Water Bath Canning for Beginners


For Mr. G and I, canning saves money in that we can grow our little garden and “put up” what we grow, or we can buy bushels of fruits and vegetables at our local farmers market, and we can purchase meats and other food when it’s on sale and can it up, putting a nice cushion between us and rising food prices. But so much more than the savings, we know what’s in our canned food, and we know what’s NOT in it. And if the power goes out at our house during a storm or other emergency, we have food on the shelves. It’s a comforting feeling.

Beginning canners often feel overwhelmed by all the information thrown at them all at once. My advice… start simply before you dive in to canning. It’s not nearly as expensive or as complicated as some folks think... if you can cook, you certainly can can. The first thing a beginner needs to do is buy a good canning book… The Ball Blue Book is excellent for beginners and advanced canners alike. It is a magazine sized booklet that contains all the basic information needed, as well as an abundance of recipes to choose from, it’s inexpensive (less than $10) and available wherever canning supplies are sold. There is an abundance of information on the internet, but be very careful, especially as a beginner, to use safe, up-to-date information and instruction. Some good, reliable sites include the National Center for Home Food Preservation, http://nchfp.uga.edu/ as well as the USDA http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome

Beginning canning equipment necessary:

  • Waterbath canner or large stockpot with a rack (cost, approx. $30, less if you choose to start out using a stockpot instead of a dedicated canner)

  • Canning jars, lids, and bands (about $10 a dozen, unless you can find a freebie or deal on used jars)… Jars and bands may be used over and over, but always use new lids (the flat part of the lid… cost, approx. $2 dozen)


  • Good canning book (Ball Blue Book is $6-$8 and readily available wherever canning supplies are sold)

  • Dishtowels, dish cloths, pot holders, large saucepans, measuring cups and spoons, timer/clock (most folks who cook, have these items on hand already)

Equipment that is good to have:

  • Jar lifter

  • Magnetic lid wand

  • Plastic knife or other non-reactive tool for removing air bubbles

  • Large mouth canning funnel

(a kit containing all of the above can be purchased where canning supplies are sold for less than $20)


The biggest expenses a new canner faces are canning jars, lids, and the canner itself. There are always sales going on for jars (always use canning jars, Ball, Kerr, Golden Harvest, etc. as these are strong glass jars made especially for canning… steer clear of old mayonnaise jars, pasta jars, etc.), sometimes you can find free or almost free jars on Craigslist, Freecycle, or in your grandmother’s basement.

Foods for canning can be divided into two groups… high acid foods and low acid foods. High acid foods include tomatoes, jams and jellies, pickles and relishes, and most fruits. These foods may be canned in a boiling water bath (hot water bath, water bath) and are great for beginning canners… To can high acid foods you may choose to purchase a water bath canner, but all that is really needed is a pot big enough to fit your jars to be canned and to cover them with an inch or two of water… and a rack of some kind in the bottom of the pot for even boiling around the jars… a rack comes with a typical water bath canner set… but if you use a large stock pot, you can make your own rack by twist-tying canning jar bands (the band part, not the flat lid part) together to fit the bottom of the pot.



Good beginner recipes include jam, relish, tomatoes, or single fruits…

Applesauce is a great place to start… all you need are apples and some sugar…



My applesauce instructions can be found at… http://canninggranny.blogspot.com/2011/09/canning-applesauce.html

But basically you peel and core the apples

Put them in a large stainless steel saucepan with just enough water to keep them from sticking.

Simmer the apples gently until they are softened.

Then using a food mill or food processor, mash/blend the cooked apples until desired consistency. Add sugar to taste (I add ¼ cup per pound of apples), simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved and sauce is heated through.

Meantime, heat your jars (I usually make applesauce in pint jars) in boiling water to sterilize them. Simmer the lids (the flat part) to sterilize them and to soften the rubber seal.

