Canning 101

Just in case you may be unfamiliar with the beautiful art of canning fruits and veggies…I thought I’d do this post to explain some of the basics.  Then later, I can post about the specifics!

Here are some of the basic supplies you will need in order to can food.  Some of these supplies are not entirely neccessary…just really, really helpful.  Some of these supplies are entirely neccessary.

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If you are planning on canning fruits or veggies, you will need jars. 
(Oh, how I love jars!)  I like having both quart and pint sized…
and my favorites are the wide mouth jars.

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You’ll also need lids and rings.  The rings you can re-use year after year,
but in order to have your lid seal, you must use new ones each year.

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This handy dandy tool is a magnetic wand, which I use to retrieve lids
and rings out of hot sterilizing water.  (See below)  I love this tool!!

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This tool helps me grip the jars as I pull them out of the hot water bath. 
Since I’ve had this tool, I have broken fewer jars and burned myself less often. 
I SO recommend one of these.

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This wide mouth funnel is a lifesaver when you’re trying to get
your produce into the jar without making a big mess. 

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A water bath pot is pretty neccessary…
if you’re planning to seal your jars in a water bath

Okay…next…

Here are a few things you need to know if you don’t want to die from botulism

*Using the hot water bath system to seal your jars is only safe if you’re canning something acidic.  Otherwise, food must be sealed in a pressure cooker.  Food that I know of to be safe to can in a hot water bath:  tomatoes, apples, peaches, pears.   If you aren’t for sure what’s safe…please look it up to be sure before you use a hot water bath to seal your lids!

*You need to sterilize your jars, lids and rings before you put food into them.  All I do is put my clean jars upside down into a shallow pan of boiling water for a couple of minutes.

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I do the same with my lids and rings.

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See, this is where that magnetic wand comes in very handy!

*When you put your jars full of yummy fruits or veggies into the hot water bath, I recommend putting them in before you start to boil the water.  If your water is already boiling hot, you run the risk of breaking your jars and losing all of the work you put into filling.  So, put your jars into the pot of water, then turn it on to begin to get hot.  Once it finally starts to boil, then start your timer for the recommended boiling time.

Okay…this will all make more sense with my other posts about canning specific fruits and veggies.   But…that gives you the basic information you’ll need so that those posts will make sense.  Or maybe none of it makes any sense and you’d rather just come over and watch.  (Watch, nothin’.  I’d hand over a knife and some apples and tell you to get busy.)  :)

Stay tuned…canning peaches and applesauce coming soon!
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Find more kitchen tips on Tammy’s Recipes.

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Comments

  1. says

    I like how you sterilize your jars, rings and lids! I was submerging mine in a huge pot of boiling water – this seems much quicker!

    [Reply]

    Marla Starling Reply:

    You got that right!! I will be doing it this way this year.

    [Reply]

  2. Brenda says

    HA – if this isn’t timely!

    It’s been forever since I canned anything but have salsa going right now on the stove, have jars and lids, and couldn’t remember exactly what I needed to do – or rather, I thought I did but didn’t want to mess it up!

    I googled around, finished reading some website with instructions, realized I have five minutes to kill before it’s time to move on to the next step, and thought, “I’ll see what Laura’s up to!”

    Looks like I might as well have checked you first! :)

    [Reply]

  3. says

    Laura,
    This is a really great canning guide with lots of pictures.

    I would like to share it with my readers. It is so timely and helpful for folks like me who really have no experience with canning!

    [Reply]

    Kel Reply:

    Can sure use Help with a boil bath dill Pickles
    Can you help with a recipe?

    [Reply]

  4. Faith says

    Thank you for this great explanation. I’ve never canned anything and really wanted to learn. I’m printing this off. Your peaches look so yummy!

    [Reply]

  5. says

    I used to sterilize my jars also, but then read something that made perfect sense. When using the water bath method (or pressure canning) where the jars of food boil for at least 10 minutes (the time it takes to sterilze jars in boiling water), the jars, food, lids and rings all get sterilized. You cannot really sterilize the jars beforehand as they are re-exposed to air, your hands, etc. by the time you get the food in them. Everything, however, is strerilized in the water bath at the same time during the boiling process. And since the jars seal upon removal from the water bath, no new bacteria can be introduced into the jar. Also, the reason you heat the seals is to soften the sealing compound for a good tight seal. They should not be boiled for 10 minutes prior.

