Home Canning and preserving is very rewarding, but for those of you new to the science and math, canning can be quite daunting and often times challenging. Understanding the many terms used to describe various ingredients, techniques and methodologies are the building blocks for a successful and safe canning experience.

Use my Glossary of Canning & Culinary Terms to safely, and confidently, maneuver through any canning recipe or cookbook. With this handy guide, you will be well on your way to canning success in no time!

acetic acid: The component of vinegar that gives it a soured taste. The clear, liquid acid is the primary acid in vinegar. For pickling, vinegar must have 5 percent acetic acid.

acid: Most foods are somewhat acidic. Foods generally referred to as acidic include citrus juice, vinegar, and wine. Degree of acidity is measured on the pH scale; acids have a pH of less than 7. Acid ingredients react with bases to form salts and water. They have a sour taste. A chemical compound that yields hydrogen ions when in solution.

air bubble remover tool: The opposite end of a headspace measure tool used to release trapped air in jars packed with foods. It is also used to tamp down food in jars to pack more in. This tool can also be the handle of a wooden spoon, a small silicone spatula, or a chopstick.

aerobic bacteria: Bacteria that requires the presence of oxygen to function.

anaerobic environment: Means “without oxygen” and is the opposite of aerobic. An enclosed environment lacking free oxygen.

arbol chiles: Similar to cayenne peppers.

ascorbic acid: Another name for vitamin C. A water-soluble vitamin that is used in food preparation to minimize browning of some vegetables and fruits. Often used together with citric acid, which is derived from lemon or lime juice, in commercially prepared blends to treat fruits to prevent browning.

bacteria: Microorganisms found in the air, soil, and water. Harmful bacteria can survive in low-acid environments and produce toxins that can be deadly. For this reason, low-acid foods are pressure canned to enable heating to 240°F, a temperature that kills these bacteria.

blanch: The process of placing a food item in boiling water or steam for a short period of time. Blanching is always followed by an ice water bath to quickly cool the food item and prevent further cooking. This process is used to inactivate enzymes in foods, as well as to loosen the skin or peel of some fruits and vegetables.

boil: Bringing a liquid to the temperature in which bubbles continuously break its surface.  At sea level, the boiling point is 212°F, while at altitudes above 1,000 feet, this is achieved at a lower temperature.

boil, full rolling: Boiling that cannot be stirred down. This type of boiling, often accompanied by foaming, is essential when making cooked jams and jellies. The temperature to achieve a rolling boil is 220°F.

botulism: This is an uncommon, but potentially serious, type of food poisoning caused by ingesting the toxin produced by spores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. If vegetables and meats are not properly prepared and processed, any spore present in a sealed jar, which is an anaerobic environment, will survive and produce the toxin. Improperly processed low-acid foods are most susceptible. Using correct processing temperature and time to destroy the toxin-producing bacteria. Boiling foods for 10 minutes prior to consuming will kill the bacteria that produces the toxin.

bouquet garni: A bouquet garni is a bundle of herbs usually tied together with a string and mainly used to flavor soups, stocks, casseroles and various stews.

brine: A solution used in the pickling process. Typically contains salt and water, although other ingredients such as spices or sugar can also be included.

butter (fat): A yellow to white solid emulsion of fat globules, water and sale produced by churning cows’ milk. Butter has long been used as an edible cooking fat. It is comprised of 80% fat with almost no protein. Although may describe butter as a dairy product because it is derived from milk, butter contains nearly undetectable trace amounts of lactose making it safe for home canning. It is also high in acid with a pH of 6.1 to 6.4.

butter (fruit): A soft spread created using puréed fruit and sugar cooked over a low temperature until thickened. Best for tree fruits (apples, apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums); tropical fruits (guava, mango, passion fruit pineapple).

candy thermometer: A type of cooking thermometer that is fitted with clips or hooks to attach it to a pan. Used primarily in jam and jelly making to determine when the product will gel, which is typically around 220°F.

canning liquid: Any liquid used in canning to cover food products in the jar. This can be water, brine, broth, syrup, or juice. The liquid is instrumental to heat penetration in the jar, as well as preventing foods from darkening.

cassoulet: Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole originating in the south of France, containing meat, pork skin and white beans. The dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, a deep, round, earthenware pot with slanting sides.

cheese: A sliceable preserve, typically made from tree fruits (apples, apricots, nectarines peaches, pears, plums); tropical fruits (guava, mango, passion fruit pineapple).

cheesecloth: A woven cloth designed for kitchen use. Used to drain juice from fruits and to form a spice bag to hold whole spices during cooking.

chinois – A chinois is a conical sieve with an extremely fine mesh. It is used to strain custards, purees, soups, and sauces, producing a very smooth texture. It can also be used to dust food with a fine layer of powdered ingredient.

chutney: A sweet and sour condiment made from fruits or vegetables, vinegar, and spices. Best when cured for at least one month after canning to ensure flavors are well blended.

citric acid: An acid derived from citrus fruit. It is found in pectin and assists with gel formation, as well as commercial produce protectors to prevent oxidation of light-colored fruits.

citric acid bath: The Blend of 1/2 cup bottled lemon juice with 8 cups water used to prevent fruit, and some vegetables, browning. Foods are submerged in the citric acid bath during preparation, then rinsed and used in canning and dehydrating recipes.

