Learning the basic steps of canning for beginners is a fun and economical way to make great tasting fresh foods available to enjoy year-round.

canning for beginners

How to start canning 101

First, let’s look at what is canning and what you need to learn before you start. Next, we will cover the basic terms of canning for beginners. After that, we will discuss the types of canners you should and should not use for safe canning practices. We will have a quick lesson on canning jars and seals, and they learn the supplies you will need to get started.

Next, I will offer you some safe canning tips and guides to help make you feel comfortable canning your own great-tasting recipes. Finally, I have some recipes to try and suggestions of books packed with tips and recipes to use when you learn how to start canning.

What is canning?

Canning is the practice of properly using safe methods for food preservation. The canning process involves placing foods in jars and placing seals on them. You then heat the jars and seals to a temperature that destroys microorganisms that could be a hazard or cause the food to spoil. Canning also inactivates enzymes that could cause the food to spoil. Air is driven from the jar during heating, and as it cools, a vacuum seal is formed. The vacuum seal prevents air from getting back into the product, bringing microorganisms to recontaminate the food.

Why you should learn to can

Canning is a fun and economical way to make fresh foods available year-round. It’s so satisfying going to your pantry and choosing food for your family that you canned when vegetables and fruit were in their peak season. With the large variety of recipes available for safely preserving fruits, vegetables, and meats, you are sure to find favorites, your family will ask you to make again and again.

Is canning easy?

Home canning is easy and safe when you learn a few basics steps that apply to all canning recipes. When you learn the proper equipment to use, a few basic terms, you will be ready to start learning how to safely can your own foods.

What is canning in food preservation exactly?

This is a home canning term used to describe the process of preserving fresh produce and freshly prepared foods in glass, preserving jars with lids and bands in the presence of heat to destroy microorganisms that cause spoilage.

What food can be canned?

  • Fruits
  • Pie fillings
  • Tomatoes and tomato products: such as salsa, sauces, and whole tomatoes
  • Vegetables: whole and cut, and soups
  • Beef, venison, poultry, and seafood
  • Jams and jellies
  • Pickles and fermented products

What foods cannot be canned safely?

According to SBCanning, fats and dairy products will go rancid and develop bacteria within your jar if left unrefrigerated and mixed in with other ingredients to form a recipe.

Oats, wheat, and flour products will also go rancid. Also, during processing, the heat will not penetrate through the ingredients in the recipe and will not kill the jar’s bacteria. That would be the same for any “mashed” vegetable like mash potatoes, butternut squash, or pumpkin.

  • Fats: Oils and mayonnaise
  • Dairy: butter, milk,  cheese, sour cream, cream, any yogurt, buttermilk, eggs, goat, or any other animal milk
  • Vegan alternative proteins: soy and tofu
  • Grains: Oats, wheat, barley, grains, rice, bread, noodles or pasta, hominy, crackers,  biscuits, and pie dough
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, brussel sprouts (pickled ok), cabbage(pickled or fermented sauerkraut), cauliflower (pickle ok), eggplant (pickled ok), summer squash (pickled ok), olives (pickled ok), lettuce, artichokes, mashed parsnips, mashed squash, mash potatoes, and mashed pumpkin
  • Fruits: Bananas, avocados, and coconut milk
  • Meats: avoid high fat such as duck, liver and giblets, hot dogs, meats with fillers
  • Candy: Caramels, peppermints, marshmallow

Canning terms for beginners

This list of Beginner Canning Terms will help you start learning how to safely home-can fruits, vegetables, and meats. Canning terms are mostly simple; however, the canning community has some terms that might be a little confusing.

This list of how to start canning terms will be a great reference for terms you are not familiar with. Be sure and bookmark this page so you can refer to it as needed.

canning for beginners jars with food

Canning Equipment

Two types of home canning are safe for food preservation. You first must decide which type of food you want to can, and then you can decide if you need to water bath can or pressure can.

Boiling water bath canning

A lower-temperature canning process, water bath canning is ideal for high-acid foods and recipes that incorporate the correct acid measure. The combination of time and temperature destroys mold, yeast, and enzymes that cause spoilage while creating a vacuum seal. This process is recommended for produce and recipes including:

  • Fruits and fruit juices
  • Jams and jellies
  • Salsas
  • Tomatoes
  • Pickles and relishes
  • Chutneys, sauces, pie fillings
  • Vinegar
  • Condiments

How to waterbath can for beginners

water bath canning canner

To learn step by step, how to water bath can be sure and visit my Water Bath Canning For Beginners. Water bath canning, which is sometimes called boiling water bath canning, is the easier method to start learning how to home can. The water bath canning process lets you safely store homemade jars of jam, pickles, and tomatoes. 