    All I have done for the better part of the past 31 years is wash the jars and ring bands with how soapy water to make sure they are very clean. I place the seals in water that has boiled and turn off the heat (per the directions).

    Hope this makes sense to you. I do not remember where I read it, but the science of it validates itself. I’ve never had a jar of anything go bad. But only use this method of washing jars for the water bath as described above and pressure canning.

    [Reply]

    chibuzo Reply:

    Sharon,31 year, you got lots of experience. Tell me, how long does your tomato sauce last? and beyond how long must it not stay on shelf

    [Reply]

    Melannie Reply:

    You are right that there is no need to sterilze every thing twice it just creates more work for you . Also you forgot two of my favorite items to use in canning the crock pot and the dishwasher which sterilizes the jars just fine on the hot cycle that is.

    [Reply]

    Jackie Reply:

    My mother taught me to do my lids the way you do, put in boiling water and turn off the heat. I haven’t been sterilizing my jars for tomatoes except in the water bath for 30 minutes and they have been just fine.

    [Reply]

  6. Becky Husband says

    For sterilizing my jars I just plop them in my water bath canner and let them boil away while my water is heating and when I need them and use tonges or my jar tonges to pull them out, empty the water & fill them and set aside, then put all the jars in the water bath when I am ready to start my timer. I use a small sauce pan for lids and do nothing but wash the rings because it never touches the food.

    [Reply]

  7. says

    I have the same water bath pot. But I’m confused about how to put the jars in. Is there any specific way they’re supposed to go in, or just toss ‘em in however?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I just put them in however they fit!

    [Reply]

  8. BettyLewis says

    Hi! I wonder if you can help! I am using an electric range to water bath can tomatoes. I was half way through the required 55 minutes of processing and my electricity went out. Not sure when it’s coming back. Are these tomatoes ruined, or can I reprocess when the electricity comes back on? It’s Saturday, August 8th at 6:43 in Littleton, Colorado! Thanks! – Betty Lewis

    [Reply]

  9. Jody Stith says

    Hello,
    Thank you for this wonderful website, but please, for safety’s sake, tell readers to add 2 Tbsp. bottled lemon juice for every quart of canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, juice, etc. ( 1 Tbsp. for a pint.) This is NOT optional! Although they are considered acidic, many varieties of tomatoes do not have the PH level (amount of acid) needed to assure safety from botulism, which can be deadly. Even lemons can vary in the amount of acid they contain, so use bottled lemon juice. Please refer to any state university’s cooperative extension department. Here is one webpage on canning tomaotes that explains the science of it in simple terms from a Ph.D. registered dietician at ND State University. http://www.ext.nodak.edu/food/lemnjuic.pdf
    Happy and safe canning!
    Jody

    [Reply]

  10. says

    Hello, just wanted to say Thank You for the canning tips, so many of them want to add all kinds of stuff, I just wanted plane tomato sauce. Just needed to know how long to cook the sauce. Im sure we will enjoy our sauce this winter.

    [Reply]

  11. says

    Hi,
    do the sauce/ juice and the jars have to be hot when filling the jars. Or can you start from cold/ lukewarm sauce or bottles?
    Thanks

    [Reply]

  12. Becky says

    When I went and picked up my tomatoes at the farm. There was a hispanic lady there out in the middle of the field (no electrcity) canning tomatoes. Or rather she was putting tomatoes into jars, of coure she probably was taking them home in order to seal the jars but what does that tell you about our germ phobia. Or at least mine LOL!

    [Reply]

  13. Angie says

    I have a question:) – does your water bath canner work fine on a glass top stove? I was about to purchase one but then noticed that the bottom is not completely flat. Love your site by the way – we use a lot of your recipes every day!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    My water bath canner works fine on my glass top.