ClearJel (Canning Gel): A thickening agent made from modified food starch that does not break down when heated to high temperatures or reheated after cooling. Commercially available and approved by the USDA for use in home canning.

conserve: Made from a combination of fruits, often including nuts, and frequently served with roasted meats. Best for citrus fruits, berries (blackberries, blueberries, currants, raspberries, strawberries); tree fruits (apples, apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums); tropical fruits (guava, mango, passion fruit pineapple); grapes; peppers (bell peppers and chiles).

curd: A thick spread typically made from citrus fruit (lemon, lime, tangerine, orange). Curds have more juice and zest than other spreads, giving them an intense fruit flavor that pairs well with cakes, tarts, breads, and scones.

danger zone: The temperature range, 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit at which foods spoil. Perishable foods should be held at temperatures above or below this temperature range.

debone: To remove the bones from meat or poultry

deglaze: Swirling or stirring a liquid, such as stock or wine, in a pan to dissolve cooked food particles on the bottom of the pan; resulting mixture usually is used as a base for a sauce

dehydrate: To remove most of the moisture from food by drying it slowly in the oven or commercial dehydrator.

Demera sugar: Also known as ‘brown sugar’ or ‘light brown sugar’ with large golden crystals which are slightly sticky from adhering molasses. It is popular in England for tea, coffee or to top hot cereals.

dente, al: This Italian term is used to describe food that is not too soft and offers a slight resistance “to the teeth”.

dextrose: A naturally occurring form of glucose. Dextrose is available as a white crystal or powder and is less sweet than granulated sugar. It is also called corn sugar or grape sugar. Dextrose is widely used as an ingredient in commercial food products. It is found in commercial pectin and produce protectors and functions as a bulking agent or filler.

dial-gauge pressure canner: A pressure canner fitted with a one-piece 15 psi pressure regulator and a visual indicator (gauge) which provides the pounds of pressure within the canner.

dice: to cut into smaller pieces, roughly the size of ¼ inch or into small cubes no larger than ½ inch.

dill: A pungent, aromatic herb that can be used fresh or dried. Fresh dill has feathery green leaves. The most useful dried form is dill seeds. In fresh preserving, dill is primarily used for pickling. One head of fresh dill is equivalent to 1 to 2 tsp (5 to 10 mL) dill seeds or 2 tsp (10 mL) dried dillweed.

Dijon Mustard: A prepared mustard (originally made in Dijon, France) which may be either mild or highly seasoned. Most recipes when calling for Dijon mustard are referring to the highly seasoned variety. A good American Brand is Grey Poupon.

dilute: To add liquid to make less concentrated.

dissolve: Stirring a dry substance into a liquid until solids are no longer remaining. For example, stirring salt into water to make pickling brine.

divided: Equally portioning dough before shaping or oil in batches for browning meat.

drain: to remove liquid from a food product using a strainer or colander.

drippings: The fat and juices left in the pan after they were drawn from meat or poultry as it cooked.

E. coli: A species of bacteria that is normally present in the human intestines. A common strain, Escherichia coli 0157:H7, produces high levels of toxins and, when consumed, can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, chills, headaches and high fever. In some cases, it can be deadly.

elk: A large member of the deer family. Elk meat is called “venison.” Antelope, caribou, elk, deer, moose and reindeer meat is also classified as venison, the most popular large animal game meat in the U.S.

emulsion: A mixture of two or more liquids. There are three kinds of emulsions; temporary, semi-permanent and permanent. An example of a temporary emulsion is a simple vinaigrette which quickly separates after resting. Mayonnaise is an example of a permanent emulsion as there is no separation. Home canned emulsion soups such as Carrot Soup and Asparagus Soup are examples of semi-permanent emulsion as they will separate over time during long-term storage; however, with a quick shake of the jar or mix in the saucepan upon heating, the liquids will rejoin.

enzyme: A protein found in foods that begins the process of decomposition. Enzymes can change the texture, color, and flavor of fruits and vegetables. Food preservation methods deactivate these enzymes to permit long-term storage of foods.

epazote: Strong, bitter perennial herb used primarily to flavor beans; also known as Mexican tea, stinkweed, pigweed, wormseed or goosefoot; occasionally mistaken for lamb’s lettuce; grows wild in the United States and Mexico; flavor is intense, reminiscent of eucalyptus; used for tea, stews, soups, green pipi ns and moles; cooked with all types of beans to reduce their gaseous qualities.

exhausting (jar): Forcing air to escape from a closed jar by applying heat. As a food or liquid is heated, it expands upward and forces air from the jar through pressure buildup in the headspace.

extract: Flavors from various foods that have been concentrated by distillation or evaporation.

fermentation: A process by which a food goes through a chemical change precipitated by enzymes produced from yeast, bacteria, or microorganisms. A reaction caused by yeasts that have not been destroyed during the processing of preserved food. Bubble formation and scum are signs that fermentation is taking place. With the exception of some pickles that use intentional fermentation in preparation, do not consume fermented fresh preserved foods.

fillet: a boned, trimmed, lean piece of fish.

finely diced: Especially small, also referred to as finely chopped, where the food is cut into 1/8 inch size cubes but not as small as mined.

fingertip-tight: The degree to which screw bands are properly applied to fresh preserving jars. Use your fingers to screw the band down until resistance is met, then gently increase to fingertip-tight. Do not use the full force of your hand to over-tighten bands or it will result in buckling the lids.

first in, first out: An inventory rotation system to consume your older home canned goods before consuming those more recently preserved in a jar.

flavor: To add seasoning or other ingredients to food to enhance its taste.

fold: To gently mix two or more ingredients together by softly lifting up and over from the sides to the center.

food poisoning: Any illness caused by the consumption of harmful bacteria and their toxins. The symptoms are usually gastrointestinal.

food mill: A mechanical kitchen tool used to purée soft foods. A food mill separates the skins and seeds of the fruits or vegetables on its top, and the puréed food is collected below.

