First, let's look at the equipment you will need. I have a Norpro 18 Quart Porcelain Enamel Canning Pot. However, you don't necessarily need the same pot as I do. Any very large pot will do. Next you'll need some sort of canning starter kit, I bought the Back to Basics 286 5-Piece Home Canning Kit. This has everything you'll need: jar lifter, jar funnel, and magnet pen. You will also need a ladle.
She gets a lot of use...
Never forget the ladle!
The key to canning is efficiency. You don't want your product getting cold, being poured into a warm jar on a cool counter, then bringing that jar up to a boil in your pot. That will make the jar shatter and all that hard work will be for naught.
So, set up your kitchen with towels and/or place mats. I find that placemats work great for canning. Place your empty jars in your canning pot, fill your pot with water until the jars are covered and set the heat on high. I always bring up my jars to boiling at the same time as the water to reduce chances of breakage.
This takes awhile, so start this first before you start on your product. You can let the jars boil in there all day long if you want. It won't hurt them. If you do it this way, you won't have to worry about bringing your jars back up to temperature. You also want to make sure you boil your jars for 10 minutes to sterilize them before you fill them with your product. However, when you take the jars out to fill them with product, you want to turn the heat off.
Place your lids and rings in a heat proof bowl. Once the water is at a rolling boil in the canning pot, using your ladle, fill that bowl with the boiling water. This will soften the rubber on the lids giving you a higher chance of seal when processing.
Once your product is ready to can, pull out the jars and carefully pour out the boiling water from the jars. Place your jars on a placemat. For the sake of efficiency and reduction in mess, I always place my product right by my jars. Place your funnel on your jars and start filling. Each recipe is different on how much head space you need to give for a proper seal, so be sure to read the recipe carefully before starting the canning process.
These are pictures from my 3 Citrus Marmalade. We will visit this recipe in the future!
Once you finish filling your jars, wipe the rims with a damp papertowel to remove any gunk from the rims, this helps in ensuring a seal. Using your magnet pen, place the lids on your jars.
Once all your lids are on, screw on the rings only until they are finger tip tight. You don't want to crank these on.
Using your jar lifter, place them in your pot, turn the heat back on and when the water comes up to a rolling boil, thats when you start your process time. It will take a little while for the water to come back up to a boil, so be patient. Once the processing time is done, turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the pot for 5 extra minutes. When that 5 minutes is up, pull out the jars with your jar lifter, let any water fall off the top, and place them on a place mat on your counter. You should start hearing the "ping" of sealing jars. After they've been cooling on your counter for an hour, you want to check the seal.
The easiest (and coolest) way to check the seal is to remove the rings and lift the jar up by the lid. If you can pick up the whole jar, it is sealed. If the seal comes off at all during that lift, it did not seal correctly. You can either reprocess or place in the fridge and eat it within the next few weeks.
If they sealed, leave them on the counter, undisturbed until they are cool. I normally let them sit overnight. Once they are totally cooled, wipe them down so that there is no gunk that can cause sealing failure overtime, label, and store them in a dark cabinet. One important tip: you do NOT want to store the jars with the rings still ON. The ring can rust on to the jar and then it's a royal pain to get off.
And now you know the basics! Happy Canning!