Canning it: Here’s how to get started

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After a 10-year hiatus, and with lots of excitement, the Master Food Preserver program has officially re-launched in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Master Food Preservers are trained and certified by the University of California Cooperative Extension in food preservation. They are volunteers who provide information and technical assistance to home preservationists in L.A. County.

This spring, 18 trainees began a 12-week program that will cover everything from canning, fermenting and curing to brewing and pickling. As one of the trainees, I’ll be sharing some tips and highlights from the program and hopefully answer your questions on preserving food at home.


The inaugural class started where any reputable cooking course begins, with a lecture on safety and sanitation. For anyone interested in home canning, this is your guide to starting out:

The key to success with food preservation is to always follow a well tested and approved recipe to ensure a safe end result. There is room for creativity in flavor combinations, but no matter what, you should always follow canning guidelines to the letter. It’s the best way to ensure safe results. The two most reliable recipe sources available to the home canner are the USDA/National Center for Home Food Preservation website and the Ball Canning Company Blue Book of Preserving. With more than 125 years of strict testing, they are the unrivaled and undisputed experts. A good recipe will walk you through proper cleaning and handling, ratios and the all-important processing times. Before you undertake any kitchen project, make sure your hands, surfaces, tools and product are clean and in good condition. It’s a simple first step and a good habit to get into.

These tips are basic but also vital points for anyone preserving food at home and definitely the launching point for something delicious.

In the coming weeks we’ll discuss specific types of canning and what’s in season. If you have questions about canning or any other food preservation, the L.A. County Master Food Preservers will have a website and Facebook page up soon.

Next week: Tools for home preserving and canning high-acid foods.

--Rachael Narins