freeze: To preserve food by placing it in temperatures below 32°F/0°C so that the moisture solidifies.

freezer burn: A loss of moisture in foods when inappropriately wrapped, packaged or handled before freezing. Texture and flavor of food is compromised and the food has white or gray spots on its surface.

freezer paper: A plastic-coated Kraft paper used for wrapping foods for freezing and for general household purposes. The plastic coating provides a barrier to air and moisture to protect the quality, flavor and nutrition of foods during freezing; the paper provides strength and durability as well as an easy-to-write-on surface.

fresh-pack pickles: Pickles created by canning cucumbers in a brine solution without fermentation. In some cases, these cucumbers are brined before canning. For the best flavor, fresh-packed pickles should be left to sit for 4 to 6 weeks before eating.

fruit pectin: A substance found naturally in some fruits such as apples that possess the ability to gel liquids. It is an essential ingredient in making jelly and jam. Pectin can be purchased in powder and liquid form or created by finely dicing or mincing apples.

funnel: A plastic utensil that is placed in the mouth of a fresh preserving jar to allow for easy pouring of a food product into the jar. Funnels help prevent spillage and waste.

gasket: A rubber ring that sits along the inside circumference of a pressure canner lid and comes in contact with the base when locked into place. The gasket provides a seal between the lid and the base so steam cannot escape.

gazpacho: A cold soup made from vegetables, typically tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions.

gelling agent: Any substance that acts to form a gel-like structure by binding liquid such as pectin or Canning Gel.

gel stage: The point at which a soft spread becomes a full gel. The gelling point is 220°F (104°C), or 8°F (4°C) above the boiling point of water.

generous inch headspace: The space at the top of a canning jar that is left unfilled. Headspace varies based on the food type and is essential for creating a proper lid seal. In particular, a headspace measuring tool is notched to rest on the rim of the jar with etched measurements from ¼ inch to 1 inch. A generous inch refers to leaving additional space below the 1 inch mark. This additional space is approximate and is typically an additional ¼ inch of space in addition to the 1 inch mark.

glaze: To coat foods with mixtures such as jellies or sauces.

grate: Creates tiny pieces of food, best for things like cheese to melt quickly or a vegetable used in a sauce.

grease: To coat the interior of a pan or dish with shortening, oil, or butter to prevent food from sticking during cooking.

griddle: A heavy metal surface, which may be either fitted with handles, built into a stove, or heated by its own gas or electric element. Cooking is done directly on the griddle.

grill: A cooking technique in which foods are cooked by a radiant heat source placed below the food. Also, the piece of equipment on which grilling is done. Grills may be fueled by gas, electricity, charcoal, or wood.

grill pan: A skillet with ridges that is used to simulate grilling on the stovetop.

gumbo: A Creole soup/stew thickened with file or okra.

hand-tighten: Also known as “fingertip-tight,” this is the degree to which a canning ring is turned by hand to properly secure it onto the screw bands of the glass canning jar. Turn the ring until resistance is met, then stop turning. Do not use the full force of your hands to overtighten the ring. If you feel you have overtightened the ring onto the screw bands, unscrew the ring, then turn back just until you feel the resistance stop.

hash: Chopped, cooked meat, usually with potatoes and/or other vegetables, which is seasoned, bound with a sauce, and sautéed. Also, to chop.

headspace: The space at the top of a canning jar that is left unfilled. Headspace varies based on the food type and is essential for creating a proper lid seal.

headspace measuring tool: This tool was created specifically for home canning to properly measure the free oxygen left in the interior of the jar after it is filled with food. It is notched to rest on the rim of the jar with etched measurements from ¼ inch to 1 inch.

hermetic seal: A seal so tight it prevents a food product against the entry of microorganisms and maintains commercial sterility.

high-acid food: A food or recipe mixture with a pH value of 4.6 or lower. Fruits, fruit juices, tomatoes, jams, and jellies are naturally high-acid foods. Vinegar, citric acid, and lemon and lime juice lowers a recipe’s pH, making the overall recipe a high-acid food. High-acid foods can be preserved safely by processing in a hot water bath using boiling water temperature of 212°F (100°C).

home canning: The process of preserving foods in glass jars by using time, temperature and acidity to properly kill harmful microorganisms and food-borne pathogens that cause spoilage and illness. The goal of home canning is to have a ready-made food source stored for long-term use and consumption.

hot-pack method: This method uses preheated, hot food to fill jars prior to processing. Filling jars with preheated food expels air from the fibers of the food and allows food to be packed more tightly.

hull: Refers to the husk, shell or external covering of a fruit. More specifically, it is the leafy green part of a strawberry.

hygiene: Conditions and practices followed to maintain health, including kitchen clean up and personal cleanliness to avoid food contamination and illness.

infuse: Steeping an aromatic or other item in liquid to extract its flavor. Also, the liquid resulting from this process. In particular, this technique is used when making herb jelly or ginger tea.

infusion: An infusion is the flavor that’s extracted from any ingredient such as spices, herbs, or fruit by steeping them in a liquid such as water, oil, or vinegar. A common infusion is using a pickling spice bag and infusing their flavors into the vinegar when making brine.

instant-reading thermometer: A thermometer used to measure the internal temperature of foods. The stem is inserted in the food, producing an instant temperature read-out.

jacquarding: This cooking term means the process of poking holes into the muscle of meat in order to tenderize it, also known as needling.

jam: A soft, thick spreadable preserve containing one or more crushed fruits and sugar. Commercial pectin is optional and Canning Gel may be used to lessen the sugar content. Best for berries (blackberries, blueberries, currants, raspberries, strawberries); tree fruits (apples, apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums); tropical fruits (guava, mango, passion fruit, pineapple); grapes; peppers (bell peppers and chiles) as well as tomatoes (green tomatoes and ripened red tomatoes).

