Canning is one form of food preservation that allows you to capture the season’s bounty at its freshest and enjoy it throughout the year. There are two ways to can your fresh produce, using either a pressure canner or the boiling water bath method. Using a pressure canner allows your jars to reach a high enough temperature to kill dangerous bacteria and fungi. Water bath canning only allows your jars to reach the temperature of boiling water, so additional measures are needed to prevent spoilage.
When using the boiling water bath method, it is necessary for the contents of the jars to either have high acidity such as with pickles or salsa or to have a high sugar content such as with jams and fruit in syrup. It is critical to use tested recipes from home preservation cookbooks and websites to ensure proper acidity or sugar levels. There are plenty of creative, fun, and delicious seasonal recipes you can find to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables from your own garden or a local farmer.
- Water bath canner or extra-large stockpot with lid - Metal canning rack insert - Large tongs or jar lifter - Glass canning jars in the appropriate size according to the recipe - Jar lids and bands - Cutting boards and knives - Pots, pans, and/or food processor or blender needed for canning recipe - Small ruler - Chopstick or long thin object used to remove air bubbles - Timer - Towels - Heat-proof surface to cool jars overnight after processing
- Prepare and sterilize jars and lids. Thoroughly wash and dry all jars, lids, and bands. Place canning rack into your stockpot and enough of the right sized jars plus one or two extra, just in case. Your canning rack will only allow a certain number of jars to provide enough space between jars for processing. Fill the stockpot with water, enough to fill and cover the jars by at least one inch. Cover and bring to a boil. In a small sauce pan, bring water to a simmer in order to temper jar lids. Lids must be boiled for five minutes just before they are used.
- Create recipe and prepare contents to be preserved. For pickles, you can generally prepare a vinegar pickling solution, fill jars with raw fruit or vegetables and cover with warm pickling liquid. For salsas and canned tomatoes, generally tomatoes must be boiled or roasted in order to remove skins or peels and additional vinegar or lemon juice must be added to reach proper acidity. For jams and preserves, process fruits as recommended in recipe including the necessary amount of sugar and other ingredients such as pectin, which is used to thicken. For fruits preserved in syrup, process fruits as recommended in recipe, prepare syrup with proper amounts of liquid, sugar, and other ingredients, fill jars with fruit and cover with warm syrup.
- Ensure proper head space, remove air bubbles, and secure jar lids. Each type of recipe will require a different amount of space between the contents and the top of the jars. Remove air bubbles in the contents of the jars with a small plastic knife or chopstick. Use a small ruler to ensure you have the proper head space and adjust as necessary. Wipe rims of jars with a clean damp towel. Place lids on the center of jars. Tighten metal bands until fingertip-tight, then give one last gentle twist.
- Process your goods. Submerge filled and sealed jars in boiling water on a canning rack. Remove or add any water to ensure there is at least one inch of water above the jars but not enough that it will boil over. Replace lid and return to a rolling boil. Processing time varies depending on what you are canning so use a timer and follow your recipe’s instructions. Once done, turn off heat, remove lid, and wait five minutes before removing hot jars with tongs or a jar lifter. Place jars on a heat proof surface and cover loosely with a towel to allow them to cool slowly overnight.