and has kept current on the guidelines. Unfortunately that are all sorts of friends and family out there who are simply passing on unsafe methods and bad recipes because they don't know any better or based on the theory that no one has died from it yet.

In those cases a new home canner is much better off learning on their own.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 10:43PM
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Dave is so right with his answer! I'm so glad I found this forum early on. I'd been to the library, and perused all of their books. I saw they were old (some as old as 1978), but didn't realize that meant that they might contain unsafe or outdated practices. An early internet search tumbled me onto this site and I'm so glad it did. I do have family members who can. One uses her own cooking recipes and does not think twice about doubling peppers in salsa recipes. A cousin still makes her jams and jellies with the Inversion method. Another cousin said she would never make pickles without being careful of the recipe, but next said she makes her own salsa recipe, too. That's not to say it isn't safe, because I haven't actually seen the recipe, but my bet says it isn't. I have gently mentioned that to buy an up-to-date canning book is a good idea, but one cousin says that the one she bought when she got her first canner (1970 something) is still good. Another one serves her home-canned goods, then jokes that I have different ideas about canning. My mother is 90 and hasn't done any canning in over 40-50 years, so even if her methods were safe, she said she is so out of practice she doesn't remember all of the procedures. She learned from her parents. So, I'm sort of glad I'm learning on my own and was smart enough to develop a pretty good sense of which websites have reliable information and which ones don't. I have always received good advice here. Because I don't know anyone who takes it as seriously as I do, I am very uncomfortable eating any home-canned items that were canned by anyone else.


    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 8:45AM
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Thank you all for your responses!!

I have purchased The Ball Blue Book and The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

I am afraid that all of my family (that cans) are on the East Coast and I am in the PNW. Nor do I have friends that can, in fact they think it's odd or quaint that I am doing this.

My plan, since I have not done this since I was a child with my Grandmother, is to follow the book and bug you guys with questions when I flub up :)

I appreciate you letting me know of what not to do and where not to go for information. SO glad that I found this site when I was researching canners!

Sheila :)

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 11:48AM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Sheila, I am really surprised no one around you cans and thinks it's "quaint." We're immersed in the canning culture here in the Portland area.

I give my MIL a lot of credit. She always kept up-to-date on the latest canning practices. In fact, she first told me about the change in canning tomatoes with added acid.

I have always been grateful for her example that age is no barrier to change. It's mainly a matter of attitude.

(The inversion method for jams won't hurt anyone. But you are more likely to have product loss due to mold and more seal failures. So from my perspective it's wasted effort.)


    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 12:45PM
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Check into classes or lectures run by your local extension office. Canning has become more popular around here and so our one home canning instructor in the state has scheduled a series of $5 "lectures" at various campuses and a couple of hands-on classes (only $15) at the main campus/food lab.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 7:26AM
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