jar: A glass container, often referred to as a Mason jar, used to preserve food and/or liquids. Jars must be designed to seal with two-piece closures and able to withstand high temperatures and the continued use associated with home canning.

jelly: A clear, spreadable, soft preserve made with fruit juice and sugar. Commercial pectin is optional. Best for berries (blackberries, blueberries, currants, raspberries, strawberries); tree fruits (apples, apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums); tropical fruits (guava, mango, passion fruit pineapple); grapes; peppers (bell peppers and chiles).

jelly bag: A mesh cloth bag used to strain juice from fruit pulp when making jellies. A strainer lined with layers of cheesecloth may be substituted. Both the jelly bag and cheesecloth need to be dampened with water before use.

jelly strainer: A stainless steel tripod stand fitted with a large ring. A jelly bag is placed over the ring. The stand has feet that hold it onto a bowl to allow juice to strain from the bag than captured into the bowl.

julienne: Vegetables, potatoes, or other items cut into thin strips; 1/8 inch by 1/8 inch by 1 to 2 inches (3 mm by 3 mm by 25 to 50 mm) is standard. Fine julienne is 1/16 inch by 1/16 inch by 1 to 2 inches/ 1.5 inches.

jus lie: Meat juice that has been lightly thickened with either corn starch, Canning Gel, flour or any binding thickener.

lactic acid: The acid produced during fermentation. The fermentation process converts the natural sugars in food to lactic acid, which, in turn, controls the growth of undesirable microorganisms by lowering the pH (increasing the acidity) of the food product and its environment. Lactic acid also adds a distinctive tart flavor and transforms low-acid foods into high-acid foods.

ladle: A canning utensil with a long handle with a cup-shaped bowl at the end. It is used to carefully fill a Mason jar with a recipe, also used to serve soups and stews.

larding: The process of inserting strips of fat into a piece of meat that doesn’t have as much fat, to melt and keep the meat from drying out.

legume: The mature seeds that grow inside pods, such as lentils, beans and peas. They are eaten for their earthy flavors and high nutritional value. Also, the French word for vegetable.

lemon juice: In home canning recipes, lemon juice is used to ensure the proper acidic pH level. Because the acid in fresh lemons is variable, it is important to use bottled lemon juice when the recipe specifies it to ensure the safety of the finished product. When fresh lemon juice is called for, either bottled or fresh can be used.

lentil: These are tiny bean-like seeds. They are one of the first plants used for foods. The Egyptians and Greeks cooked these small legumes and so did the Romans.

lid: A flat metal disc with a flanged edge lined with sealing compound used in combination with a metal screw band for vacuum-sealing fresh preserving jars. Reusable canning lids are often made of BPA plastic and the rubber sealing compound is a separate ring meant to be adhered to the plastic lid prior to affixing to the rim of the jar.

long-boil soft spread: A sugar and fruit mixture boiled to concentrate fruit’s natural pectin and evaporate moisture until a thick or gelled texture is achieved. Long boiling works best with fruits containing naturally high pectin levels like apples. This process also works well with sweet onions and produces a caramelized flavor.

low-acid food: A food or recipe mixture with a pH value higher than 4.6. Vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood are all low-acid foods. Low-acid foods rely solely on time and temperature to kill harmful microorganisms. Therefore, recipes with a 4.6 or higher pH value must be processed for longer and at a higher temperature from 240°F to 260°F (116°C to 127°C). Foods or recipes that are dense or a bit thicker will need additional time in the canner to ensure the heat fully penetrates each piece of food within the jar.

macerate: The soaking of an ingredient, usually fruit, in a liquid so that it takes on the flavor of the liquid. Can also be used to soften dried fruit.

maple syrup: It is the first finished product made from boiled map of the maple tree. This is the form most widely used in recipes. Maple syrup may be used in canning recipes in place of sugar to sweeten the overall flavor.

margarine: A butter substitute that was made originally from other animal fats, but nowadays exclusively from a combination of vegetable oils. Because margarine closely duplicates butter, it can be substituted equally in recipes, though there will be differences in flavor and sometimes texture depending on what you’re making. Both margarine and butter have approximately 18% moisture in them and are safe for home canning.

marinate: To impart the flavor of a marinade into food; usually requires some time to allow the flavors to develop. Can also be used to tenderize a cut of meat.

marinade: A method used before cooking to flavor and moisten foods; may be liquid or dry. Liquid marinades are usually based on an acidic ingredient, such as wine or vinegar; dry marinades are usually salt-based.

marmalade: Made from the peel and juice of citrus fruits macerated then cooked in sugar. Known for its bitter flavor. Best for citrus fruits (grapefruits, lemons, limes, Seville or sour oranges); ginger.

medallion: A small, round scallop of meat.

melt: Heat slowly in a pan until the ingredient becomes a liquid.

microorganism: A living plant or animal of microscopic size, such as molds, yeasts or bacteria, that can cause spoilage in canned, refrigerated or frozen foods.

mince: Chop very fine.

minestrone: A vegetable soup that typically includes dried beans and pasta.

mise en place: Literally, “put in place.” The preparation and assembly of ingredients, pans, utensils, and plates or serving pieces needed to create a recipe from start-to-finish. The perfect way to be organized in the kitchen when home canning to avoid being unable to complete a full recipe from start to completely processed.

mix: Combine ingredients, usually with a spoon or electric mixer, so they are all evenly blended.

mold: A superficial growth, often fuzzy in appearance, that produces especially on damp or decaying organic matter. Molds thrive on moisture and in a humid (warm) environment. Mold spores are everywhere and travel through the air. Highly acidic environments breaks down mold, vinegar kills about 82% of known molds. In home canning mold spores are easily destroyed when bringing recipes to temperatures between 140ºF and 190ºF (60ºC and 88ºC) or increasing the recipes acidic value. If mold forms in a jar of preserved food, it is likely due to an unsealed lid allowing free oxygen into the jar and the presence of moisture and humidity causing the food to decay.

offset spatula: A hand tool with a wide, bent blade set in a short handle, used to turn or lift foods from grills, broilers, or griddles.

olive oil: The oil extracted from tree-ripened olives.