    [Reply]

  14. Angie says

    forgot to click “notify me of followup comments via e-mail” on my last comment so I am doing it in now in hopes that you will notice – haha – thanks so much

    [Reply]

  15. C Griffiths says

    I am currently extracting honey from our hives and want to pot it all up into new jars with metal lids , can you use the dishwasher to sterlize them as at the moment I have been boiling them in large saucepan and it seems to be time consuming.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    You can definitely sterilize them in your dishwasher to save time!! I’ve done sterilizing both ways you mention.

    [Reply]

  16. Jami says

    I will be using your methods of making tomatoe juice/sauce up to the point of the water bath. I have a pressure canner but this is the first time I have done this. Any tips on lbs of pressure or how long to leave them in the canner would be greatly appreciated!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’m sorry, I’ve never used my pressure canner so I don’t really know. I have my mom’s old one and it didn’t come with instructions. I don’t want to blow my kitchen up!

    [Reply]

  17. Sue Franze says

    i want to make stewed tomatoes. since they have non acidic veg in them like onion and peppers in them can i do them in a hot water bath and not a pressure canner. if so how long.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I think that since you have onions and peppers, it would be better to pressure can them (not sure how long as I’m not familiar with that process). Or, you could freeze the stewed tomatoes.

    [Reply]

    SHIRLEY Reply:

    YOU CAN DO THAT IN A WATERBATH. NO NEED FOR PRESSURE CANNER. PLENTY OF ACID IN TOMATOES. I GOT THIS FROM A UNIVERSITY EXTENSION. YEARS AGO.

    [Reply]

    SHIRLEY Reply:

    I HAVE A HUGE PRESSURE CANNER, BUT HAVEN’T USED IT YET, ONLY USED A SMALL ONE FOR ROASTS AND SUCH.

    [Reply]

    BRANDI Reply:

    As far as the waterbath, i am just not comfortable with my pressure canner yet (with a baby in the house) so doyou just add lemon juice or vinegar to your recipe? my recipe had celrery, peppers and onions. Thank you in advance.

    [Reply]

  18. says

    I love that everything is explain further with pictures to follow and where to go purchase the items. Also,what other people would use. New comer to canning and think this website was AWESOME for detail information. THANK YOU!

    [Reply]

  19. says

    Please further explain if lemon juice is really needed In tomatoes because some require it and others do not in their website.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I generally do not add lemon juice as I find that most tomatoes are acidic enough without it. But, if you are uncertain, add just a teaspoon or so per jar to insure safety!

    [Reply]

    Tamara Reply:

    I definitely DO add the lemon juice when I water bath can tomatoes – 1 TBSP per pint. That is what
    the official recommendation is now and I like to follow the rules!
    It is no trouble to just do it.

    [Reply]

  20. Lorie says

    I noticed you were using a glass top stove with that black-speckle painted pot…be careful. It is not recommended to use those types of pots/pans on the glass top stove – the paint will melt to the stove top – I know because I broke the top of my stove last year canning with one of these pots. The paint melted to the stove and when I went to move the pot, I pulled a piece of glass out and cracked the entire stove top.

    [Reply]

  21. chris carlsen says

    I thankyou i am a guy. I am a guy I have caned pickiles but not tomates i am sorry about some spelling. This is a great recipe. Thankyou for your time.

    [Reply]

  22. Mechille says

    I Love the ideal of how you sterilize your jars. I have always put my into a big pot and filled it with water and boiled them. This will be alot easier. Thanks

    [Reply]

  23. Diane says

    silly question, its my first time canning tomatoe sauce. When you put your filled jars in the water bath, are the tops on and should they be sealed? or do you bath them with the tops off for the time period then pull them out and seal them.

    [Reply]

    Tamara Reply:

    Set the lids on the top and finger tighten the rings BEFORE you put the jars in the canner.
    After the time specified in the recipe, take them out of the bath and let them sit to seal.

    [Reply]

  24. Patricia says

    Thanks for all your hints, pics were definitely helpful. Can you believe I am 50 years old and just attempted last week to make some cinnamon applesauce? It turned out great and I really appreciated your hints/helps. I’m going to try to try the apple pie filling tomorrow and next week hope to make the tomato soup. This is so much fun!