Fill the hot jars with hot applesauce leaving a half inch space between the top of the applesauce and the rim of the jar (this is called headspace). A wide mouth canning funnel is handy to have for this step.

Check the jar of applesauce for any air bubbles (air pockets that might be trapped in the sauce) and remove these by using a plastic knife and inserting it between the inside of the jar and the ingredients.

Use a damp, clean cloth and wipe the rims of each jar, carefully removing any food particles that might cause the jars to not seal.

Tighten the lids onto the jar to fingertip tightness (not too tight, just until you can’t unscrew the lid with your fingertips). A magnetic lid wand is nice to have for removing lids from boiling water, if you don’t have one, tongs may be used.

Put the closed jars into the waterbath canner/stockpot filling it with water to cover the jars with an inch or two of water over the top of the jars. Process… bring the water to boiling over medium high heat, then reduce the heat and boil gently (begin timing when the water reaches boiling) for 20 minutes. After processing, turn the heat off from under the canner and let the jars sit for about five minutes before removing from the canner. Using a jar lifter, remove the jars and set them on a folded dish towel on the counter to cool and seal. A seal is achieved when the top of the flat part of the canning lid is concave… you will usually hear a Ping when a jar seals… this is music to a canner’s ears!

A few more recipes that would be great for beginners…





Once you have high acid foods and water bath canning under your belt, you may want to graduate to canning low acid foods… these include most vegetables, meats, soups and stews and must be canned using a pressure canner (canner, not cooker, there IS a difference)… A pressure canner will be an expense, but this one time investment will expand your canning greatly. A pressure canner will cost from $60-$70 for an inexpensive canner (Presto is a good, inexpensive brand) to $200-$400 for the top of the line All American model (fantastic canner, but pricey… it will last several lifetimes).
Pressure canning… that’s a story for another day…

All American Pressure Canner


Presto Pressure Canner



35 comments:

  1. thank you !!lots of good stuff here.

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  2. I really enjoy your site here and on facebook! Lots of wonderful information and so very helpful. Thank you for being here!!

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  3. What is I didn't peel the apples before canning them? Will that affect the acid level or something?


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    1. No, it won't affect anything, it's fine to leave the peels on. ~~Granny

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  4. Can you can meats/fish using the water bath method.

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    1. Sorry, meats are low acid and MUST be pressure canned. ~~Granny

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  5. What is your opinion of the steam canner in place of the water bath canner? The USDA doesn't recommend, best I can figure out, but I can't seem to find anything recent on it. Looks like it would save so much time!

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    1. I know it's not recommended by the USDA, and I have never used one so really can't say, sorry. ~~Granny

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  6. Love your blog. I got an All American Pressure Canner and love it. It was well worth the investment. We live on the coast and can our own tuna. It paid for itself the first time I used it.

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    1. That is a awesome thing to be able to can! I am sooo impressed!

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  7. I have just found your facebook page and this site, and I am so excited! My husband and I raise a large garden, plus have berries and fruit trees. I enjoy canning and freezing our "bounty". I, too, feel like I have "food insurance", plus it makes me feel self reliant.

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  8. Would you classify Pepper Relish as high or low acid?

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    1. Pepper Relish would be high acid. ~~Granny

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    2. Thank you. I am new to all of this and it will be my first attempt at canning, but my husband wants pepper relish.

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  9. Can you process green beens in a water bath canner? Thanks and love your site....

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    1. No, sorry... green beans are a low acid food, as are most vegetables. ~~Granny

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    2. Regarding green beans/water bath canning: I have recently started canning (water bath canning). I have an old book from my mom, "Kerr Home Canning Book", that I have been using. There is a canning time tables on page 8 & 9 for both Boiling Water Bath and for Pressure Cooker. I used this for my green beans this week, first time doing green beans (Water Bath Canning time is 180 minutes versus 20-25 minutes for Pressure Cooker). You can either boil green beans in a pot for 5 minutes before canning OR can raw. I boiled for about 5 minutes then put into the mason jars with water from the pot (then water bath for 180 minutes). I used both pints jars and 1/2 pint jars. My husband and I had some twice this week using the 1/2 pint jars.......YUM. I am just a beginner but the above is what the Kerr book said.