  • extra-virgin olive oil: Any olive oil that is less than 1% acidity and produced by the first pressing of the olive fruit through the cold pressing process. Most olive oils today are extra virgin in name only, meeting only the minimum requirement.
  • virgin olive oil: It is made from olives that are slightly riper than those used for extra-virgin oil and is produced in exactly the same manner. This oil has a slightly higher level of acidity (1 ½%).
  • pure olive oil: Also called commercial grade oil. It is solvent-extracted from olive pulp, skins, and pits; then refined. It is lighter in color and blander than virgin olive oil. It is more general-purpose olive oil. Pure refers to the fact that no non-olive oils are mixed in.

overnight: A period of time usually from 8 to 12 hours in length.

oxidation of food: Also referred to as enzymatic browning, is the process of food turning brown due to the chemical reactions that takes place when foods are exposed to oxygen. The color darkens and the food begins to dry out. This may happen when certain fruits and vegetables are freshly cut. When home canning, this will (sometimes) happen if a jar siphoned liquid during processing and the food at the top of the jar is not covered by liquid. The food exposed to free oxygen in the jar will slightly darken and dry over time during long-term storage. So long as the lid remained sealed during storage, foods that have oxidized are safe to eat.

pan frying: A cooking method in which items are cooked in deep fat in a skillet; this generally involves more fat than sautéing or stir frying but less than deep frying.

pan gravy: A sauce made by deglazing pan drippings from a roast and combining them with a roux or other starch and additional stock.

pan-steaming: A method of cooking foods in a very small amount of liquid in a covered pan over direct heat.

paraffin wax: A pure, refined wax used to preserve jams, fruit butters and preserves. The wax was melted and poured over food in the jar.

parboil: To boil food only slightly, often used to soften foods like potatoes before roasting them. Helps to speed up the cooking process.

parcook: To partially cook an item before storing or finishing by another method; may be the same as blanching.

pectin: Pectin is a polysaccharide starch found in the cell walls of fruits and vegetables. In terms of food composition, pectin is a gelling agent derived solely from plants. It is available commercially in powder or liquid forms. Finely chopped apples are often used as natural pectin in canning recipes.

peel: Use a knife of peeler to take off the rind or skin from a fruit or vegetable.

pH (potential of hydrogen): A measuring system in chemistry for determining the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, used in home canning to determine the processing method. In home canning, recipes are separated into high-acid and low-acid. Traditionally, a boiling water bather is used for processing high-acid foods and a pressure canner is used for processing both high- and low-acid foods.

pickle: The process of preserving food in a brine, which is a salt or vinegar solution.

pickling spice: A mixture of herbs and spices used to season pickles. Often includes dill weed and/or seed, coriander seed, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, bay leaves, and others.

pint: a unit of volume measurement equal to 16 fluid ounces. A common jar size when home canning because they can be double-stacked in a 23-quart pressure canner using a second flat rack.

poach: To cook in gently bubbling liquids such as a stock or a broth.

poblano chile: Also known as the Ancho (when dried) and in some parts of California as the Pasilla, this pepper is shiny and has a pointed tip and flattened appearance. It is mild in flavor with a good herbal aroma.

preservation of food: The process of treating foods to prevent spoilage or deterioration so they may be stored for long periods of time. There are various methods of preserving foods such as home canning, dehydrating, dry-food storage, freezing and freeze drying. The preservation method used will determine the length of time the food will be preserved all the while retaining the highest nutritional value.

preserves: A soft spread made with fruit and sugar. Preserves often have whole fruit pieces in them and can vary considerably in thickness, but typically do not hold their shape when spooned from the jar.

pressure canner: A tall pot with a locking lid, rack and a pressure-regulating mechanism that is used to process low-acid foods. The only kitchen appliance for canning that reaches 240°F (116°C) and higher, the temperature needed to kill harmful microorganisms.

pressure canning: This method of processing can be sued for both high- and low-acid foods, and many pressure canners double as a water bather simply by removing the rubber seal in the lid. Pressure canning relies on temperature of the pressurized air within the vessel, not on the water temperature. This way, a pressure canner can get upwards of 260°F (127°C), a temperature not achievable by boiling water. This is why pressure canning is recommended for processing low-acid foods. Prior to its invention, canners had to rely on extra time at 212°F (100°C) to preserve low-acid foods. [i.e. Canners would have to process meat for 3 hours in a water bath to ensure all microorganisms were killed. Today, because of the invention of a pressure canner, we can safely process meat in half the time.]

processing time: Time is one of the three main pillars behind the science and math in home canning. The other two pillars are pH value and temperature. The processing time is determined by the recipes’ overall pH value, its density and the volume of food in each jar and temperature required during processing. Using these factors, the processing time is established. Time coupled with the acid, density and processing temperature will adequately kill any harmful microorganisms making foods safe for long-term storage.

purée: To process food by mashing, straining, or chopping it very finely in order to make it a smooth paste.

