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Home Canning Instructions



Here are your basic home canning instructions, canning supplies and equipment descriptions, canning safety, and canning recipes for preserving food.

Learning the techniques for preserving food is a very rewarding experience. Seeing a fully stocked pantry full of your fresh home canned vegetables and fruits is a wonderful feeling.

Whether you decide to start preserving food because of rising prices at the grocery, or a desire to have healthier, fresher, better tasting food, start canning at home today. You will enjoy home canning and be glad you did.

Facts

Properly sealed and stored, your home canned food will last nearly indefinitely

Nearly anything you presently buy at the grocery can be preserved or canned at home, vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, shellfish, milk, cheese, dry goods, etc. We even can meals that we can prepare in minutes like stuffed peppers, soups, stews, chillis, casseroles and even desserts.

Your home canning projects do not need to be limited to the food that you grow. Take advantage of bulk buys, specials, and the free food you get from friends that grew more than they could eat when preserving food at home. At our house we make large batches of things like spaghetti sauce, chili, soups etc. and preserve the excess for fast and easy use later using these home-canning methods.

The food that you grow and preserve is healthier than store bought food with chemicals and additives.

Home canning is simple and requires only two basic skills. You must be able to boil water and tell time.

Home canning is safe. Properly done water bath canning for high acid foods and pressure canning for low acid foods is 100% safe.

There are many old unsafe canning methods. Stick with water bath and pressure canning techniques only when doing your home canning.

The Basics

Water bath canning is a process used for foods with a pH of 4.6 or lower. This includes most fruits, sauerkraut, jellies and jams, marmalades, fruit butters, and pickles.

Tomatoes and Figs are borderline and can be water bath canned. Some tomatoes and figs have been known to have pH levels slightly higher than 4.6 so it is a safe practice to include 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to each quart jar when water bath caning them.

Low Acid foods have pH levels of 4.6 up to 6.9. These include foods such as red meat, seafood, shellfish, poultry, milk, and fresh vegetables except for tomatoes described above.

When canning a mix of high and low acid foods, the recipe will usually call for lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid to make them safe for water bath canning. If you do not have a proven recipe or are experimenting at home with a mix of low and high acid foods, then can your ingredients per the processing time for the lowest acid food in the mixture. This is usually a longer time in a pressure canner.

Whether you are using the water bath or pressure canning method for preserving food, the basic canning supplies are the same. There is a variety of canning supply kits available. Here I explain the basics and the ones I believe you will want as a minimum. The canning supplies are used for both water bath and pressure canning at home.

Canning jars

Jars do not have to be new. They can be re-used and have been passed down from generation to generation for years.

Put the word out to your friends that you are looking for canning jars and you will be surprised how many they will find here and there and they are very willing to get rid of them to get them out of the way.

Yard sales, auctions, second hand stores, craigslist, and a wanted sign on your local bulletin boards at grocers and laundromats are a few ideas of how to build your starting jar inventory and canning supplies on a budget.

Planning ahead and buying jars at the end of canning season allows you to take advantage of mark down and clearance specials.

Jars come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. The most common sizes used are pints, quarts, and half pints.

There are regular and wide mouth varieties. Wide mouths are better for packing large foods into.

Regular mouth lids are used more often for most things and the lids and jars are a little cheaper to buy than wide mouth jars and lids.

Rings

Rings are re-useable. New boxes of lids can be purchased with both lids and rings. After you have a good supply of rings, you can then buy just the lids. Rings are re-usable for a very very long time of properly cared for.

The only purpose of the ring is to hold the lid in place during the canning process until the lid seals to the jar. After the jars cool, you should remove the lids and store them until you need them again.

Some people leave the rings on when they store the jars. This is not a good practice. The lids can begin to rust and this can shorten the storage life of the food.

I have seen some pretty creative ways to store lids other than throwing them in a box. I use a coat hanger. Any rings that have been damaged or deformed or have any rust should be discarded.

Lids

Lids are basically round flat tin plated steel with a food safe coating. The lid has a channel filled with a sealing compound. Lids are only good for one use and then should be discarded.

It is not worth trying to re-use lids. You will find someone that will tell you they have re-used lids and it worked. It can work but it will not always work.

The cost of the lid is very low and it is not worth the risk of having a jar not seal which requires re-canning that jar or putting it in the fridge and eating it right away.

