It’s easy to get lost seeking instructions on how to can food, and the equipment can be confusing. Pressure canning? Water bath canning? Raw pack? Hot pack? Don’t be intimidated. Let TasteHaus guide you into the world of canning!
Of all the ways to preserve food, canning is the most mysterious. We recall our grandmothers at the stove with tongs, a large pot, and two dozen mason jars. She warned us of botulism and bacteria should the slightest thing go wrong. We ran for safety and purchased cheap goods at the store, instead.
How does canning preserve food? Is canning vegetables at home safe and easy? Where can one learn home food preservation recipes and techniques on the internet? Let TasteHaus show you the way!
Canning and jarring food is fun and easy. While meats and vegetables require a more complex canning set-up, water bath canning—the most basic method—requires little initial investment and effectively preserves fruits, jams, pickles, and tomatoes. Some call water bath canning “the gateway to canning,” and that will be our focus.
Start Here: Roots & Branches VKP1130 Harvest Stainless Steel Multi-Use Canner with Temperature Indicator.
The Roots & Branches VKP 1130 Canner is the bulk of what you need to begin canning, though you will need Mason Jars and canning tools (we like the Roots & Branches 5 piece set. It’s inexpensive and good-quality).
The canner includes an enormous stock pot, a dual-purpose stainless steel rack, and a tempered glass lid. It’s basic, but the build quality is fantastic, with heavy steel and cool-touch handles. We especially love the built-in temperature gauge, which even includes altitude calibration. It handles 8 pint jars, 7 quart jars, or 20 quarts of liquid with no difficulty. It works on any range—gas, electric coil, flat, or induction.
An Oregon Cottage | Step-By-Step Guide To Water Bath Canning
A Step-by-Step Guide to the Water Bath Canner
The USDA’s complete guide to home canning is available for free as a PDF at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. It’s a wonderful canning how to. We believe everybody should download a copy. They reduce water bath canning to these ten steps:
- Before you start preparing your food, fill the canner halfway with clean water. This is approximately the level needed for a canner load of pint jars. For other sizes and numbers of jars, the amount of water in the canner will need to be adjusted so it will be 1 to 2 inches over the top of the filled jars.
- Preheat water to 140°F for raw-packed foods and to 180°F for hot-packed foods. Food preparation can begin while this water is preheating.
- Load filled jars, fitted with lids, into the canner rack and use the handles to lower the rack into the water; or fill the canner with the rack in the bottom, one jar at a time, using a jar lifter. When using a jar lifter, make sure it is securely positioned below the neck of the jar (below the screw band of the lid). Keep the jar upright at all times. Tilting the jar could cause food to spill into the sealing area of the lid.
- Add more boiling water, if needed, so the water level is at least 1 inch above jar tops. For process times over 30 minutes, the water level should be at least 2 inches above the tops of the jars.
- Turn heat to its highest position, cover the canner with its lid, and heat until the water in the canner boils vigorously.
- Set a timer for the total minutes required for processing the food.
- Keep the canner covered and maintain a boil throughout the process schedule. The heat setting may be lowered a little as long as a complete boil is maintained for the entire process time. If the water stops boiling at any time during the process, bring the water back to a vigorous boil and begin the timing of the process over, from the beginning.
- Add more boiling water, if needed, to keep the water level above the jars.
- When jars have been boiled for the recommended time, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars.
- Using a jar lifter, remove the jars and place them on a towel, leaving at least 1-inch spaces between the jars during cooling. Let jars sit undisturbed to cool at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.
7 common questions about canning and preserving food
7. What is the advantage of canning vs. other preservation methods?
Canning makes food shelf-stable for long periods of time. It destroys microorganisms and autolytic enzymes, and keeps food safe. Unlike freezing, it does not require a refrigerator. And, unlike smoking, salting, or drying, it doesn’t drastically change the flavor and consistency of food.
6. My grandmother used to sterilize the jars before canning. Is that always necessary?
10 minutes is the magic number. If a jar is going to sit in a water bath canner for 10 minutes or more, sterilization is not needed. However, if your canning recipe calls for water bath canning for less than 10 minutes, you will need to sterilize your jars.
5. What parts of a Mason Jar can be re-used?
A Mason jar has three parts—the jar, the lid, and the band. The jar is self-explanatory. The lid is the flat metal disc that covers the mouth of the jar, while the band twists over the jar threads to help secure the lid.
Feel free to re-use jars and bands. Lids, however, should be used no more than once for canning. But don’t fret! Save those lids, wash them, and keep them separate – they’re still perfectly fine for jars filled with dry goods or products stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
4. What can I can using a water bath canner?
Water bath canning is appropriate for
- Fruits and fruit juices
- Jams and jellies
- Pickles and relishes
It is NOT appropriate for meats and seafoods and most other vegetables.
3. How long do canned foods keep?
Michigan State University has a wonderful guide entitled How Long does Home-Preserved Food Last? We recommend it to anybody interested in canning.
In it, they answer, If foods are preserved correctly, they are safe for years but the quality and nutritional value decreases with the passing of time. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends only preserving enough food to last one year. So that your home-canned foods taste great and are nutritious when you decide to eat them.
2. How ripe should fruits and vegetables be for canning?
You should pick ripe—but not over-ripe—fruit that is blemish-free, and can it within 6-12 hours of picking.
1. How much room do I need to leave at at the top of a jar?
The space at the top of the jar, between the food and the lid, is called “headspace.” You should leave about ½ inch of headspace when you can with a water bath.
Water bath canning is easy and fun. Bookmark this page for future reference, and share how to can food with your friends on social.