raw-pack: Tightly filling jars with raw, uncooked foods prior to heat processing.

red pepper flakes: The dried flakes of dried ripe red hot chile pepper. Most are quite hot.

reduce or reduction: The technique of cooking liquids down so that some of the water evaporates. Reduction is used to concentrate the flavor of a broth or sauce and, when home canning, to help thicken the sauce by concentrating ingredients.

refresh: To pour cold water over freshly cooked vegetables to prevent further cooking and to retain color.

refrigeration: A method of short-term cold-storage by subjecting foods to a cold temperatures of 38°F to 40°F (3.3°C to 4°C) to slow the growth of microorganisms and prolong deterioration of the food. Refrigeration is the shortest method of preservation but is ideal for commonly used foods eaten within a short timeframe.

reconstitute: To restore dried, dehydrated or condensed food back to its original consistency and strength with the addition of liquid, usually water.

relish: Pickled spread made from diced fruits and/or vegetables cooked in a vinegar solution. Can be flavored sweet with the addition or sugar, or spicy with the addition of hot peppers.

render: To cook a food over low heat until it releases its fat.

reprocessing: Instead of refrigerating a jarred recipe which did not seal, you want to reprocess it to make it shelf-stable. Reprocessing is repeating the heat processing, either water bath or pressure canning, when a lid does not seal overnight, or within 8 to 12 hours. The original lid must be removed and the food and/or liquid brought to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes. Repack the recipe into clean, hot jars and adhere a new, clean lid. Add screw band and hand-tighten. The filled jars must then be reprocessed using the preserving method and processing time recommended by the recipe.

resting: To allow meat to sit for 20 to 30 minutes after removing from the oven before serving. Roasted meats should be loosely covered with aluminum foil, tented, during resting to keep the meat warm but allow the juices to distribute fully throughout the meat.

roasted garlic process: cut the top third of a garlic head off and discard it. Drizzle the remaining garlic head with olive oil and put the head in aluminum foil or a foil muffin tin. Bake at 400°F oven until edges of the garlic clove are caramelized, approximately 40 minutes.

rolling boil: A very rapid boil that is visible and doesn’t slow when stirred.

salsa: Salsa has a variety of meanings. In home canning, salsa is sauce made from tomatoes flavored with cilantro, chiles and onions. Green salsa, usually made with tomatillos and green chile, is called “salsa verde.”  Salsa recipes expand past tomatoes and can be any chunky mixture of fresh herbs, spices, fruits and/or vegetables used as a sauce, dip or condiment.

salt: Sodium Chloride (NaCl) resulting from the chemical interaction of an acid and a base, usually sodium and chloride. Salt is produced by three ways; open-air evaporation of salt brine in shallow ponds, by mining of rock salt deposits or by boiling and evaporating higher purity brines. Salt adds flavor to recipes, it also controls fermentation of yeast in breads. Coarse grades, colors and purities are available. With the exception of pickling, when home canning, salt is not required and may be omitted as it is only used to enhance flavor.

  • salt, Himalayan: Known for its beautiful pink color due to trace minerals, Himalayan sea salt is rock salt mined from the Punjab region of Pakistan. This salt often replaces table salt and is regularly used in everyday cooking. Ideal for home canning recipes, however, giving its cost, it may not be best suited for pickling. This coarse-grain salt has a higher concentration of minerals and a higher salt flavor so you may reduce the salt by half in canning recipes.
  • salt, kosher: a coarse-grained, textured salt that is free of additives. Kosher salt may be used when canning cucumbers to make pickles.
  • salt, pickling or canning: Salt used in pickling and fresh preserving. It is free of anti-caking agents, which can cause the pickling liquid to turn cloudy, and free from iodine, which can darken the pickles. Its granules are larger than table salt but smaller than kosher salt grains.
  • salt, table: A refined, fine-grained salt. Table salt is the most common salt and is used as a table seasoning. It contains additives that may yield unfavorable results when pickling. Iodized table salt (sodium iodide) is not recommended for pickling because it contains an anti-caking ingredient that can make brines cloudy, as well as iodine, which may darken the pickles. While table salt may not be ideal for pickling, it can be used in all other canning recipes with great success.
  • salt, sea: A type of salt produced by the evaporation of sea water. It comes in fine- and coarse-grained textures and is usually more costly than other types of salt. Sea salt should not be used for pickling because it may contain minerals that could darken the pickles.

saucepan, large: An 8- to 10-quart (8 to 10 L) heavy pot essential for cooking jams, jellies, preserves and fruit butters. The pot must have a broad, flat bottom for good heat distribution and deep sides to prevent food from boiling over.

sauté: To brown or cook in a small amount of fat. Sautéing is often done in a small, shallow pan using oil, wine, butter, broth or even water.

savory: Related to the mint family, savory has a flavor and aroma similar to a cross between mint and thyme. There is a winter and summer variety, with winter savory having a stronger flavor.

screw band: The glass threads at the top of each jar. The canning ring adheres to and tightens around these bands to keep the canning lid in place during processing.

sealing compound: The red compound on the underside of a metal canning lid, also called plastisol. The sealing compound comes in contact with the rim of the jar. Its purpose is to form an air-tight seal of the lid onto the glass canning jar to keep foods safe for long-term storage.

sear: To brown food, usually meat, quickly over very high heat to seal in juices. This is usually the first step in a canning recipe using meat.

season: To add flavor to foods in the form of salt, pepper, herbs and spices, to improve the foods taste. When home canning, dried seasonings and herbs can be adjusted at will being their pH value is neutral and will not negatively affect a canning recipe.

