I have to admit, in my pre-canning days, I thought of canning as this mystically complex, nearly lost art. Then one day, someone asked me, "Can you boil water?" Yes. "Can you work a timer?" Yes. "Then you're ready to go." And she was right. It really is that simple to do basic canning. Pressure cooker canning is another matter, but you can keep yourself pretty busy with the type of canning that can be done in a water-bath canner...a whole plethora of recipes--most jellies, relishes, pickles, and many sauces--work with that type of canning!
Many of the descendants of the old general store (Walmart, Meijer, etc) carry these supplies this time of year, but you can also find them online. In fact, when I just googled "canning supplies" I got back 313,000 results! On the other hand, such a response load could be daunting, especially if you're not sure what you need, so here's what I had when I got started:
- a basic canning guide book (This will be full of recipes and technique tips--mine is the Ball Blue Book--as well as things you might not consider, like an altitude chart for adjusted canning times.)
- glass jars (I'd start with a box of pint-sized jars. Lids and rings will be included. Eventually, you'll be able to recycle the jars and just buy fresh lids and/or rings.)
- a boiling-water canner (A new one should come with a jar-rack included. If you get one from a garage sale, check that it isn't rusty--and therefore potentially leaky--around the bottom, and check that it has the rack inside. The rack can be purchased separately if needed.) In fact, you can get them on sale right now at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/ with the canners running around $21 and the racks for about $7.
The smaller utensils that are useful but not absolutely essential include the funnel I mentioned yesterday (although I consider that one nearly essential), a jar lifter (for taking the hot jars out of the canner), and a lid wand (magnetized to lift the jar caps from the hot water where you'll have them just prior to placing them on a jar.)
That is enough to get you started. Over the years I've added the following to my canning kitchen:
a small food processor (bought for $4 at a garage sale.)
a rather large juicer
a second large sauce pot
a candy thermometer
more and more big glass bowls
What's still on my own shopping list includes:
an official spice bag
a jelly bag and stand
a food scale
a stone crock (although I still may never make brine pickles. I just don't like the taste of them.)
Get shopping, and next week, we'll make salsa. Monday, I'll get you the ingredients list so you're ready to go, and Tuesday we'll start canning!