Farming & Gardening, Food and Water

Home Canning Guide: Learn How to Can Your Own Food

Mother Earth News

Canning Jars Rainbow

Why Do We Can?

We looked to our readers to find out why home canning is experiencing a  modern revival. Their answer: Canning produces flavorful, high-quality food that  saves money, builds self-reliance and creates lifelong memories. Check out some  of their responses and get inspired to start stocking your pantry with  home-canned food: Putting Food By The Old-Fashioned Way.

How Canning Works

The Science. The more you learn about food science, the  more confident you’ll be in the kitchen. This is true for all kinds of cooking,  but is especially helpful with food preservation. When you preserve food, you  are either trying to freeze time or to encourage specific bacteria to  proliferate and crowd out harmful bacteria. Canning is all about freezing  time.

With the simplest method of canning — water bath canning — you fill jars with  acidic food such as tomatoes, berries or cucumbers in vinegar, cover them with  lids and boil them in an open pan of water until a seal forms under the lid.  This action forces air out of the food and out of the jar and creates a vacuum  in an acidic environment in which bacteria will not thrive.

Water bath canning can provide you with a number of delicious foods,  including jams, jellies, whole tomatoes and pickles, and it’s a great place to  start. A more advanced method is pressure canning. It requires a little more  skill and some specialized equipment, but it will unlock a wide world of food  and flavor options. If you want to put up the main ingredients for many meals,  rather than just supporting players and condiments, you’ll need to get into  pressure canning. To read about these methods in more detail, check out Learn to Can For Homegrown FlavorWater Bath Canning and Pressure Canning: Explained, How to Can Using the Boiling Water Bath Method and How to Home Can: Raw-Packing vs. Hot-Packing.

The Equipment. You can get by without all of the fanciest  canning-specific equipment, but you’ll need a few inexpensive basics, most of  which are widely available used. A pot that holds enough water to cover whatever  size jars you want to use with a little extra room for boiling water is key. Jar  lifters are also extremely handy, and of course the jars are a necessity. If  you’re serious about putting up a wide range of foods, you’ll also need a  pressure canner. New ones can be pricey, but shop around for used options. Your  local extension agency should be able to test old pressure canners to make sure  they’re still functioning safely, and it’s a good idea to perform this test once  each canning season.

The Ingredients. Use only the best, freshest and  blemish-free produce, spices and herbs. Buy seasonally to find the best deals.  Talk to farmers at farmers markets to see what they’ll have when, so that you  can plan your canning time accordingly. Consider making bulk purchases with  other canners in order to save even more money.

The Process. It’s Sunday morning and you’ve just collected  your best specimens of perfectly ripe produce. Your clean jars, like ducks in a  row, are lined up on the counter and your equipment is at the ready. The next  few steps are easy. (1) Prep the ingredients. (2) Fill the jars. (3) Wipe the  rims. (4) Screw on the lids and bands. (5) Boil. (6) Remove and cool until you  hear the satisfying pop-pop-pops of the seals forming.

About Safety. There’s no reason to be afraid of canning,  because ensuring safety is entirely possible. The basic rules of sanitized  canning are simple and practical. That said, it’s important to follow those  rules and to use pre-tested recipes. If you decide to experiment with canning  recipes, you’ll need a pH meter, and you can learn more about that and all the  other important canning concepts at the National Center for Home Food  Preservation. See also: Are Old Canning Recipes Safe to Use?

Handy Canning Resources

Canning App

Have a smart phone or ipad? Download the free MOTHER EARTH NEWS How to Can App via Apple or Android. Our easy-to-use app takes the mystery out of both  water bath and pressure canning with straightforward charts and instructions.  The app will also get you set up with enough delicious, nutritious recipes to  fill your pantry shelves with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables.

Consult the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more  tested-and-approved canning recipes, plus official United States Department of  Agriculture (USDA) safety and how-to information.

Your local cooperative extension agency may offer canning classes taught by  certified food preservation instructors, and will certainly have other useful  canning resources, to boot. Find the cooperative extension office nearest you by  clicking on your state on this map.

If you think you might like canning with other folks, check for a list of  state-by-state community canning kitchens that make the work of canning easier  and more fun by bringing motivated canners together.

Our Favorite Canning Books

Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small  Batches of Seasonal Foods by Eugenia Bone is the book for gourmand canners  who care more about stocking your pantry with variety than quantity and for  urban canners who think it’s cool to have a larder in Soho.

Put ‘Em Up! A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the  Creative Cook by Sherri Brooks Vinton is an inspiring resource for new  canners and for folks who like to have pretty pictures along with exceptionally  interesting recipes.

The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for  Freezing, Canning, Drying, and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables by Carol W.  Costenbader is for you if you’re looking for a comprehensive canning guide with  straightforward, easy-to-understand instructions.

The Joy of Pickling: 250 Flavor-Packed Recipes for All Kinds of  Produce from Garden or Market by Linda Ziedrich will delight anyone who  loves exploring history and culinary traditions. Of course, pickle love is a  must!

Canning Equipment


Canning Equipment Order ingredients for jams, jellies, preserves and pickles; plus canning  jars, rings, lids and other equipment via  BallFagorJarden, Kuhn RikonLehman’s and Pressure Cooker Outlet.

Tattler Canning Jar Rings

Try the nifty, reusable,  BPA-free canning jar lids from Tattler. (Then learn more about the dangers of BPA.)

Corn Zipper A delightful corn zipper by Kuhn Rikon  makes easy work of corn processing.

Canning Jar Labels Decorate your jars with the creative labels, stamps  and tags handmade by the artisans on We  like the whimsical and vintage decorations by Lazy Day  CottageLet’s Talk ChalkPapertivityPear Creek Cottage, River Dog Prints, Sincerely SadieSugarSkull7 and Sweetpotatojack.


Home Canning

Water Bath Canning Recipes

Pressure Canning Recipes

How to Can Tomatoes

Read more:


About myoung

Ben and Marcy Young are the owners of Southern Oregon Survival.


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