Canning with Kids

Canning season is in high gear right now, and if your kids are anything like mine, they are intrigued. My 5 year old is constantly begging to help me, and even my 22 month old is eager to handle my canning gear. Not every project is suitable for kids, especially young ones. There's a lot of boiling hot water involved, after all. But here are a few ideas for getting kids as young as preschool age involved in canning: * Invest in an apple peeler/corer. They aren't expensive, they save a ton of time, and kids love using them. Children as young as 3 can crank the handle if you put the apple in place first. Once apples are peeled and cored, can applesauce, apple butter, or apple slices suitable for pies and cobblers. * Let kids snap green beans before you can them. * Children love to squish things, so let them mash the berries for jam. * Beginning at about age 4 or 5, give children a plastic knife and let them cut some foods for canning.

* When the kids aren't in the kitchen, pre-measure all the ingredients for salsa or soup, then let your children dump the ingredients in a cool pan. Older kids can do the measuring themselves, but be sure to supervise. Altering the amount of any ingredient can lead to canned food that spoils. * Let children pit cherries before canning. (Just double check their work, or someone might chip a tooth later!) * Kids with an artistic bent will love making labels for home canned food. Purchase sticky-backed paper at an office supply store for this purpose. Only you know when your child is ready to be more involved in the canning process. I'd say 6th graders are ready to start working on the stove - but do bear in mind your child's individual maturity level and ability to focus on tasks. At this age, most kids can stir a hot pot on the stove (as when making applesauce or jam), but do make sure they understand the safety rules before they begin. Then give the child a long handled spoon for stirring, as well as a good oven mitt for the stirring hand. A quilted apron is also a great idea, and if your child needs a stepping stool, make sure its sturdy. The business of putting hot jars in the canner and removing jars from the canner after processing is best left to tweens and teens.
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