I’m not a gadget kinda gal.
We don’t even own a microwave, so I easily ignored the latest “must-have” tools that were guaranteed to make my life better. My beloved, however, loves gadgets. Any kind of gadgets. We have closets full of latest, greatest gadgets he couldn’t live without. Perhaps his quest to find the perfect whatsit is the reason why I like to keep things simple. Give me an aged wooden spoon, a potato masher, a great pair of kitchen scissors, and I’ll make you dinner.
When I started canning, my sister gave me a lid lifter. That is when I discovered that having the right tool, at the right time, really could improve any process. That little stick with its handy magnet greatly improved my ability to retrieve sterilized rings and lids from a boiling saucepan. I wish I had invented it. Then my sister gave me a few other tools, a crock, and a recipe book for Christmas. With each new gadget, my process improved. My time was respected. My efforts lessened.
When I started canning applesauce, my sister advised me to get an apple machine. I hedged, thinking I didn’t need it. After all, I owned a knife and a vegetable peeler. But like a good sister, I went to Amazon to investigate this must-have and much-anticipated space waster. When I entered apple machine in their search box, it provided all kinds of apple related “stuff.” I cringed. Then I saw it. A perfect little gadget that sliced, cored, and peeled apples — perfectly. And it was red. There was no question, I had to have it — express shipped. It’s the only gadget, i.e. tool, that I own that I actually store in its original box in its plastic liner bag! Each fall, I lovingly retrieve my apple machine from the cabinet, carefully unwrap it, and use it to process all the apples I get from the Farmers Market. After each use, it’s hand-washed, re-wrapped in its original packaging, and returned to the cabinet. And in case you wondered, I pat its box before closing the door. It deserves such attention.
Last year, I began to wonder if it was possible to reduce the amount of time I spend standing over a hot stove while jars are processing in a water bath. I pondered whether it would be possible (and safe) to double stack small jars. Could it be possible to process twice the amount of jars during a single canning? After another internet search, I discovered that, yes, it was possible when you place a round cake rack on top of the bottom jars. Then I discovered that I could make my own rack by wiring canning rings together, creating a crafty solution. It thrills my heart every time I make jellies or jams because now I double stack their jars in my stockpot. I feel so efficient.
Now that I’ve discovered preservation gadgets, from time to time, I’ll purchase something new just to experiment. Lately, I decided that I owned all the gadgets I could ever need. But Williams-Sonoma started marketing food preservation tools. So I pulled out the credit card and didn’t even bother looking at the final tally. It’s an investment, right? You bet it is!
The ordered items arrived this weekend, including a new canning funnel. I can’t wait to try it out. It has headspace measurements printed on its side — thus eliminating that frustrating measuring stick. No more will I balance a piece of notched plastic on the lip of a jar. The thought of having both hands available when hot-packing tomatoes makes me giddy. Plus, it’s red. It was destined for Tomatopalooza.
You don’t have to have a lot of fancy tools to start canning. But my sister was right: it’s important to have the right tools. Tools that work for you and make it easier for you to achieve your project. Here are a few of the canning tools that I can’t live without. Most of these you can purchase in a bundled set, including the water bath canner.
Canning Funnel – You can purchase this little wizard from Williams-Sonoma for $7.95.
Canning Lid Lifter – You can purchase a lid lifter anywhere that sells canning jars. Or you can buy this nifty red one from Williams-Sonoma for $2.95
Jar Tongs – You can also purchase jar tongs anywhere that sells canning jars. Or you can buy one (again red) from Williams-Sonoma for $9.95.
Lid Rack – My newest canning tool. While my little lid lifter does the job perfectly, I really like how this keeps the lids organized, from Amazon for $9.12.
Big Plastic Bowls – You can purchase big plastic bowls at any discount store. They are perfect for any project.
Extra Canner Rack – I wired these rings together. Most of them were well worn and a little rusted. Rather than using them on my jars, they make a perfect rack for double stacking.