Canning 101: It’s as Easy as Boiling Water…Yes, Really!

August 13, 2014

Canning 101: It’s as Easy as Boiling Water…Yes, Really!

Grandma’s tradition of putting up preserves is back in vogue, which means it’s time for you to try it. Don’t be scared–canning is so easy.

The Basics

In a nutshell, canning is stopping or slowing natural spoilage by removing air from filled, covered jars by exposing the jars to heat. The best entry point for canning is with acidic foods that are less likely to spoil, like tomato sauce, salsas, chutneys, jams, pie fillings, and pickles. A popular and basic method is called, “water bath canning.”

Gearing Up

A canning kit will contain most of what you need. Or you can stock up on Mason jars, rings, lids, and a canning rack. Make sure you have a pot large enough to cover the jars with at least an inch of water when boiling. Now you’re ready to get started.

Step one: Once you choose your canning recipe, fill the pot with enough water to cover the jars by one inch; heat to a simmer. Keep the jars warm (either in the dishwasher or another pot of water) to avoid breakage when filling.

Step two: Fill the jars with your prepared dish, leaving one inch of space at the top for heat expansion. Slide a small plastic spatula around the inside of the jar, and press to make sure there are no air bubbles and food is packed in tightly. Wipe food from the rim of the jar. Place a new lid on the jar, and twist the band until it’s just barely on. The band shouldn’t be completely tight; air needs to be able to escape.

Step three: Place the filled, lidded jars into the simmering water using your canning rack or tongs. Cover the pot, and heat to a steady boil for the amount of time specified in the recipe. Turn off the heat, and let the jars stand for five minutes. Remove them from the water and cool upright on a wire rack or dishtowels for 12 hours. Don’t mess with the lids and bands during this time, so you don’t interfere with the sealing process. You’ll hear satisfying “pops” as they seal.

Step four: Test your seal. Press down on the center of the lid. If it’s sealed properly, it won’t flex up or down. If the lid flexes, you can either refrigerate the food for immediate use or remove it from the jar and add it to another batch for canning.

Pretty darn easy, right? Sealed jars last for up to one year. Happy canning!



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