seasonal canning calendar: A seasonal schedule created to simplify planning your canning time around various foods grown and readily available throughout a calendar year. A plan of action so you may maximize your canning time and your yield.

shelf stable: A processed food product that remains safe to eat without refrigeration for years.

shred: To cut, slice or tear food into thin strips. It is also referred to when pulling apart very tender cooked meats, like shredding a pork shoulder after smoking to create pulled pork.

shuck: To remove the outer shells from food like the shell of an oyster or clam, the hush from an ear of corn or husk of tomatillo.

sieve: A fine mesh strainer used to strain liquid from food.

simmer: Cooking food in a hot liquid that is heated to a boil then reduced, or is heated just below boiling point at temperatures 185°F to 210°F (85°C to 99°C). Small bubbles will rise to the surface of the liquid and collapse; the activity is much calmer than a full rolling boil.

skim: To remove the surface layer of impurities, scum or fat from liquids such as stocks and jams while cooking. This is typically done with a slotted spoon or a skimming tool that has a wide, flat surface covered with holes at the end of the handle. This same tool can be used when blanching.

skin: Before or after cooking or blanching, this is the process of removing the skin of food like poultry or tomatoes.

slice: To cut foods across the grain into thin, uniform pieces.

smoke: A method of preserving, or curing, foods like bacon or fish, by exposing it to wood smoke for a considerable period of time. This method enhances the foods flavor and provides even cooking while preserving the foods.

snip: Cut quickly with scissors into fine pieces.

spatula: A versatile utensil available in a variety of shapes and sizes typically made from metal, wood or rubber. Used to remove foods from a pan or to flip-foods to cook both sides.

spice bag: Also referred to as a Sachet Bag in recipes, this is a small bag filled with select herbs and spices. It is used to keep said herbs and spices contained and the bag permits the flavors to seep into the food or liquid. The bag makes it easy to remove when steeping is complete. A bag can be made by cutting cheesecloth into a 4” by 4” square and tied with kitchen string. Any size bag can be made, the bag size is indicative of the size and quantity of the herbs and spices required to flavor the recipe.

spices: The seeds and skin of plants, berries, bark, fruits and unopened flowers used to flavor foods. Unlike herbs, spices are almost always dried.

Splenda®: This sugar substitute contains 95 percent dextrose and maltodextrin which the body readily metabolizes, combined with a small amount of mostly indigestible sucralose. It is 600 times sweeter than sugar in flavor. Splenda is higher in acid than regular sugar with a stable pH of 5 to 6. It can be used to replace sugar in canning recipes, however, it absorbs the liquid in each jar making the end product denser than when canning with sugar.

spoilage: The natural deterioration of food whereas when spoiled, it no longer is suitable to ingest. When home canning, we stop the natural decay of food by preserving its integrity by way of temperature, time and acid or a combination of the three in a hermetic environment without free oxygen. If food becomes spoiled in a jar during storage it is likely due to a lid failure or improper destruction of microorganisms. If your home canned good has spoiled you will notice one or more of the following: unsealed lid, mold, gassiness, cloudiness, seepage outside of the jar, a pungent disagreeable odor, gradual discoloring of half of the food contents with the top half darker than the bottom half of the food contents, etc.

sprig: Leaves of an herb still attached to the stem. They are often grouped and tied together with kitchen string to form a bouquet making it easy to remove when complete. Sprigs are used to flavor recipes.

staple: The main item, or the most important item, stored in your pantry, grown in your garden or available in your region of the world. This can be a personal preference relative to the individual household.

starch: A carbohydrate obtained from cereals and potatoes or other tubers.

steep: Permitting a food substance or herb to stand in liquid to extract flavor, color and other qualities from said food or herb.

sterilize: The process of destroying germs and microorganisms by exposing food to heat at a specific temperature for a specific time.

stevia: Stevia is a natural sweetener and sugar substitute derived from plant leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant from Brazil and Paraguay. The active compounds are steviol glycosides, which have 30 to 150 times the sweetness of sugar, are heat-stable and pH-stable, but are not fermentable. From a flavor perspective, Stevia is said to be 200 times sweeter than sugar. In plant form, stevia is alkaline with a 9.0 pH. When in a powder or liquid form, stevia has a pH is 5.8 making it lower in acid when canning. Stevia can be used in home canning to sweeten low-acid recipes or to add flavor to high-acid recipes; however, it is not advised to use Stevia to replace sugar when home canning fruit jams and spreads without testing the pH of the recipe to achieve 3.0 to 3.9 pH.

stir: Using a kitchen utensil, typically a long spoon, to move foods around in a circular motion for the purpose of blending or securing uniform consistency.

stock: A rich extract of soluble parts of meat, fish, poultry and vegetables. Stock is the base for soups, sauces and gravies.

storage, long-term: A cool, dry, dark place where home canned goods can be kept long-term until ready to be consumed. Ideal temperature is 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C) and should be free from moisture and humidity, and free from direct and indirect sunlight. Basement pantries and root cellars are ideal, but jars must be kept up off the floor. Under beds, linen closets, area under stairs are also ideal locations for storing home canned goods. Do NOT store your home canned goods in cabinets above stoves or refrigerators as each appliance emits heat therefore making the cabinet environment susceptible to vast temperature swings and humidity by repetitive heating and cooling.

strain: Literally, to separate liquids from solids by passing through a sieve. A bowl-shaped kitchen utensil with perforated holes or a mesh bottom used to drain liquids or semi-liquids from foods. Also called sieves. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes. When home canning, the larger the strainer the better as most recipes require large quantities of foods.

sugar: Sugar, or sucrose, is a carbohydrate occurring naturally in every fruit and vegetable in the plant kingdom. It is the product of photosynthesis when a plant transforms the sun’s energy into food. Sugar used in cooking and baking is generally derived from sugar cane and sugar beets. Sugar is used as a sweetener and as a preservative for foods. Processed sugar has the addition of lime added to raise the pH to neutral pH of 7.0 or a pH as high as 9.0, making it lower in acid. Beet Sugar also have a neutral pH of 7.0 to 7.5. Brown sugar is higher in acid due to the moisture content of the molasses, ranging from 4.9 to 5.6 pH.

