Who knew I had SO much stuff downstairs needing to be canned? That's what happens when you don't keep up on your inventory...ha ha!
Using the portable home canner from the LDS Home Storage Centers is a great way to preserve additional food items for food storage that are not available at the cannery locations, or for preserving items that you've been able to buy in bulk for really good prices.
The canner comes in a big red plastic crate that weighs maybe 50lbs or so. I've wrangled one into and out of my car by myself before without too much trouble; however, don't even think about trying it when you're pregnant! (The folks at the storage center will usually put it on a rolling cart to take out to your car and will help you load it up.)
You will usually need to call ahead to reserve a canner - each location has a limited number of canners available - and it is free to use. The few times that I've called the Murray location, the waiting list has been 1-2 weeks. I've almost always been able to pick up one same-day if I'm willing to go out to Magna. The one I have this weekend came from Sandy and I was able to reserve and pick it up the next day. Each location will vary depending on how many they have, how many are working at the time, and how much local demand there is at the time. Some of the locations have asked for photo id when I've picked the canner up; some have not.
You will also need to buy enough empty #10 cans, lids and oxygen absorbers for all of the items you plan to package. A can, lid and absorber will run you $1.00 right now. You will need an oxygen absorber for all items except sugar. If you are going to can items that are the same as what you would be able to purchase from the cannery, you can ask for labels for your cans (they're free). You will also need to know what items are acceptable for dry-pack canning, and what items are not.
And of course, you'll need to have the "stuff" to can.
From the Random Sampler article "Is Dry-Pack Canning for You?" in the August 1996 Ensign, the following items are NOT appropriate for dry-pack canning:
- pearled barley
- milled-grains and cereals
- whole wheat flour
- nuts, roasted or raw
- brown rice
- baking soda
- baking powder
- mixes containing leavening agents (like biscuit or pancake mix)
- brown sugar
Once you've got everything you need, it's time to set up the canner. You'll need a counter or table with overhang. The canner will come with two large c-clamps to secure it. You'll also need access to a 3-prong electrical outlet or a heavy-duty extension cord (one of those orange ones).
There is a foot-long handle that extends out to the right of the canner - it will be clamped to the side when you pull it out of the plastic crate. Un-clamp it and secure it to the red triangle at the top right of the canner. There are two lines and a pressure guage on the end of the handle, to show you have far to pull and push the handle. DO NOT push or pull the handle past those lines or you will risk breaking the machine (and they are not cheap to repair or replace). However, you DO want to get fairly close to the lines - too far away and your lid won't seal all the way down.
The canners that I've used have had the instructions printed right on the top, and then other canning guidelines posted on the front column, so everything you need to know is right there. If it's your first time renting the canner, let the service missionaries know and they will usually pull one out for you and walk you through using it and setting it up.
You'll want to fill your cans with your product, up to about 1/4" from the top. Gently shake the can a few times as you fill it to get the stuff inside to settle.
Once filled, you're ready to add oxygen absorbers and lids and seal them up! You'll want to work in small batches because you don't want the oxygen absorbers exposed to the air for too long. I found working in batches of 6-8 was pretty manageable on my own, and we could do 10ish when there were two of us (one running the canner and the other prepping cans).
Place one oxygen absorber in each can, on top, and then stick a lid on your can.
Make sure to seal the oxygen absorbers back up in between batches.
Take your can and lid and place it on the white silicone circle base of the canner. Raise the red handle underneath to clamp your can down - it's a little wobbly so you'll need to make sure you center the can and lid as it meets the top of the sealer.
Start the sealer by pushing on the button at the bottom front. PUSH the handle AWAY from you, and hold in that position as the can makes THREE revolutions around (look for the seam line on the can, or a date stamp on the bottom edge, or a label if you're using them - make sure that goes around FOUR times, which will equal THREE revolutions of the can). Then let the handle go back to "neutral" and then PULL the handle TOWARDS you until it reaches the back line, and hold for another THREE revolutions. Once done, release the handle back to neutral, release the button to stop the can from spinning, and lower your can back down. Take your can off the sealer and check to make sure that you have a nice, tight, curved seal on the bottom edge of your lid. If it is "wrinkled", run it through the sealer again and make sure you are getting the handle close to the push and pull lines.
That's about it. Make sure you label your cans with the contents and packaging date! Now just keep doing this, over and over, until you've gone through all your cans! ;) Here's what it looked like when all was said and done this weekend:
We ended up doing a total of 108 cans that included steel-cut oats, flour, sugar, powdered sugar, calrose rice, long-grain rice, black beans, white beans, and pasta. And I've been informed that I'm not allowed to buy any more long-term food storage stuff until I have a current inventory list and can prove that it's a necessary purchase...he he he! ;)