October 23, 2011

Getting Started in Canning

I made another batch of salsa yesterday and intended to photograph the process, but it was just too awkward. The last thing I wanted to do was drop my camera in a huge pot of boiling salsa. Instead, I decided to take some pictures of the equipment that is needed for canning and give you a short and sweet "how-to" with links to sites that will give you safety information, recipes, and detailed instructions.

My grandmother used to make apricot jelly and prickly-pear jelly. Whenever I'd visit she'd send me home with a jar or two and I loved the fact that she made it from scratch and with love, even picking the apricots from the tree and the fruit from the cactus herself. My choice for my first canning project was blueberry jam and it turned out great!

The first thing you'll need is a Ball Blue Book, which will guide you step-by-step through the canning process. This information is also available online, There are two methods of canning food: The water bath method and the steam pressure method, which uses a pressure cooker. I'm going to talk about the water bath method today.
You'll need a big pan, which will be filled with water that has been brought to a boil. This is the water your filled and capped jars will go into for the water bath. This pan is 21-quarts.
This rack fits inside the pan. After the jars are filled and capped, they can be put into this rack and then lowered into the boiling water. The rack keeps the jars off the bottom of the pan and gives you a safe way to submerge and retrieve the jars. 
After the jars have been in the water bath for the proper amount of time and you've taken them out of the pan, they should be set on top of towels. The towels provide an insulation between the jars and your counter. If you set a hot jar on a cold counter, or onto a counter that had water sitting on it, there would be chance for breakage. You'll need pot holders and an oven mitt so you can hold the hot jars. And, you'll need a wet, clean dishcloth to wipe the threads and rims of the jars after you've filled them and before you place the seal and bands on the jars. Wiping the threads and rims will ensure that no food particles will interfere with the sealing process.
This is a pair of tongs which is a handy way to move hot jars. The yellow part of the tongs is rubberized to help prevent breakage and it also allows you to get a good grip on the jar.
You'll need a ladle for filling the jars. After the jars are filled, run a small, thin spatula around the inside wall of the jar to get rid of air pockets. The green item is a lid retriever... simply a plastic handle with a small magnet on the end. This is handy for retrieving lids that are in hot water, which softens the seal so it will better adhere to the rim of the jar.   
A wide-mouth funnel makes it easy to fill the jars, which can be a messy process (at least in my kitchen)!
And, finally, you'll need jars, which you can buy in 4 ounce, 8 ounce (1/2 pint), 16 ounce (pint), and 32 ounce (quart) size. Jars are available either in the regular, or wide-mouth variety. You'll also need lids, which are the flat discs in the picture. The bottom of the lid is rubberized so it will seal to the jar. The rings are put on after the lids and hand tightened before the jars go into the water bath. The rings are removed before storage to prevent rusting.

All of these items can be purchased in kits like this. Take a look at Ball's "Intro to Canning" and you might just find yourself in the kitchen preserving food from your garden or whipping up some homemade jams and jellies for the neighbors at Christmastime!


  1. Great post Karen. I canned another 10 quarts of salsa and 6 quarts of tomato sauce yesterday. Was in the kitchen all afternoon and had so much fun. I love that Ball book and trust their recipes. So many things I'd like to make.

  2. I was debating getting into canning this year, then I had a horrible year gardening and the decision was made for me. There's always next year right?

  3. Great post...Thank you for the tips!

  4. So I did buy the right accessories! the only thing I've canned has been some pickles, um 4 jars. I new to this whole thing. They should be ready this week. If they turn out okay I might even post about it...

  5. I need to get on this canning bandwagon. Thanks so much for such an educational post!

  6. I need to do this. This is a great lesson and your salsa looks delicious! I have my MIL's Ball Blue Book from when she was a newlywed so it's really old and looks like it but is interesting to read.

  7. Harumph - I should have read this before last weekend's canning chores. I have to get one of those lid retrievers! Also on the list - a jar lifter and that book. I love putting stuff up for winter. Thanks for the info.

  8. Yes, this is the equipment I need.
    I don't do the waterbath, I just put the lids on and listen for the pop. I remember my mom and I once sealed the jars, put them on the top rack of the dishwasher, ran it, then took them out and listened. It got them hot enough!


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