Learn the Boiling Water-Bath Canning Method for Preserving Food

Learn the boiling water-bath canning method and start preserving your harvests in the form of salsas, jams, jellies and more.

| February 2013

  • Jars of peaches with a water bath canner
    You can can a variety of fruits and pickled vegetables using the water bath canning method of preservation.
    Photo By Fotolia/sjhuls
  • Put Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton, Storey Publishing
    The step-by-step instructions and 175 tasty recipes in “Put ’Em Up!” will have the most timid beginners filling their pantries and freezers with the preserved goodness of fresh produce in no time.
    Cover Courtesy Storey Publishing

  • Jars of peaches with a water bath canner
  • Put Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton, Storey Publishing

Put ’Em Up! (Storey Publishing, 2010) offers your grandma’s traditional home-canning methods with a modern twist. Flavors are brighter, batch sizes are more flexible and up-to-date methods make the process safer and easier. An extensive techniques section allows you to think outside the box and learn a variety of food preservation methods such as freezing, drying and pickling. Create time-honored traditions such as apple butter to inventive new favorites such as figs in honey syrup or fennel confit. Even beginners who’ve never canned before can easily pick up preserving skills from this vibrant guide to canning. Learn the boiling water-bath canning method and preserve whole fruit, salsas and more in this excerpt taken from “Food Preservation Methods.” 

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: Put ’Em Up! 

More from Put ’Em Up!:

Pickled Beets Recipe with Dill
Pickled Spicy Carrots Recipe 
Granny's Chow-Chow Relish Recipe 
Refrigerator Zucchini Pickles Recipe 

Boiling Water-Bath Canning Method Step-By-Step

Wash and Lay Out Your Equipment 

1. Put the canning rack in the bottom of the canner. If you don’t have a canning rack, substitute a layer of jar rings, placed thread-side down on the bottom of the pot.

2. Wash all the jars and equipment. You’re not trying to sterilize them at this point; you just want to get them clean. Harsh chemicals (such as bleach) are not necessary, just regular dish soap and a soft cloth or sponge. Don’t use abrasive cleansers or scouring pads, as these will scratch canning jars.

3. As you wash them, set aside the rings, place lids bottom-side down in a small heat-proof bowl, and load the clean jars into the canner.

4. Arrange all the other equipment on a clean kitchen towel.

Prepare the Canner 

Canners can take a good while to come to a full boil. Begin heating your water before you begin your recipe so your completed concoction doesn’t linger, losing heat and jeopardizing your processing time while you wait for the canner. If your canner comes to a boil well before you’re done cooking, just turn it off and cover it, then return it to a boil when you’re ready to fill and begin processing your jars.

1. Load the canner to capacity with empty jars, regardless of expected yield, to keep jars from tipping during processing.

2. Fill the canner with enough water to fill and cover the jars.

3. Set the canner over high heat.

4. Cover the canner and bring the water to a boil. The goal is to heat the jars so you won’t be adding hot food to cold jars, which could cause them to crack. Again, you’re not sterilizing the jars at this point.

Prepare Your Recipe 

Prepped produce deteriorates rapidly, so you want to make sure that you have everything on hand before you begin and move steadily through your recipe. You don’t need to rush, but it’s not a good idea to stop and run an errand or dash to the store for more lids.

Fill the Jars 

1. Using canning tongs, remove a jar from the canner. Carefully tip the hot water into the bowl with the jar lids so that their sealing rings begin to soften. Place the empty jar, open-side up, on a towel-covered work surface.

2. Using canning tongs, remove three additional jars from the canner, emptying their water directly back into canner and placing them, open-side up, on the towel.

3. For cold-pack recipes, where the raw food is put in the jars and the hot preserving liquid is poured over it, fill the jars snugly with food, then pour over enough liquid to leave the headspace indicated in the recipe. For hot-pack recipes, use the canning funnel to fill jars with the hot, prepared food, leaving the headspace indicated in the recipe.

4. One jar at a time, run the bubble tool, chopstick, or plastic knife around the inside of the jar to release air bubbles. (See “Packing Fruit” further in this article.)

5. Run a damp paper towel around the rim to clean it thoroughly.

6. Using the magnet tool, tongs, or your fingers, grab a lid from the bowl and center it on the nearest jar.

7. Gently screw a lid ring onto the jar until it’s just fingertip-tight. You don’t want to screw the band so tightly that there’s no room for gases to escape during processing. Use your fingertips — no knuckles — to turn the ring, and when the jar begins to spin on the towel, you know it’s tight enough.

8. Repeat with the remaining jars.

Process the Jars 

1. Using canning tongs, lift the filled jars and lower them into the canner, being sure that they are covered by 2 inches of water.

2. Cover the pot and bring the water to a rolling boil. Lower the heat a bit, so the water isn’t boiling out of the pot but still maintains a lot of rolling action. Start timing only after the full boil is reached and process according to the recipe.

3. When the processing time is achieved, turn off the heat and remove the lid from the canner.

4. Let the jars cool in the canner for 5 minutes. The contents of the jars will still be simmering, and if you remove them from the canner prematurely, they might spurt.

5. After 5 minutes, use the canning tongs to lift the jars straight out of the canner. There will be a small pool of water on top of each jar. Resist the temptation to tip the jars. They have yet to seal and you might spill some of the contents if you tip them. Instead, lift them straight out and set them on a dish-towel-covered counter. If you must move them before they are done resting, set the dish towel on a tray before transferring the jars to it.

6. Let cool overnight.

Packing Fruit

Halved fruits, such as peaches, plums, and pears, easily trap air bubbles among their large pieces and particularly in the divot left from removing the stone or seeds. It’s important to release this air to ensure proper headspace. It’s tricky to release the trapped air with a bubble tool without puncturing or breaking up the fruit, so here’s what I do. After I pack the fruit and ladle the preserving liquid over it, I screw on a lid temporarily. I gently twirl, or even invert, the jar to release the bubbles and enable them to float to the top of the jar. I remove the lid, add more liquid if necessary to achieve the proper headspace, clean the rim, and proceed with boiling-water processing.

Learn the Boiling Water-Bath Canning Method for Preserving Food excerpted from Put ’Em Up! A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling © by Sherri Brooks Vinton, used with permission from Storey Publishing, 2010. Buy this book from our store: Put ’Em Up!.

Also, check out Sherri’s new book, Put ‘Em Up! Fruit, available from Storey Publishing in April 2012. 



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