Learn water bath canning, the easiest processing method used in home canning for high acid foods such as jams, jellies, and pickles.
Why water-bath can?
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 tomato sauce. By properly processing jars for the correct amount of time in boiling water at the end of the recipe, you lock in your fruits and vegetables' fresh flavor for a full year.
What is a water bath canner?
Boiling water canners are large pots with fitted lids and removable racks that are either perforated or shaped wire racks. The canner must be deep enough so that at least one inch of briskly boiling water will be over the jars' tops during processing. The canner should have a flat bottom so that cans will set upright.
This is the canner that I have had for 30 years without any issues.
What foods to water bath can?
Foods with naturally high acid levels, or those with a sufficient amount of acid added to increase the ph level to 4.6 or lower, can be processed in a water bath canner.
Here are just a sample of fruits and vegetables that can be water bath canned. Find a good recipe to follow and enjoy unique flavor combinations.
FRUITS, JAMS, AND SOFT SPREADS
Fruits and spreads are considered high-acid foods. However, figs, rhubarb, and tomatoes require the addition of an acid.
- peaches - Peach BBQ Sauce
- pears - Brandy Spiced Pear Compote Recipe
- tomatoes - Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Spread
PICKLES, CHUTNEY AND RELISHES
Pickles are a very acidic food due to all of the vinegar in the recipes, so they are great for water bath canning. Here are some foods you can pickle.
- cucumbers - Spicy Bread and Butter Pickles
Learn canning terms
Before you begin, it's a good idea to know the terms related to canning. Bookmark this list of Beginner Canning Terms which 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.
Steps to water bath canning
- Before you start preparing your food, place a canner rack in the bottom of a boiling water canner. Fill the canner half full with clean warm water for a canner load of pint jars. For other sizes and numbers of jars, you will need to adjust the amount of water so it will be 1 to 2 inches over the top of the filled jars.
2. Center the canner over the burner and preheat the water to 140 degrees F. for raw-packed foods and 180 degrees F. for hot-packed foods. You can begin preparing food for your jars while this water is preheating.
3. Load filled jars, fitted with lids and ring bands, into the canner one at a time, using a jar lifter. When moving jars with a jar lifter, make sure the jar lifter is securely positioned below the neck of the jar (below the ring band of the lid). Keep the jar upright at all times. Tilting the jar could cause food to spill into the sealing area of the lid. If you have a shaped wire rack with handles to hold it on the canner sides, above the water in the canner, you can load jars onto the rack in the raised position and then use the handles to lower the rack jars into the water.
4. Add more boiling water, if needed, so the water level is at least one inch above the jar tops. Pour the water around the jars and not directly onto them. For process times over 30 minutes, the water level should be 2 inches above the jars.
5. Turn the heat setting to its highest position, cover the canner with its lid, and heat until the water boils vigorously.
6. Set a timer (after the water is boiling) for the total minutes required for processing the food.
7. Keep the canner covered for the processing time. The heat setting may be lowered as long as a gentle but complete boil is maintained for the entire process time.
8. Add more boiling water during the process, if needed, to keep the water level above the jar tops. Pour the water around the jars and not directly onto them.
9. If the water stops boiling at any time during the process, turn the heat on its highest setting, bring the water back to a vigorous boil, and begin the timing of the process over from the beginning (using the total original process time).
10. When the jars have been processed in boiling water for the recommended time, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars to allow the canner contents to settle. This waiting period is not required for the safety of the food when using USDA or the University of Georgia processing times, however.
11. Using a jar lifter, remove the jars one at a time, careful not to tilt the jars. Carefully place them directly onto a kitchen towel or cake cooling rack, leaving at least one inch of space between the jars during cooling. Avoid placing the jars on a cold surface or in a cold draft.
12. Let the jars sit undisturbed while they cool, from 12 to 24 hours. Do not tighten ring bands on the lids or push down on the center of the flat metal lid until the jar is completely cooled.
13. Remove ring bands from sealed jars. Put any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use them first.
14. Wash jars and lids to remove all residues. Label your lids with the date using a permanent marker.
Reprinted with permission from the University of Georgia.
Andress, E. (2014rev.). Preserving Food: Using Boiling Water Canners. Athens, GA: University of Georgia, Cooperative Extension.