Water Bath Canning Foods at Home: Easy Step by Step Illistrated Instructions
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Water Bath Canning Foods at Home: Easy Step by Step Illistrated Instructions
Water bath canning is the process most people use to can fruits,
vegetables, jams, jellies, and pickles at home. Unfortunately, the canners
rarely come with directions, and the instructions in many canning books
can be complicated and hard to follow. These boiling water bath
canning directions below may serve as a guide and a reminder to the
basic steps in home pressure canning food whether you have misplaced your
canning books, are new to home canning or just need a refresher.
Essentially, a water bath canner is a very, very large pot, with
dimensions to hold at least 7 quart jars and allow them to be submerged by 1
to 2 inches of water. The canners usually include a rack with
handles to make it easier (and safer) to put the jars in and take them out
of the boiling water. Most boiling water canners are made of aluminum or porcelain-covered
steel. Many boiling water canners do not have completely flat bottoms, so if
you have a smooth-top stove (such as a
ceramic or glass topped
stove), see this page for alternatives.
Gas stoves are ideal for home canning since either a flat or ridged
bottom may be used on a gas burner. To ensure uniform processing of all jars
with an electric range, the canner should be no more than 4 inches wider in
diameter than the element on which it is heated. (When centered on the
burner or element, the canner should not be more than 2 inches wider on any
Follow these steps for successful boiling water canning:
Setting up the equipment
The first step in pressure canning is to clean, inspect
and assemble the pressure canner. Before each canning
season, check the dial gauge for accuracy. The dial gauge
is a delicate instrument which must be handled with care. Do
not submerse cover or let gauge come in contact with any
liquid. You should have the gauge inspected if the cover has
been submerged in water or dropped, gauge glass is broken or
has fallen out, parts are rusty, pointer is not in the "0"
block, or if you believe the gauge may not be accurate. The
gauge can usually be checked at your local county extension
office. See this page:
http://www.pickyourown.org/countyextensionagentoffices.htm to find your
local county agent. If you are unable to have your dial
gauge checked locally, carefully remove the gauge and call
your canner's Consumer Service Department for directions.
Also check the sealing ring, overpressure plug, and the
rubber gasket of the air vent/cover lock. Replace these
parts when they become hard, deformed, cracked, worn,
pitted, or unusually soft.
Check the jars for nicks, cracks, and sharp edges.
Check the rings (screw bands) for dents or rust. Use only jars,
lids, and bands in perfect condition so an airtight seal may
be obtained. Wash and rinse jars, lids, and bands. Pour hot
water into jars and set aside until needed. A dishwasher is
a great way to clean and preheat the jars. The jars and
lids don't need to be sterile (unless the recipe calls
for less than 10 minutes of "processing" in the canner; the
canner sanitizes the jar as well as the contents), just
clean and warm (to prevent breakage from thermal shock).
Before you start preparing your food, fill the canner
half full with clean warm water for a canner load of pint
jars. For other sizes and numbers of jars, you will need to
adjust the amount of water so it will be 1 to 2 inches over
the top of the filled jars.
Put the canner on your stove, centering on the burner
and preheat the water to 140°F (just simmering) for raw-packed foods and to 180°F
(barely boiling) for hot-packed
foods. You can begin preparing food for your jars while this water is
preheating. The recipe will tell you whether it is a raw-pack or ht pack.
If you have a glass or ceramic stove, be sure that the
canner does not overextend the burner by more than 1 inch,
and check the stove's manual to be sure the use of a
pressure canner is ok.
See this page
for more information about canning on glass and ceramic
air bubbles with a clean nonmetallic spatula (see picture above). Wipe sealing
edge clean with a damp cloth. Adjust bands snugly, so the jars
don't leak, but not TOO tight!
Load the filled jars, fitted with lids, into the canner one
at a time, using a jar lifter. (If
you have a shaped wire rack that has handles to hold it on the canner sides,
above the water in the canner, you can load jars onto the rack in the raised
position and then use the handles to lower the rack with jars into the
water.) When moving jars with a jar lifter, make sure the jar lifter 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 one to two inches above the jar tops. For process
times over 30 minutes, the water level should be 2 to 3
inches above the jars.
Put the cover on the canner.
Turn the heat
setting to its highest position, cover the canner with its lid and heat
until the water boils vigorously.
Set a timer (after the water is
boiling) for the total minutes required for processing the food.
Processing the jars in the canner
Keep the canner covered for the process time. The heat setting may be
lowered as long as a gentle but complete boil is maintained for the entire
Add more boiling water during the process, if
needed, to keep the water level 1 to 2 inches above the jar tops.
If the water stops boiling at any time during the
process, turn the heat on its highest setting, bring the
water back to a vigorous boil, and begin the timing of the
process over, from the beginning (using the total original
At the end of the processing time
When the jars have been processed in boiling water 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
one at a time, being careful not to tilt the jars. Carefully place them
directly onto a towel or cake cooling rack, leaving at least one inch of
space between the jars during cooling. Avoid placing the jars on a cold
surface or in a cold draft.
Remove jars from canner with a jar lifter, trying to
keep them upright without tilting. Set jars apart on board or
cloth away from draft to cool. A towel or cake cooling rack
makes a good surface. Leave at least one inch of space
between the jars during cooling. Let the jars sit undisturbed while they cool,
normally 8 to 12 hours.
