I started by buying jars, extra lids, pectin (which I didn't use), and extra vegetables for Italian sauce. I cleaned the kitchen, the jars and lids, and my workspace. Then I pealed about 20 lbs. of apples from the garden. I decided to make apple sauce according to the book, even though I have made apple sauce before. I followed the recipe and directions, because I wasn't sure if the recipe was apart of the canning process or just a recipe. I pulled out our two large pots and started boiling water. I wasn't sure if I should use the smaller or the larger of the two pots for the sauce or the jars, so I went with the larger pot for the sauce and the smaller pot for the jars. I had to change this once I realized the smaller pot wouldn't hold enough jars, which was a stressful point of the process. I also had to keep the apple sauce boiling while filling the jars, which seems easy enough, but in reality the apple sauce was like hot lava spitting out of the pot up to the ceiling, stove, and me! I got burned by flying sauce, which only made me more stressed!
Through the stress I finally got all of the jars filled and in the hot water bath. This was the point where I also got directions wrong. You are supposed to tighten the lid ring until first sign of resistance, which means fit the ring on the jar and screw it on until it comes to a point where you would have to put more muscle into it to tighten it fully. I was too worried about the jar exploding that I left the ring much too loose. One of the lids came off completely in the hot water bath while it was boiling. This was frustrating, because I pulled out an empty jar and the bath water was full of my apple sauce! Disappointing. Almost all of my jars came out of their bath sealed. I was happy the first batch was completed, without too many burns or errors. I felt more liberated and educated to try my own apple sauce recipe for the next round and expanded to making Italian sauce to use up most of the tomatoes from the garden. These two batches went much easier. The only problem I had was running out of jars, which makes me think that you really do need to plan for how much you are making or have many more jars on hand just in case. All apart of the learning curve I guess you could say!
Overall I was happy with the process. I learned so much in one night and enjoyed every part of it. The final steps of making labels and giving some of the things I made away made me want to make this a regular project. I would say that if you have never tired canning you should definitely try it if you have any interest in it at all. It is not as hard or scary as it seems, there is a lot to learn, but it is very rewarding. I highly recommend buying the Ball Blue Book of Preserving and checking out their website here, which also has a lot of useful information.