How to Can Any Kind of Food

Updated on May 28, 2019
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Freelance writer trying to defy the Millennial stereotype through hard work. Joy is in the little things.

Canning is easier than you might think
Canning is easier than you might think

Canning food is a great way to preserve foods you want to make larger batches of. For example, I love to make jams and jellies, but it's hard to make small enough batches for just my household. I learned to can so that I can not only preserve them, but I can also keep them on hand to give to family, friends, and neighbors. When I first looked into it, I had assumed canning would be a complicated and somewhat difficult process. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how simple it is!

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

In order to get started canning, you'll need the following:

  • Glass jars with lids and bands. These are 2-part lids with a flat disc that sits on top of the jar, and a metal ring that screws in over the disc. I highly recommend Ball jars. I've never had a single issue with them cracking from temperature change, not sealing properly, or even cracking when they've slipped out of my tongs and clunked back into the water bath. They're very resilient, reasonably priced, and fairly easy to find both in-store and online, making consistency easy to maintain.
  • A large pot, tall enough that you can completely submerge whatever size jar you are using to can and have approximately 1 inch of water above the top of the jar.
  • A jar lifter (optional). While this isn't 100% necessary, I do recommend getting one. I used to use tongs, and it's very easy to lose your grip. At best this results in a lot of splashing of hot water. At worst, it results in broken glass and a massive mess. You can also get a canning rack, which allows you to lift an entire pot full of jars at once, but I prefer the jar lifter so that I can have multiple batches going at the same time and can just lift specific jars as needed. I use this jar lifter.

Step 2: Prepare Your Jars

Now that all of your supplies are ready to go, it's time to prepare your jars for canning.

  1. Sterilize the jars. Fill your pot until the water covers the jars with about 1 inch of water above the top of the jars, and bring it to a boil.
  2. Put the jars and lids (with the lids not on the jar) into the boiling water. Leave them there for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the jars and lids with tongs or a jar lifter, and leave at room temperature.

Step 3: Fill Your Jars

Now you're ready to add your food to your jars. If what you're canning is hot, such as jams or jellies you just took off the stove, you can add them to the jars right away. If you're making pickles or preserving anything else that is cold, wait for the jars to cool slightly before adding the contents, as rapid temperature changes can crack the glass.

  1. Fill the jar, leaving approximately 1/2 inch of space at the top. There are a variety of canning funnels you can use to make filling the jars easier and to ensure you have less of a mess to clean up.
  2. Take a wet paper towel and wipe along the rim of the jar, ensuring there is nothing on the outside of the jar mouth.
  3. Carefully place the disc on the top of the jar, and screw the ring over it. The ring should be tight enough that you'd have to unscrew it to take it off the jar, but not quite as tight as you can get it.

Step 4: Do the Water Bath

  1. Once again, bring the water in your pot to a boil, making sure you add more water if it no longer covers the jar and leaves about an inch of water above the top of the jar.
  2. Once the water is boiling, put the filled jars into the bath. Leave them in there for 20-30 minutes. The heat of the water bath forces air bubbles out of the jar, and they escape through the sides of the disc. If you watch closely, you should see bubbles come out of the top of the ring while your jars are in the water bath.
  3. After 20-30 minutes, remove the cans from the water bath and put them somewhere at room temperature to cool.
  4. Once the jars are cool, you should be able to press on the disc without it moving/depressing at all. If you hear pinging noises as the jars cool don't be alarmed; this is the discs depressing as the jars seal themselves. If the disc still shifts when you press on it once the jar is entirely cool, the jar did not fully seal and you need to repeat the water bath.
  5. Once the jars are cool enough to handle, fully tighten the ring. Depending on the jars you use, your canned food should last 12-18 months.

Questions & Answers


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      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        6 months ago from Houston, Texas

        I grew up watching my grandmother and mother can food. I learned to do some of the same when I had a huge garden many years ago.


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