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  10. Can you tell me where to find your pickled peaches. I love your site. This is my first year to can and I have taken all of your advice. Thank you. Mandy from Louisiana.

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  11. My in-laws have canned peas & potatoes for years, using the water bath method. That's how I can my peas. What affect would water bath canning have on low acidic foods?

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    1. Water bath caning doesn't get hot enough to kill the deadly bacteria in low acid foods.

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  12. What do you think of the canning machine? I want to make freezer jam, low sugar recipe, and wonder if the canning machine would work.
    Carol

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  13. My issue is mold :( when I started canning years ago I made a batch if strawberry jam and it molded I cried from the work and stuff lol since then I'm scared to can fruit or jams n jelly if anyone could give me advice my email is ckrenzel2008@yahoo.com

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    1. Bet you just put paraffin on top and did not process them in a water bath canner? Jams and jellies processed properly in a BWB should not mold. Follow new guidelines and ALWAYS process foods in the appropriate canner!

      Many people still insist on using paraffin rather than taking the time to water bath them. They say they don't have time to do it properly. But if I just spent a lot of money and time making my jams, I am not about to take a chance on them being ruined by using old-fashioned methods. To me, it's like saying you only cook your chicken to medium well because you don't have time to cook it fully! Dumb, right? If you don't have time to do a job, right, why even bother to do it at all? And the time used to process them is not wasted time; I spend it getting the next batch ready to go.

      So please try your jam again, following approved recipes and methods. I am sure it will come out fine! I have opened jams several years after processing and there was no mold! The flavor wasn't so good, but they were still safe to eat. Normally, we eat them up within a year, as recommended.

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  14. Cindy, I am VERY new to canning but I can tell you a story about jelly, many years ago my best friend and I would go in her basement to her moms canning shelves, open her freshly mad jams to lick the wax on top them and put them back. Do you have little ones that would sneak a taste like we did ? I dont know if her mom ever found out but I bet she could not figure out what she was doing wrong.

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  15. If you use a stock pot, why do you have to make a rack? Stacy

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    1. You need some sort of rack to keep the jars up off the bottom of the pot, and so the water can surround the jars when water bath canning... if the pot already has a rack it can be used, if you don't have a rack one can easily be made. ~~Granny

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  16. I would like to can salsa the following way. I am worried that it isn't safe to do it this way. Your thoughts would be appreciated. I blanched a bunch of tomatoes and put them in the freezer - I was going to use those and add some fresh onion, peppers, garlic and a packet of Mrs. Wages salsa mix and some hunts canned tomato paste as well as vinegar. Can i do this?

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    1. Yes you can and you're correct, water bath for 40 min. ~~Granny

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  17. I will process the jars in a water canner for the recommended 40 minutes.

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  18. Nice Blog! I just started canning.. I have made spiced apple slices, tomato sauce, pizza sauce, salsa, bread and butter pickles in my bath canner and so far all are good! What else can I do in the bath canner? One day I hope to get a pressure canner, but perhaps next year! <3 Karen PS - found you on FB

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  19. I canned sweet green bell pepers 50/50 mix of Vinegar and water,salt,sugar,spice,ov oil, came out great. so I thought if I would put Onions in with that it would be good for Sausage sandwiches, then I read Onions need to be done in the Pressure canner. If I'm Using Vinegar mix do they still need to be Pressure canned..Thanks Lance

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  20. How long to the canned foods stay good? I remember my mom canning and we would eat things years later.

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  21. Thank you so much for this site. I have canned and made jelly with my mom since I was lil and when I posted pics on facebook a lot of friends were wanting directions so I shared this page! Thanks again!

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  22. Looking for your recipe for Cowboy Candy. I couldn't find it.

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