3 Steps to Successful Home Canning

1. Sterilize jars and lids

Wash jars, lids, and rings in hot, soapy water.  Set rings aside.  Place lids in a small saucepan.  Cover in water.  Boil at least 5 minutes.  Leave in hot water  until ready to use.  Submerge empty jars in boiling water in canner or large stock pot  for 10 minutes.  Leave in boiling water until ready to fill.

2.  Fill jars, wipe rims, and screw on ring and lid.

Remove sterile jars from boiling water bath.  Place right side up next to stove.  One by one, fill jars using a ladle and canning funnel.  Leave 1/2 inch head-space.  Wipe rim clean using a damp clean towel.  Take sterile lid from saucepan (I use a fork to pick them up) and place on clean rim.  Screw ring on until finger tight.  (Don’t crank it tight with your whole hand.  You want the seal to form from the processing and not from your brute force).

3.  Process in boiling water bath.

Lower full jars into boiling water bath.  Be sure tops of jars are submerged by at least one inch.  Make sure water is boiling, then boil for amount of time dictated by recipe.  Remove jars from boiling water bath and allow to cool.  After several hours, check lids for seal.  If sealed properly, button on lid will be sucked down.  If lid is not sealed, keep jar in refrigerator.  Use first.   You can generally keep a sealed jar on the shelf for one year.  Be sure to label jar clearly with contents and date.  A Sharpie pen works great on the lid.

Canning FAQ’s

Why “put up” or can food at home?

Preserving food at home allows us to take advantage of peak season fruits and vegetables.  We harvest from our gardens, farmers’ markets, or grocery stores the best tasting produce and store all those flavors for use year round.  Plus, when you can it, you make it just like you love it!  You’ll never find canned food at the supermarket as good as what you can make at home using your favorite foods.

What supplies do I need?

  • Mason jars are tempered glass jars designed to be processed repeatedly.  You can find these at many hardware stores and grocery stores.  Do not use glass jars that are not designed for canning (ex.  reused peanut butter jars.)  I like to have a number of sizes on hand: pints for pickles, half-pints for jam, quarts for tomato sauce, etc.  They are also great for storing grains and other pantry items.

Various Size Mason Jars

  • Lids and rings are sold side-by-side with the jars.  You may reuse the rings, but you must use a new lid every time.  If you reuse a lid you risk the jar not sealing and contamination of your food.

Rings and Lids

  • A canning funnel and jar tongs are key items.  The canning funnel allows you to ladle your goods directly in the jar without dirtying the rim (which would be a mess, a waste, and may prevent a good seal of your jar).  The canning tongs are important when lowering your jars into the boiling water bath and removing them.

Jar Tongs and Canning Funnel

  • A canning pot is a large pot that allows you to submerge multiple jars at the same time.  A large stock pot will do, but won’t allow you to hold as many jars.  Mine holds 7 quart jars at a time.  The pot must be  tall enough that all  the jars are submerged by at least an inch.

Lowering Jar into Boiling Water Bath

What kinds of food is safe to can at home?

Basically, home canning with a boiling water bath makes it possible to can any high acid food.  This includes most fruits and any pickled items.  Safely canning low acidity food (such as soup or meat) requires a pressure canner.

Why must foods be highly acidic?

High acidity prevents the growth of bacteria.  Even though a canning project ALWAYS begins with sterilized jars and lids and generally boiling hot food, it is impossible to ensure that no bacteria or endospores enter the jar before sealing.  Some types of bacteria will cause your food to spoil, which is disappointing.  Of particular concern though is Clostridium Botulinum.  This bacteria thrives in low acid, anaerobic environments and can cause the fatal food poisoning, Botulism.  It is tasteless and scentless, but very dangerous.  Therefore always stick to high acid foods when using a boiling water bath.

Random Tips for Successful Canning:

1.  Fill up your canning pot and put it on the stove on HIGH well before you need it, it takes a long time to heat.

2.  Always prepare at least a couple extra jars so you are ready if you end up with more than you thought- it is always disappointing to have extra jam and no sterile jar to put it in.

3.  Start with super fresh, seasonal produce.  If you are going through the trouble of canning, it is worth it to use top quality produce.

For more info see The National Center for Home Food Preservation:

Principles of Home Canning.

Canning Recipes from My Pantry Shelf:


Meyer Lemon Curd

Lime Curd

Relishes and Chutneys

Caramelized Onion Relish

Fuyu Persimmon Chutney

Grilled Corn Relish

 Mango Cranberry Chutney

jams, jellies, and syrups

Cherry Rhubarb Jam

Mixed Berry Syrup

Peppered Peach and Rosemary Jam

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Three Berry Jam

pickles and such

Char-Roasted Pickled Peppers

Curried Cauliflower Pickles

Pickled Asparagus

Preserved Grape Leaves

Sweet and Spicy Zucchini Pickles

other yummy condiments

Asian Plum Sauce

Chunky Garden Salsa


12 Responses to “Home Canning Basics”

  1. […] Leave a 1/2 inch head-space.  Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes for half-pint jars.  See Home Canning Basics for more information about the canning […]

  2. Mary Nurmi Says:

    Help – my apple trees are overflowing! Anything interesting canning apples?

  3. […] in our yard.  Whatever seasonal food we have in surplus goes into the canning jars.  Visit Home Canning Basics for a primer on canning and a list of my food preservation […]

  4. […] to can?  Hop on over to my friend Karen W.’s “My Pantry Shelf” for recipe ideas and more helpful home canning […]

  5. Haley Holden Says:

    If I made homemade peanut butter and put it in a mason jar, do I need to sterilize the jar just like I would have to if I were canning fruits/meats/veggies?

  6. Michelle T Says:

    I canned (applesauce, apple pie filling, tomato juice and salsa) for the first time this year. I was told that I do not have to have the jar submerged in the water. But then I was reading some blogs and they say you should. I am already done with my canning and all my lids pinged and I boiled them for 15 minutes. Are they going to be safe to eat? Why is it that they should be fully submerged.

    • Hello Michelle,

      Yes, the jars do need to be submerged. This ensures that the contents of the jars are brought to the proper temperature during the processing time. I cannot speak to the safety of your food. If possible, I would suggest refrigerating the jars. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.


      • Michelle Says:

        Thank you so much for the response. I will be sure to fully submerge them in the future. :)

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