Water bath canning is the easiest and fastest method for canning acid foods.
Some of your favorite treats are probably preserved using this method; jam, pickles, pears, and tomatoes. I still remember helping my mom in the kitchen and bushels of tomatoes, peaches, and pears. I still enjoy canning and look forward to when my kids will be old enough to participate (or complain about it).
This is also the cheapest way to go, the equipment isn’t as specialized or expensive as pressure canning. However if you plan on learning pressure canning you should just buy one. You can use your pressure canner as a water bath canner by simply removing the gauge and seal, essentially converting it into a large pot.
If this is your first step into the canning world we will have you feeling at home in no time.
You should have all your canning equipment already and a trusty canning book as your guide.
- Start by washing everything, including all the equipment and the produce you will be processing.
- Use your canning guide to look up your chosen produce for preparation guidelines. These will be relatively simple things like peeling, cutting, and seeding instructions.
- There will be one or two methods listed; cold pack or hot pack. These simply refer to whether you’re heating up the produce before putting it in the jar. Hot pack processing typically takes more work, but I’ve never really noticed a difference so I always follow the cold pack method if available.
- Fill your canner halfway with water and turn the heat on high.
- Use a canning funnel to fill your jars, and pack the produce down gently without smashing the contents.
Water bath canning relies on either sugar (syrup), vinegar, or salt for preservation. The recipe will tell you which one is needed. Here is where you can play a little. A lighter syrup has a smaller sugar to water ratio, and salt would be the same thing.
- Pour boiling water or syrup over your produce leaving 1-1 ½” head space between the level of food and the top of the jar.
- Give your jars a little shimmy to help remove air bubbles and be sure that you still have enough liquid, add more if needed. Some people run a butter knife around the inside.
- Wipe off the edge of your jars to secure a clean seal.
- Boil your lids and place boiled lid, rubber side down, on the jar. Screw on the band.
- Place the sealed jars into the water bath canner.
- Check the water level in the canner. There should be at least an inch of water above the tops of your jars but be sure not to go above the fill line.
- Add 1-2 T vinegar to the water in the canner to avoid hard water spots on jars.
- Put the lid on and bring to boil.
Once boiling, set the timer for recommended processing time. Each recipe will have its own processing time. It is important to follow the rules so your canned food will be safe to eat.
Related: Crab Apple Pie Filling
Once the timer goes off turn off the heat and using the tongs, remove the jars from the water and place the jars on a bath towel. This will save your counters and help to insulate the jars as they cool.
You don’t have to heat the jars for your next batch before placing them in the canner, just BE SURE that the temperature difference between the jars and water isn’t too big. Closer to room temp the better. Then heat them both up together for canning. Example: your first batch is soup and you are canning it hot. Make sure the water in the canner is warm-hot before putting in these jars. After that, the second and third batches will be at room temperature, but the water is pretty hot still, so let the water cool a bit longer, add the jars and bring them to a boil.
You should check on the lids an hour after removing the jars from canner. Make sure that the lids do not have any give to them. If a jar didn’t seal don’t be afraid to change the lid and reprocess it. Better to find out now then in 3 months when you want to eat it.
You have now entered the wonderful world of canning. Your garden never tasted so good or lasted so long. Go make some jam or salsa!
For other canning tips and tricks visit your local extension agencies website or office.
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