Do not tighten the ring bands on the lids or push down on the center of the
flat metal lid while the jars are cooling.
Once the jars are cooled, remove ring bands from sealed jars
(otherwise the bands may rust in place and be hard to open). If
necessary, wash jars and lids to remove all residues Put any unsealed jars in the
refrigerator and use those first.
When jars are cold, test
seal, remove bands, wipe jars, label, date, and store in a
cool, dry place. I use a permanent marker, like a Sharpie, to
put the date and contents ("applesauce", strawberry jam",
etc.) on the lid of each jar. I put the paper labels (see
this page for free templates to make your own) on when I
give the jars away, so the labels will look their best. Most canner foods will taste good for about a
year. Technically, they are safe for years past this,
as long as they remained sealed, stored properly and show no
signs of spoilage. But after a year or two the quality
and taste will appreciably decline.
Testing jar seals
After cooling jars for 12 to 24 hours, remove the screw
bands and test seals with one of the
Press the middle of the lid with a
finger or thumb. If the lid springs up when you release your finger, the
lid is unsealed.
Tap the lid with the bottom of a
teaspoon. If it makes a dull sound, the lid is not sealed. If food is in
contact with the underside of the lid, it will also cause a dull sound.
If the jar is sealed correctly, it will make a ringing, high-pitched
Hold the jar at eye level and look
across the lid. The lid should be concave (curved down slightly in the
center). If center of the lid is either flat or bulging, it may not be
Storage - Storing canned foods
If lids are tightly vacuum-sealed on cooled jars, remove
screw bands, gently wash the lid and jar to remove food residue; then rinse
and dry the jars. Label and date the jars and store them in a clean, cool,
dark, dry place. A basement is usually an ideal location. The foods should
remain tasty for up to a year. After that, it will remain safe to eat,
as long as the seal is intact, but quality will slowly decline.
Do not store jars above 95°F or near hot pipes, a range, a
furnace, under a sink, in an uninsulated attic, or in direct sunlight. Under
these adverse conditions, the food will lose quality in a few weeks or
months and may spoil. Dampness may corrode metal lids, break seals, and
allow recontamination and spoilage.
Accidental freezing of canned foods will not cause spoilage
unless jars become unsealed and recontaminated. However, freezing and
thawing may soften food. If jars must be stored where they may freeze, wrap
them in newspapers, place them in heavy cartons, and cover with more
newspapers and blankets.
Problems and solutions
Altitudes above sea level - Recipes normally
include directions for the proper pressure and processing time if you
are more than 1,000 ft above sea level.
Canning jars, lids and rings - While there are many styles and
shapes of glass jars on the market, only canning jars are
recommended for home canning. canning jars are available in 1/2
pint, pint, and quart capacities with threads on which a cap may
be screwed. See the chart below for the jar capacity of your
canner. Additional information may be obtained from the
manufacturers of canning jars. CLOSURES FOR canning jars: The
two-piece vacuum cap consists of a flat metal lid held in place with a
screw band. A rubber compound on the underside of the lid forms a seal
during processing. Follow the closure manufacturer's directions for
using the two-piece cap and for testing for a proper seal. If the
closure has not sealed, completely reprocess or use the food
immediately. Refer to the closure manufacturer's directions for
Reprocessing unsealed jars
If a lid fails to seal on a jar, remove the lid and
check the jar-sealing surface for tiny nicks. If necessary, change the
jar, add a new, properly prepared lid, and reprocess within 24 hours
using the same processing time. Headspace in unsealed jars may be
adjusted to 1-1/2 inches and jars could be frozen instead of
reprocessed. Foods in single unsealed jars could be stored in the
refrigerator and consumed within several days.
For more information, and NO obligation to buy, just click on
the links in the Amazon boxes on the left!
If you want to can low-acid foods such as red meats, sea food, poultry,
milk, and all fresh vegetables with the exception of most tomatoes,
you will need a pressure canners. These foods fit into the
low acid group since they have an acidity, or pH level, of 4.6 or
greater. The temperature which must be reached and maintained (for a
specified amount of time) to kill the bacteria is 240 F. Pressure canning is the only canning method recommended safe by
the U.S.D.A. for low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats, and fish. Ordinary water
bath canners can only reach 212 F and cannot to kill the types of
bacteria that will grow in low acid foods. This temperature can be
reached only by creating steam under pressure as achieved in quality
There are several manufacturers of pressure canners. The two
leading ones are Presto and All American (Wisconsin Aluminum). They are more expensive
than water bath canners, but extremely well built - I bought
mine in 1988 and it still looks and works like new!
Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner
This is usually about $80 PLUS SHIPPING.
(which is a GREAT price for a pressure canner). There is also a 16
quart version for about $69. Click on the links
at left or above for more info and current pricing. It is also available
from Amazon .com (click on the box link at left) (and below from Target)
17 by 15-1/2 inches; 12-year warranty
Heavy-duty 23-quart aluminum pressure canner and
Comfortably ergonomic, stay-cool black plastic
Strong-lock lid with pressure regulator, dial
gauge, and overpressure plug
Comes with canning rack to protect jars during