    [Reply]

  25. Warren M. Holcomb says

    I am trying my Grandma’s Red Hot Cinnamon cucumber rings recipe for the first time. My wife and I have never really performed the canning operation before. Other than me stumbling through the kitchen at my Grandmother’s house as a kid watching her in passing. We have 5 gallons of cucumber slices to mutilate today :) I read someplace that cucumber slices are fit for the water bath canning technique because the cider vinegar in the juice raises the acidic content enough for safe canning.

    [Reply]

  26. says

    Hi, I have a ? on making dill spicy pickles in a boil bath.
    Can someone help by leave a recipe and how to do them?
    I never made them and would like to in boil bath canning,to save time over a pressure cooker.
    Please Help people. Thank-you

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’ve never made spicy dills before, but I often reference “pickyourown” website for help: http://www.pickyourown.org/makingpickles.htm

    [Reply]

    Kel Reply:

    Thank-you that helped :)

    [Reply]

  27. Osiris says

    Here’s a suggestion for sterilizing jars. Put them in the oven at about 220 while you’re preparing the rest of the stuff. Pull them out and be sure to let them sit for a minute before filling as they’re hotter than boiling. They need to cool down, especially if filling them with colder ingredients.

    But it frees up your stove top. I’ve been doing it for years.

    [Reply]

    Osiris Reply:

    And another for your lids. Use a crock pot or small slow cooker. Again,
    it frees up your stovetop to work on the ‘important things’. I keep
    the crock pot on the table I’m canning on.

    [Reply]

  28. Sheree says

    I always laugh when people get so uptight about the extension office canning rules. I have yet to see any mews of people dying from their home canned foods and tons and tons of people dying from foods they buy. If people want to add that extra lemon juice go right ahead but heavens, stop trying to force people to do what some government agency spouts as safe. I would think the latest news about the USDA & FDA would be enough of an eye opener to question whether people’s safety is really what they are interested in!

    K, off my soap box now.
    Laura, I can’t wait to try this recipe. I was dreading doing all the tomatoes from our garden today!

    [Reply]

    Shirley Reply:

    Amen!! (made me laugh too)

    [Reply]

  29. Colleen Fowler says

    I am new at freezing and canning and have just frozen sliced peaches done in glass pint jars. They are wonderful and the last 8 pints are done, and have sealed ,and I wish to leave these 8 unfrozen but, as with the frozen ones, I have not done a hot water bath. is it safe not to use the hot bath if they sealed, or is it not safe and I need to do that part as well? I used 3 cups water and 1 cup splenda & 3 teaspoons of Fruit Fresh , brought it to a boil~ removed it from the heat added 8 cups of sliced peaches , brought it back to a boil and then placed them in pint jars and put boild lids on. all have sealed.Please~ help!!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Go ahead and water batch them, just to finish off the process – they should be fine!

    [Reply]

  30. Angela says

    I have a confession. I have canned peaches, tomatoes, and pears over the years because I love looking at them. BUT I don’t eat the food because I’m terrified I’m going to kill my family because I didn’t do it right. And because of botulism. Does anyone else have this fear? Can the food look perfectly fine and still have botulism. I always make sure the lids don’t move/pop after the canning process, but I still worry. It’s kind of funny, but my husband doesn’t think so. :)

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I do understand the fear, but botulism is incredibly rare – if you’re following all the instructions you should be perfectly fine! (They are very pretty to look at too!)

    [Reply]

    Angela Reply:

    O.k. I’m still looking at my pretty jars of food but have yet to open them. I’m getting up the nerve soon. But one more question before I do. :) What if my jars don’t ping after they are out of the water bath? I have both tattler and regular lids and both don’t ping. I worry that it means they were not processed correctly? None of them “pop” when I press on them. I really do hate to waste food and want to start enjoying the food I’m putting so much time into. I am frustrated that I have this fear. I hoping if I get enough knowledge I won’t have this fear anymore so if anyone could answer this question it would be helpful. Thanks so much for your help and your fantastic blog! I love it and I’m constantly recommending it to friends.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    If you don’t hear the ping, it could be that they sealed while in the water bath. If they are totally down and don’t have any “give”, they are sealed, whether they “pinged” or not!

