Water Bath Canning

When You Want To Can Food, But Don’t Know Where To Start

I’m officially obsessed with canning food.

I’ve helped can a few times in my life, but I’ve always been strictly a sous-chef-instruction-follower. Aka, I’ve done the chopping prep-work… maybe the vigorous stirring.

But, I’m certainly not an expert.

My original plan for this canning season was to try out pickles, maybe some jam…

So a couple of weeks back, I began the research necessary to set myself up with canning supplies. (Good news though, most kitchens already have the basics that are necessary for waterbath canning. If you have a tall stock pot, tongs, and canning jars you have what you need to get started!) 

I however, didn’t have what I needed (of course).

I knew I wanted to pressure can (required for canning low-acid foods like vegetables) eventually, but I wanted to get the hang of things in a simpler way, with water bath canning (safe for high acid foods like pickles and jams).

Luckily, pressure canners double as water bath canners (you just need a stockpot for the latter remember?) So I went ahead and bought a pressure canner with the plan to just use it for water bath canning until I get my skill set and confidence up to snuff.

A week ago, my pot got delivered.

I knew it was coming, and day dreamed all day about its arrival. I also happened to have ripe peaches and remembered a low sugar peach recipe that was recently featured on one of my favorite podcasts (The Living Homegrown podcast. It’s SO informative and helpful!)

I walked in the door, package in hand, filled my pot with water and got to work.

It’s only been about 10 days since it’s arrival… and I’m hooked.

So far I’ve made low sugar peach jam (twice), low sugar no pectin blueberry jam, sweet relish, and dill pickles.

In case you’re counting… yes… that means I’ve been canning every other day.

But! It’s fun. And way less scary than I anticipated. And, since I started with basic recipes, I had success right off the bat (which has definitely encouraged me to can even more!)

The Top 8 Canning Tips I’ve Learned So Far:

  1. Water bath canning is only safe for high acid foods. Low acid foods need to be processed in a pressure canner. Make sure you have the right equipment for your recipe before you begin.
  2. A pressure canner can double as a water bath canner, but the reverse is not true.
  3. Read your canning recipe start to finish, a couple of times, before you start canning. Timing is a big part of the process so you want to have your prep-work done and a strategy in place.
  4. Follow instructions! And only follow canning recipes from reputable sources you trust. Not all canning recipes published online are truly safe for shelf-stable storage.
  5. It’s not unusual for the contents of jars to escape from under the lid a bit during canning. This happened when I over filled my jars the second time I made the peach jam recipe, and I thought that meant it wasn’t safe to store. But, as long as you have a strong seal, you can wipe off anything that got vacuumed out during processing, and store the jar on the shelf as usual.
  6. Jars are best stored in a cold dry place with rings off. (Who knew!?) Once you have let the jars cool and seal for 24 hours, you can remove the metal rings on each jar. This is helpful for long term storage. If a jar becomes unsealed at some point on the shelf, you’ll know right away rather than the ring holding it on and giving you a false seal.
  7. Label your jars! Grab a sharpie and be descriptive (recipe & date at least). Once you’ve canned several recipes, you may not remember what’s what (or more importantly, when you processed the batch.)
  8. Only plan to can what you can eat or give away in a year. Some people keep home-canned-goods for longer, but contents are freshest and highest quality within the year.

Have you been wanting to try canning? What’s your favorite water bath recipe?


    1. You can use a large stockpot or a pressure CANNER for water bath canning. But I’ve seen some pressure cookers that won’t do the job. You just need a vessel large enough to cover the jars with 1-2 inches of water.

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