Water Bath Canning Basics w/ Free Printable Guide

When people hear the word “canning” they instantly begin to worry.  I know I didn’t try it for years because it seemed so intimidating.  But water bath canning really isn’t that difficult to master.  All you need is the right tools and a little bit of preparation. Most people have many of the tools needed to do water bath canning already.  Trust me, if I can do it, so can you. The first thing you need to know is that there are foods that are safe to water bath can, and there are foods that are not.  Also, there are foods that should never be canned at all.  Like cake.  Yes people really have attempted this!  Only high acid foods can be safely water bath canned. Everything else that can be safely canned will need a pressure canner.  Pressure canning is a topic for a different day.  The following foods can be safely water bath canned:   If you have never done any canning before I highly encourage you to go to the National Center for Home Canning Food Preservation (NCHCFP) website at: www.nchfp.uga.edu.  I’m a home cook.  These guys are the professionals.  They have so much information on canning.  It’s well worth taking a look. Tools for Canning There are many different tools all over the internet for canning.  Some of them are necessary, some are splurges and some you could really do without.  While the $400 pressure canner is nice, you don’t need it right now.  Today we are only going to discuss the items that you really need to begin water bath canning. You will need: Large Stock Pot with a lid or water bath canning pot (at least double the height of your largest canning jar) Canning rack that fits inside the bottom of your pot (I use a circular stainless steel cookie rack) A small pot A Kitchen Scale Funnel that fits both a standard and wide mouth jar Canning tongs (AKA a Jar Lifter) Chopstick or Bubble popper tool (many have headspace measurers on them) Headspace measuring tool or ruler Magnetic lid lifter White Vinegar Mason jars (new jars are easier for first time canners as are the wide mouth version) Paper towels or very clean cotton towels Stainless Steel Utensils This is not a must but I definitely feel it’s worth mentioning.  When I first started out I purchased a standard canning kit.  Almost all of the parts were plastic.  What I didn’t know was that most of them were not heatproof.  Many of the parts ended up going bad or melting.  Some of the melted pieces even ended up getting sealed into my jam (seriously!).  Since the plastic jam incident, I replaced most of my canning hardware with stainless steel versions.  Yes it’s a little more expensive.  Yes, it’s worth it.  I’m pretty sure my funnel will outlive me and I won’t be feeding my friends plastic.  They don’t know it, but they’re thanking me for it.  As an added bonus, I can sanitize the daylights out of it.  If you can’t afford the nicer hardware or you just aren’t sure if you want to commit to canning, then purchase the starter set.  Just make sure you wash it well and don’t leave it in boiling water for too long.  Sanitization The most important thing you can do when canning is to sanitize your work area.  Take the time to make sure your workstation is clean and neat.  Set up a simple area that has everything you need.  The last thing you want to do is stop in the middle of jam making to search for your canning funnel.  Yes I have done it and it causes unneeded stress.  Pull everything out and have your work station ready.  Once your work station is clean you need to make sure anything you are using is clean and/or sterilized as well.  These include your canning funnels and labels. Next you want to sterilize your canning jars.  The nice thing about purchasing new jars is that they come pre-sterilized.  So all you need to do to clean them is wash them in warm, soapy water and they are good to go.  Also, per the NCHCFP you do not need to sterilize canning jars that will be canned for longer than 10 minutes. How to do it 1) Take your large stock pot and fill it with water.  Fill the pot at least to where the jars will sit.  Add your rack and two tablespoons of white vinegar.  The vinegar keeps the minerals in the water from sticking to your jars and pots.  Unless you plan on using distilled water you will end up with ugly, spotted jars you just have to clean later.  It’s my favorite trick to keeping my jars spotless.   2) Put your canning jars in the large pot before you turn on the stove.  Never put cold jars into hot water or you risk cracking and breaking them.  If you will be doing multiple canning batches, run the second batch of jars under warm water just before putting them in your canner.  This will help keep them from being too cold when you put them in.  Turn the stove on and bring to a boil with the lid on.  Once you hit a boil, turn the stove down until you are ready to use.  If you are sanitizing jars, you will need to do that first before turning down the stove. 3) Fill a second smaller pot with water and a splash of vinegar.  Set on high to boil.  This will be your pot for your lid rings to go in as well as any other tools that need to be sanitized.  Boil for 10 minutes to sterilize.  Then turn down to warm.  Just let them sit in the water until you are ready to use them.  Again you want everything to be about the same temperature.  4) Once your food is ready to be canned, take your tongs and carefully remove one

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