  31. Kari says

    For those of you with questions about pressure canning, get the Ball Blue Book. It is an awesome resource. It will tell you everything you need to know about pressure and time. It will also tell you how long you need to increase your water bath time based on your elevation.

    [Reply]

  32. Mark Stockov says

    I have canned for a few years now and for some reason this year some of my tomato juice jars have white floaters in them. I’m sure there bad now but cant figure out what went wrong. My wife and dad canned these the sameway we always do but there was about two fingers from the top of the jar from being full. Could this extra air have caused that problem.

    Thanks Mark

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, the extra air could definitely have made a difference in why these went bad. :(

    [Reply]

  33. Moira says

    I have read that a tomato sauce may not be acidic enough and that you should add a small amount of lemon juice (or something comparable) Please advise on how much juice and or how much concentrate.

    The above directions don’t explain when to add the lid and screw ring?? Help

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Here’s a little more explanation on the tomato sauce and lemon juice: http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/oven-roasted-tomato-sauce-easy

    You’ll add the lid and screw ring right after you’ve added the contents to the jar and before you hot water bath the jar. :)

    [Reply]

  34. Betsy says

    I recently canned some turkey noodle soup in my new pressure canner and later read you’re really not supposed to use a glass top stove for canning because the elements cycle on and off and won’t provide the constant temperature needed to can. I think as long as the contents are hot enough to keep the weight rocking it should be OK but I did notice scratches on the glass from sliding the pot around. Scratches on glass can be a problem. It weakens the glass and it can eventually break. Ever notice how glass is cut? Scratch the surface and then tap the opposite side and it’s done. So be careful how you move your pots around on the glass top stoves.

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    By the way the soup was fine and my husband is still alive.;0)

    [Reply]

  35. julie says

    HELP!!!
    I started making applesauce last night and refrigerated it to do the canning today. Q: is it ok to can the cooled sauce? Could i reheat it if it needs to be hot ?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yep, just reheat it and it’ll be fine!

    [Reply]

    julie Reply:

    OM gosh please tell me your sure, I read that bacteria would start growing as the sauce cooled?
    AND for sure I dont want botulism at Christmas, everyone is staying here and I dont need another mess to clean!!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’ve not heard that info about the bacteria – but it sounds like you’ve done more research on the matter. If you’re concerned, I’d suggest just freezing it this time. Can’t go wrong by freezing!

  36. says

    Hi,
    I came across this site and it has got me worried.

    I have been bottleling apples for the last three months by:

    putting the jars in the dishwasher

    putting the fruit in the jar.

    putting the filled jars in a dark room.

    I do not boil any thing….can I boil them to seal the tops weeks after putting the fruit in or must it been done as soon as the fruit is in while everything is hot?

    Thank you
    Richard
    PS my jars from august this year have got green mould on the top which I scrap off before eating…it seems alright to me but then I am a bloke

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    You do need to boil them while they’re hot to ensure their safety. Weeks after putting them into jars is too late, at least from what I understand.

    [Reply]

  37. Jackie says

    Is it necessary to fill the jars to the rim, and if so, why?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    No, you actually want to leave a little breathing room at the top so that as they water bath or pressure cook, they have room to expand.

    [Reply]

  38. Sile says

    I’m just getting into canning and was worried about the type of pot I would have to buy for a water bath, since we just moved and our new house has one of those new fangled flat top glass electric stoves… but now I don’t have to worry because you have the same one and I can just get one that looks like what you’re using. You have one of the steel/porcelain ones, right? But the one I looked at on Amazon says it’s not recommended for glass top stoves, so I’m confused. My stove isn’t brand new, by any stretch of the imagination (they did such a good job cleaning it that there is no writing by any of the knobs!) but I don’t want to break it and have to buy another this soon after moving! Any suggestions?!

    Thanks for all you do! I’m new to your blog and am loving the recipes etc! :D

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’ve always canned on my glass stove top without any trouble!

    [Reply]

  39. mare says

    I never water bath my jars. I put the full jars sealed, onto a cookie sheet in pre heated oven 350C for 20 minutes. Take them out, and they ping just fine.

    [Reply]

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