  • granulated sugar: Fine or extra-fine white sugar crystals. Often referred to as “white sugar” in home baking and canning.
  • brown sugar: Sugar crystals contained in a molasses syrup with natural flavor and color components. Dark and light brown sugars may be substituted according to individual preferences for product color or taste.
  • powdered sugar: Also known as confectioners’ sugar, is a very finely ground sugar made by milling sugar into a fine powdered state, used to make icing. This sugar is not used in home canning.
  • raw sugar: About 98 percent sucrose and tan or brown in appearance; it is a coarse, granulated solid obtained on evaporation of clarified sugar cane juice.
  • turbinado sugar: Raw sugar refined to a light tan color by washing in a centrifuge under sanitary conditions. Surface molasses is removed in the washing process and is closer to refined sugar than raw.

sweat: cooking a food in a small amount of fat over low heat until it becomes softened and releases its moisture. This is usually a preparatory step to other cooking methods to make the finished product more flavorful in a shorter timeframe. This step is used when making and canning fish stock.

syrup: Sweetened and lightly thickened juice from fruits and some vegetables. Best for berries (blackberries, blueberries, currants, raspberries, strawberries) citrus fruits, ginger, rhubarb; tree fruits (apples, apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums); tropical fruits (guava, mango, passion fruit pineapple); grapes; peppers (bell peppers and chiles).

vegetable oil: A general term describing different oil blends that include corn, safflower, rapeseed, cottonseed and sometimes soybean oil. Generally have little flavor and aroma and can be used as an all-purpose kitchen oil.

vegetarian: A person who does not consume animal flesh or, in some cases, any animal byproducts. Vegans do not eat any animal-derivative foods including butter, cheese, eggs and milk. Ovo-lacto vegetarians allow such animal-related foods, but do not eat meat. Some vegetarians will eat fish and/or poultry, but no red meat.

venison: Meat from any member of the deer family that broadly includes elk, moose, reindeer, caribou and antelope; typically leaner and less tender than meat from domesticated animals.

venting: The process used in pressure canning where the vent is left open while the water boils within the vessel permitting air to escape from the pressure canner. This stage in processing is accomplished prior to adhering the weighted gauge onto the vent pipe to build pressure in the vessel.

vessel: Another term used to describe the large pot, water bather or pressure canner which holds the water and jars when canning.

vinegar: A liquid solution of acetic acid and trace compounds from the substance of which it was derived. Typically contains 5 to 8 percent acetic acid produced by fermentation of ethanol or sugars by acetic acid bacteria. The Canning Diva® describes vinegar as being your “best friend” in the kitchen, especially when canning. Use 2 ounces in the vessel of your canner to keep your jars clean and free from mineral deposits when processing.

  • apple cider: A vinegar produced from apples that has a tart, fruity flavor. Cider vinegar has a golden color and may discolor some canned foods.  Always use 5 percent acidity when using cider vinegar for canning. May contain small amounts of malic acid and citric acid being it is derived from apples. Has a pH of 3.5 at a 5 percent strength.
  • malt: Vinegar produced from the same grains used to make beer. It has a lemon, nutty and carmel flavor like malted ale. It is a more mild and sweeter flavor. Its pH is still acidic but less than white or cider vinegar and is often at 9 percent acidity or higher. Safe for home canning and is often used to increase acid in a recipe or to enhance a recipe’s flavor.
  • white: A standard type of vinegar produced from grain alcohol with a sharp, pungent flavor. It is clear and colorless, making it suitable for a lot of different canning projects, as it does not compete with the colors or flavors of the foods. Always use 5 percent acidity vinegar when canning. Has a pH range of 2.5 to 2.7 and 2.4 at 5 percent strength.
  • wine, red or white: Vinegar derived from wine, where the flavor reflects the source of the wine. Has a pH range of 2.6 to 2.8 making it high in acid but less than white vinegar. Safe for home canning and is often used to increase acid in a recipe or to enhance a recipe’s flavor. Wine vinegar is typically 6 percent acidity or higher.

volume: The measurement typically used to measure liquids; volume measurements are commonly expressed as liters, teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, pints, gallons, fluid ounces and bushels.

water-bath canner: A large pot and lid fixed with a rack to keep jars lifted away from the direct heat. The pot must be deep enough so jars are covered by 1 inch of water, as well as to allow the water to boil rapidly.

weighted-gauge pressure canner: A type of pressure canner that is fitted with either a three- or a one-piece weight. Weights typically measure in 5-, 10- and 15-lb to set specified pressure as indicated in the canning recipe. All weights are used when home canning; The 5-lb weight typically used when pressure canning fruits and other high-acid recipes, while 10- and 15-lb are used for low acid recipes. The weight used is dependent on the altitude in which you are canning. The weighted gauge will rock, or jiggle, causing it to make a ticking sound which is an audible indicator the pounds of pressure are accurate within the vessel.

whole, or cut, fruits in a syrup: Best for berries (blackberries, blueberries, currants, raspberries, strawberries); tree fruits (apples, apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums); tropical fruits (guava, mango, passion fruit, pineapple); grapes; peppers (bell peppers and chiles).