Home Canning Supplies

Jar Lifter

This tool has a plastic or rubber coated grip on one end for lifting the jars. The other end typically has a heat resistant handle to protect your hands when lifting and working with the hot jars.

This tool will last for years.

This is a cost effective tool that gives safe and effective control when handling the jars. These tongs will go a long way in preventing dropping or breaking jars in the handling process.

DO not use household tongs. They are not strong enough and will break. I have broken more than one pair trying to use them when I couldn’t find my canning jar tongs.

Canning Funnel

This funnel fits into the opening of the jar and aides in filling the jars with your food item. It keeps food, juice, grease, etc. from getting onto the lip of the jar. Any foreign "stuff" on the jar lid can and will keep your jars from properly sealing while home canning. Funnels are made from plastic or metal.

Some people warn against using the metal funnels because they can chip the jar. I have been using my metal funnel for years and have never chipped a jar but you can make that choice.

Lid Wand

This is basically a plastic stick with a magnet on the end. It is used to take the jar lid form the simmering water to place it on the jar without burning yourself during the canning process. This is a simple tool but you will want one. Not having one will result in burnt fingers. Trust me, this is experience talking.

Spatula

Plastic or wooden you will need one of these. It is used to remove air bubble from jars that have been filled. If you can’t find or do not have a small narrow non metallic spatula, go out for Chinese and bring home plastic chop sticks. They work too.

Canning supply kits are available and are very inexpensive. They include all or part of each of the items listed above except of course the jars, lids, and rings.

There are other items you may see like a jar lid wrench but I don’t use them and I don’t like them but others do. But you can decide that for yourself.

The final item I would recommend is a large teapot. Keeping it full of boiling water is handy when you have to add water during the home canning process.

Water Bath Canner

First off, you do not need to go out and buy a water bath canning pot. If you are canning smaller jars, any pot that you can fill with water at least 1 inch over the top of the jars with another approx. 2 inches to allow the water to boil rapidly and not boil over.

A water bath canner is nothing more than a large pot with a lid and a rack.

If you cannot find your rack or do not have one, I have used a towel in the bottom of the pot as a rack. I read of one creative lady that used the metal off of a dartboard for her rack. You can also tie some of your canning rings together to use for a rack.

Racks made especially for water bath canning have handles that allow you to hang the rack on the rim of the pot. Do not try to remove all of the full jars from the pot using this rack.

The racks purpose is only to lift the jars off of the bottom of the pot to keep it off of the direct heat.

Nearly everyone has seen the big blue and white speckled water bath pots. You can buy water bath caning kits with accessories. These pots are readily available at yard sales and second hand stores. If you are buying a used one, hold it up to the light and check it carefully to be sure there are no holes or cracks in it. Also make sure that the coating isn't damaged and rusting.

Pressure canner

First, do not confuse a pressure canner with a pressure cooker. They are different. Although pressure cookers are quite handy, they cannot be used as a canner while home canning.

Pressure canners are usually tall very heavy with a locking lid and a pressure-regulating device.

Pressure canners are not dangerous. Noisy? Yes. Dangerous? No.

I realize that people find new ways every day to hurt themselves with the simplest things. If you follow the directions on this site and carefully read and understand the manufacturers manual you will be just fine.

You should be more concerned about burning yourself on the stove than hurting yourself with a pressure canner.

One last warning is that pressure canners are much heavier than water bath canners. Moving them across your stovetop can damage things. As long as you do not drag these canners around the stove top you should be fine. These new fancy smooth top stoves are not recommended for home canning. Do not let this stop you. Pick up a propane burner at a yard sale or flea market and get started. I do not want to see you damage your expensive new stove but I do want to see you get started.

Canning Safety

Acidity levels determine the caning method to be used. Acidity is determined by the acid naturally present in the food or added per a recipe mixture. Pickling would be an example of adding ingredients to raise acid levels. An acidity chart shows the pH scale of most foods.

High acid foods are processed in a water bath canner. A water bath canner only reaches 212 degrees at sea level which is sufficient to kill some bacteria, yeasts, molds that exist in high acid food. These foods include fruit, tomatoes, pickles, and sauerkraut.

Most beginners start with water bath canning. It is a simple method and is a good starting point when preserving food. Do not hesitate to try pressure canning. It offers many more options in preserving food such as meat, seafood, vegetables, and even meals in a can to name a few.

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