Nothing says “homemade” like a quaint mason jar packed with home-canned fruits or vegetables. Savor the taste of fresh produce from your garden, farmer’s market, or grocer long past the growing season. Or, create handcrafted jam, chutney, pickles, or salsas to give as gifts. You’ll find half of the fun is in the canning process itself.
Here’s how to get started with home canning:
STEP-BY-STEP WATER BATH CANNING
- Wash supplies. Wash all your canning jars, bands, lids, and utensils in hot, soapy water. You can run jars through the dishwasher, keeping them warm there until ready to use. This can prevent breakage.
- Preheat water. Fill the canner with enough water to cover the tops of the jars at least 1 inch during processing. Heat the water while you’re preparing your recipe. Raw-packed foods need to reach 140 degrees and hot-packed foods need to reach 180 degrees.
- Prepare your recipe. Mixes make this easy for beginners. If you’re starting from scratch, be sure to use a recipe that’s been tested for water bath canning. It should include specific boiling times and a recommended headspace (the distance between the top of the jar rim and the food inside). Keep in mind, processing times must be adjusted for your altitude.
- Fill the jars. A wide funnel and headspace tool make it simple to fill to the correct level.
- Remove air bubbles. Run a plastic spatula, or canning bubble popper around the inside of the jars, pressing food toward the center. Metal knives aren’t recommended – they can damage the jars.
- Put a lid on it. Wipe drips or spills off the rims and outer threads of the jar with a damp cloth. Place the can lid on the jar with the sealing compound and jar rim aligned. Screw on the lid band until its fingertip is tight.
- Insert the canning rack. Put your filled jars on a canning rack and lower the rack into the water. The water should cover jars by at least 1 inch (2 inches for process times over 30 minutes). Add more water if needed. Put the canner lid on.
- Boil the jars. When the water is heated to a vigorous boil, start a timer for the recommended processing time. If water starts spilling over, reduce the heat a bit. If the water stops boiling at any time, bring it back to a steady boil and start the timing process over from the beginning.
- Cool it down. Once the processing time is complete, turn off the heat. Allow 5 minutes for the contents to settle. Use a jar lifter to transfer the jars from the water to a towel or cooling rack. Let jars cool for at least 12 hours at room temperature. Don’t tighten the lids or press on the center of the lid or you may interfere with the sealing process.
- Check the lids. Once the jars are completely cooled, press the center of each lid. If it’s properly sealed, the lid won’t flex. Put any unsealed jars in the fridge to use immediately.
- Label jars. Store in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
*Increase processing time: 5 minutes for 1,001 to 3,000 ft.; 10 minutes for 3,001 to 6,000 ft.; 15 minutes for 6,001 to 8,000 ft.; 20 minutes for 8,001 to 10,000 ft.
NOTE: Use water bath canning only for preserving high-acid foods like tomatoes, salsa, pickles, jams, and fruit. Low-acid foods, like vegetables, meats, and poultry, must be processed in a pressure canner to destroy microorganisms.