Pressure canner

Pressure canning is the only processing method that reaches the high temperature (240°F) needed to preserve low-acid foods safely. It is the combination of time and temperature that will destroy food-borne bacteria and create a vacuum seal necessary to prevent spoilage. This process is required to preserve foods and recipes like:

  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Salsas
  • Vegetables
  • Chili
  • Seafood

Canning methods not to use

Dry canning vegetables or any food pieces without the covering liquid used in processing can result in under-processing and, in the case of vegetables, a risk of botulism. Don’t risk using this method.

Jars and seals

Choosing jars

Regular and wide-mouth Mason-type, threaded, home-canning jars with self-sealing lids are the best choice. You can buy them in ½ pint, pint, pint, quart, and ½ gallon sizes. A standard jar mouth opening is about 2-3/8 inches. Wide-mouth jars have openings of about 3 inches. Wide mouths are easier to fill and empty. You can also get standard mouth decorator jelly jars in 8 and 12-ounce sizes. These are perfect for gift giving too.

12 Ball Mason Jar with Lid – Regular Mouth

How long are canning jars good?

With careful use and handling, Mason type canning jars may be reused for years. I have some that belonged to my grandma that I still use. You will need to use new lid seals each time, however. Always run your finger around the rim of a jar to feel for any slight chips each time you use them. A chip will cause the jar not to seal; if you feel a chip discard the jar.

Can I reuse canning jar seals?

Canning lid seals are designed for one-time use only. Once the rubber seal has been heated and pressed on a jar, it will not return to its original shape. You definitely shouldn’t reuse your lids from year to year. The hope of saving a few dollars is not worth the chance of having an unsafe product.

What supplies do you need to start canning?

I have a CANNING SUPPLIES GUIDE that is the perfect way to start learning how to economically can your own vegetables, jams, soups, and meats.

I explain all the essential supplies you will need to begin canning.

canning supplies guide cover

Canning tips

Your altitude does matter when canning

When canning foods, it is important to know your local altitude. Your altitude determines the amount of pressure in your canner or time you process in a boiling water canner for your food. Air pressure decreases as altitude or elevation increases. Because of decreased air pressure, the boiling point of water decreases as altitude increases. For a complete guide to canning with your altitude in mind, be sure and print The University of Kentucky’s Safe Home Canning: Altitude Adjustments

Should you turn canning jars upside down?

There is a style of preserving in canning jars called jelly flipping or open kettle canning. Food is cooked in an ordinary saucepot, then packed into hot jars and sealed without processing in a boiling water canner or pressure canner. The idea is to turn the jars upside down on a towel for 5 minutes to soften the rubber seals. After the five minutes or so, you flip the jars right side up and allow them to cool, and supposedly you will hear the lid pop and seal.

The temperatures obtained in the cooking process are not high enough to destroy all spoilage and food poisoning organisms that may be in the food. Also, microorganisms can enter the food when transferred from the saucepot to the jars and cause spoilage.

Tips for canning safely

Follow USDA-approved modern canning methods. You might be using the same recipes passed down through generations of family members but make sure your canning methods are up to date. Canning methods and equipment have improved food safety over time. Follow current guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Complete Guide to Home Canning or your state County Extension Service

When you open a jar of home-canned food, be sure to inspect it thoroughly. If in doubt, throw it out.
Home-canned food is most likely contaminated if:

  • A jar is leaking, bulging, or swollen
  • The jar looks damaged, cracked, or abnormal
  • When a jar spurts liquid or foam when opened
  • The food is discolored, moldy, or smells bad

How to ensure your products are properly canned

After processing your recipe, be sure and check the product seals before storing it. Go through these checkpoints after canning a batch of jars.

  • Wait 24 hours or overnight for jars to cool.
  • Press the center of the lid. If it is down and will not move, it is sealed.
  • If the lid looks concave (curved down), it is sealed.
  • Pick the jar up by the lid; the lid should not come off.
  • Tap the lid with a spoon. A clear ringing sound indicates the jar is sealed. Moreover, if food has expanded in the jar and is touching the lid, the lid may still be sealed even with a dull sound.

Beginner canning recipes

Once you know what you want to can, find a recipe from a trusted, current source. As tempting as it might be to use your great aunt’s favorite jam recipe, guidelines for safe canning have evolved over the years.

Books on how to start canning

Canning and Preserving for Beginners: The Essential Canning Recipes and Canning Supplies Guide

Beginner’s Guide to Canning: 90 Easy Recipes to Can, Savor, and Gift 

The Complete Guide to Pressure Canning: Everything You Need to Know to Can Meats, Vegetables, Meals in a Jar, and More

Ball Canning Back to Basics: A Foolproof Guide to Canning Jams, Jellies, Pickles, and More