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How to Start Canning at Home

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Home Canning can seem a little over-whelming if you’ve never attempted it before. Have no fear, canning your own fruits, veggies and even meats is relatively easy! Here are step by step directions that explain the tools you’ll need to make your own delicious, healthy home-canned goods . . .

how-to-start-canning-at-home What You’ll Need to Start Canning at Home

You’ll Need a few basic items to make canning easier, we’ll explain what each of them are and the where to find them.

Jar Lifter– For removing jars from boiling water easily

Jar funnel– fits the mouth of jars and makes it easy to fill them without spillage & mess

Water Bath Canner– a 21 1/2 quart pot

Lifting Rack– an insert that allows jars to be inserted or removed from water-bath canner at the same time

Lid Lifter– contains a magnet on one end for removing lids from Hot water, can be flipped over & used to remove air bubbles from jars

Ladle– for filling the jars

Tongs– for lifting hot lids, foods, etc

Jar Wrench– for effortlessly removing sticky lids, or tightening hot lids

Clean Spoons– for scooping out any excess filling from the jar to leave proper headspace

Clean Lint-Free Cloth– for wiping away any excess moisture from the rim and threads of the jar before applying the 2-piece lids

Ball Canning Jars– quality jars that will keep your goods fresh & can be re-used year after year

Fruit Fresh or Citric Acid Powder or lemon Juice– this is used to treat fruits to prevent them from browning and help them to remain “pretty” rather than darkening.

There are a number of ways to obtain these items, if you’re extremely thrifty or low on cash, keep an eye out during summer yard sales, Craigslist, local swap/barter newspaper listings, etc. You might be able to borrow them for a few days from a relative.

However, if you plan on canning every year, it’s worth it to invest in good quality canning supplies. It will make canning considerably easier and is worth the small initial investment.

Canning Kits often come with: Jar Lifter, Jar Funnel, Lid Lifter, Jar Wrench, tongs for around $12.

Water-Bath Canner with rack  and all the accessories is less than $40 on amazon or up to $80 separately in big box stores like Target, Wal-mart.

Canning Jars are frequently on sale in the fall months. Stock up during the off-season! They can also be found on freecycle groups, craigslist, big box stores, yard sales and newspaper ads. A typical price is $6-10 for 12 jars (with lids/caps)

How To Can

First, Prepare the fruits and veggies according to the recipe you want to can. Be sure it is a high-acid fruit/ veggie/recipe such as peaches, tomatoes, pickles, chutney, etc. Low acid vegetables such as carrots and beans need to be canned with a pressure cooker, rather than a water bath canner.

Sterilize Jars

Wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse well. Place a cooling rack on a cookie sheet and place the jars upside down on the rack. Put them in a 200°F oven for at least 10 minutes prior to use. Some recipes will call for a hot jar, others will not. Placing the jars in the oven until you’re ready to use them keeps them clean and sterile.


Water Bath Method of Canning

Next, bring water to a boil in the water bath canner. How much water you’ll need is dependent upon the size jars being used, half-pints, pints, quarts, etc. Generally speaking, there are 3 distinct levels on the canner, the first level is the depth needed for pints, the second is for quarts.

You’ll want enough water in the canner to cover 1″-2″ over the top of the jars when they are submerged.

Since having multiple pots on the stove with additional water isn’t feasible, we generally run a pot of hot water through the coffee pot and leave it on to keep it hot in case we need additional

Place the lids and tops in a pan of hot water, be careful not to boil the lids as this will render them useless by ruining the seal, but they do need to be HOT. We usually leave them on the back burner of the stove in a pot of hot water over low heat until we need them.


Prepare the contents of the jars according to the recipe chosen. Place a funnel in the top of the jar and ladle the contents into it. Be careful to follow the directions in the recipe and leave the proper headspace. This essentially means that you leave 1/4″ to 1″ of Un-Filled Space/Air depending on the recipe


If you accidentally over-filled the jar, use a clean spoon to scoop out some of the contents, leaving the appropriate headspace that the recipe calls for.

Using a non-metallic spatula or wooden spoon, etc, remove the air bubbles from the jar. Simply slide the spatula down the side and allow the air bubbles to release. (Alternatively, you can use the other end of the lid retriever, it works great)

Using the lid retriever (the little plastic thing with the magnet on the end!) grab a lid from the hot water. Using the clean lint-free towel wipe the rim and threads of the filled jar. Apply the lid and add the metal cap, tightening it, but not too tightly, it can be tightened completely after processing.

Place the canning rack in position over the rapidly boiling water. As each jar is filled, place it in the rack until the rack is completely filled. Gently lower it into the water. Be sure the water is covering the tops of the jars by 1-2″. If it’s not, add hot water, COVER.

Process for the length of time indicated in the recipe. Basically- if the recipe says to “process 10 minutes” it means that you boil the jars for 10 minutes. Do not start calculating the time until the water is boiling rapidly.


Once the timer is up, gently remove the rack from the boiling water. Let the jars rest 5 minutes.


