Canning 101

I remember helping my grandparents can every summer and fall after harvest. It was a tedious practice, but very rewarding.

Canning is the process of preserving food with boiling water. When the jars are added to simmering water and then boiled, this removes any bacteria that may be inside the jars and in the food. This allows for balanced pH, which is essential in food preservation. The boiling water also tightens the lid on the jar, thus creating a vacuum-seal. Most canned goods will last 1-5 years.

The Basics

First things first, there are certain pieces of equipment you need.

Jars of assorted sizes (jars are reusable)

Lids (always use new lids)

Rings/Bands (rings/bands are reusable)

A large stockpot or pressure canner

Dish rags

Jar Tongs/Lifter

Wide-mouth funnel

Wire rack that fits the bottom of the stockpot

Getting Started

There are two types of canning – water bath canning (most commonly used) and pressure canning. It’s important to know which is best for your recipes.

Water Bath Canning

This is for high acidic foods such as fruits, jams, salsa, tomatoes, pickles, relishes, chutneys, sauces, vinegars, and condiments. This involves a pot of simmering water that is slowly brought to a boil once jars are added.

Pressure Canning

Used for preserving meats, poultry, some vegetables, chili, and fish. This involves a special device called a pressure canner.

Finding a Good Recipe

There are plenty of cookbooks and online sources. It’s important to know that with canning, there has to be a certain pH balance for the canning process to work properly. Since canning is a food preservation method, it’s crucial that the right pH is stable within the product. Recipes that you find will already have the proper amounts of acid (typically lemon juice or vinegar) added.

Below are a two of my favorite family recipes.

Berry Jam ~ makes 6 half pints


4 Cups of fresh berries – raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, huckleberries, boysenberries, or a mixture

2 Cups sugar

4 ½ Teaspoons Pectin


Combine ingredients in a large pot. Heat on medium heat until sugar dissolves then increase heat to medium-high. Bring mixture to a boil. After sugar is dissolved and berries are soft, use a masher to press berries. Continue to boil mixture, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.

Test jam by putting a spoonful on a chilled plate in the freezer for 2 minutes. While doing this, remove pot from heat. Test the jam by tilting the plate. If it runs, cook the jam longer. Check the jam every 5 minutes. If it stays put or runs slowly, the jam is ready.

Process jars in boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours.

Applesauce ~ makes 8 pints


12 Lbs apples, peeled, cored, quarters (keep apples in 4 cups water and ¼ cup lemon juice mixture to prevent browning until ready to use)


3 Cups sugar, optional

4 Tablespoons lemon juice


Prepare water in a large stockpot. Heat jars in simmering water. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.

Combine apples with just enough water to prevent sticking in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally for 5-20 minutes until apples are tender. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.

Transfer apples to a food processor, working in batches. Pure until smooth.

Return apples to saucepan. Add sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Maintain a gentle boil while filling jars.

Lade hot applesauce into hot jars leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles by slowly stirring applesauce. Wipe rim. Place lids on jars, apply band.

Process jars in boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours.

CJ LaRose is a Senior Supervisor and Bookkeeper at The Healthy Grocer. She is passionate about gardening and living a healthy lifestyle.

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