Next, using the jar lifting tongs, remove the jars one at a time, tilting them gently sideways to remove any excess water from the jar and to allow any air bubbles to escape to the headspace. (see note at bottom about using jar tongs)

Place the hot jars on a clean towel and cover to keep them in a draft free spot. Let them cool without disturbing them. You will hear “pings” as each jar seals on its own. Do not press the jar lids down. In 12-24 hours time the jars should have sealed properly on their own. You can check the seal by pressing down gently in the center of the lid. If it “bounces” or has “give” it did not properly seal and should be re-processed or refrigerated immediately and used with 7 days.

Note: There are 2 ways to use the jar lifting tongs:

The jars can be lifted from the top, like so:


This method is helpful when removing hot jars from the canner, or placing them in boiling water if you don’t have a canner rack handy.

They can also be lifted this way:

This method is handy for removing hot jars from the oven just prior to filling.

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16 thoughts on “How to Start Canning at Home”

  1. back on here, absent for a while, just made strawberry freezer jam because the big boxes of strawberries were on the discount shelf at grocery store, for a$1.00 each, bought six, used the low sugar pectin, most of them set up correctly, but the 2nd batch, I boiled some rhubarb (it was frozen) because I didnt want the strings, poured the mash in, but that batch did not set up, so I am using it for sauce on ice cream, very good, and I don’t want to waste it. would probably be good for shortcake too. Joan in nh

  2. i have always loved the idea of canning but have never attempted it. is there a good beginner’s canning recipe? something that is simple enough you can get the hang of using all the tools and going through the process.

    • I have always loved the idea of canning but have never attempted it. Is there a good beginner’s canning recipe? Something that is simple enough you can get the hang of using all the tools and going through the process.

      Pretty much any kind of fruit butter, applesauce, pear sauce, canned peaches, pears, apples, etc. Anything using a waterbath is a good beginner recipe.

  3. i replaced the burning bushes, along the south side of the house, with blueberry bushes – same vibrant red leaves but blossoms in the spring and fruit in the summer – and am so looking forward to preserving our fruit crop this summer! until our young fruiters are fully producing, my best bet is to hit the farmer’s market for additional produce. has anyone tried the co-ops?

    they seem kind of expensive and you don’t have control over what produce is provided, or amounts.

  4. i have been toying with the idea of buying a canning/ preserving kit and this has closed the deal for me! goi b g to layby one tomorrow! just wondering do i have to use the ball/mason jars or can i use recycled jars with new screw top lids?

  5. i have been canning for many years now and love and enjoy this site so much that i started teaching techniques and sharing this site with my new moms and dads in my program. thanks so much for the info and the new info on the safe “oven methods” of heating jars! i always knew about this oven method but never tried until today!

    it works! – lakotaweon!

  6. we just started canning! we are using the money we save from the walmart savings catcher to buy our own kit. right now we use friends or family and treat them to a few jars when we are done.

    were going to start to attempt to make sugar free jellys that are shelf stable next week.

  7. thank you for this post, it has been most helpful. i canned 6 qts. dill pickles, 12 pints bread & butter pickles and 4 qts.

    cucumber salad cubes. Most of my jars were given to me and almost all the produce. Today I’m canning tomatoes.

  8. great post…I want to retire in about a year and plant a large garden….this is something that I needed to learn more about so I’ll be referring back to it soon..

  9. I usually do a small garden with veggies tucked away in my flowerbeds and this year I plan to have a larger garden and learn to can and freeze for later. My questions are what foods need a water bath and which need pressure? Are there any rules to can leftovers?

    Thanks for any info.

    • I usually do a small garden with veggies tucked away in my flowerbeds and this year I plan to have a larger garden and learn to can and freeze for later. My questions are what foods need a water bath and which need pressure? Are there any rules to can leftovers?

      Thanks for any info.

      low acid foods need pressure canned. things like meat, most vegetables, and dairy. some items you just need to raise the acidity level a bit by adding lemon juice or citric acid.

      the high acidity keeps botulism at bay. water baths are frequently used for tomatoes, jams, pickles, and fruits.

      if you are going to pressurize your canned items be prepared to spend some money on your equipment unless you luck out at a garage sale. it is best to ask older women who aren’t canning anymore if they would be willing to part with their pressure cooker. they run a solid $100 each new.

      You will want one of the big ones that can do 7 jars at a time….unless you want to be at it all day long. I just borrow two from my Amish neighbor when I need them.

      The USDA site will have lots of information on what you need to know. Best of all worlds is getting some hands on with someone who has done it a lot. Just ask around and there is always someone willing.

  10. Canned 30 quarts of tomatoes, 26 quarts of sweet corn, and 28 quarts of beef broth in 2014. Tomatoes, corn, and beef bones were given to me for free!! Froze a full bushel of peaches as well.

    I need room in my freezer so I’m getting set to make Bourbon Peach Jam.

    Has anyone used Tattler lids with their canning? I bought a dozen to try. They cost a lot more than the metal flats but they are reusable.

    Well worth it in the long haul if they prove to perform as advertised. This is the first year I’ve used them. (lost one jar of corn with one of those lids on it)


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