Canning Jars

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Home Canning Basics

  • Canning high-acid foods such as jams or jellies, fruit or fruit juice, pickles, relishes, chutneys, vinegars, and salsa requires the use of a boiling water canner or a large, deep pot with a lid and a support rack that keeps jars off of the bottom of the pot.
  • Canning low-acid foods such as vegetables, fish & seafood, red meat & game, poultry, soups, stews, tomato-vegetable & tomato-meat sauces must be heat processed in a pressure canner.
  • Trustworthy home canning recipes should include the following:
    • specific directions regarding processing method (boiling water canner or pressure canner), processing time requirement and jar size
    • specifies the required amount of head space needed for jar specified
    • a requirement that only new lids should be used for canning

Step-by-Step Canning Instructions

1     Inspect jars to ensure that they are free of chips and cracks.  Dispose of any faulty jars.  Wash jars and lid components in hot, soapy water.  Rinse well. 

2     In a separate saucepot, heat jars and lid inserts in hot water until ready for use (increase water temperature slowly to a moderate heat, not a boil). Fill jars half-way with water to prevent floating.  Jars must be hot to prevent breakage when hot food is added.  Do not boil lids – doing so will result in seal failure.  Lid bands should not be heated for easy handling later.

3     Prepare your boiling water canner or large pot by filling half-full with water; bring to a simmer with its lid in place.  Ensure rack is placed in bottom of unit.  If canning low-acid foods, prepare your pressure canner according to manufacturer’s instructions.

4     Remove hot jar from saucepot and empty water inside jar.  Fill jars one at a time with your food leaving the headspace specified in your recipe (guidelines suggest ¼” for soft spreads such as jams & jellies & fruit juices; 1/2” for fruits, pickles, salsa, sauces, and tomatoes).  Headspace is measured from the top of your food (be sure level contents) to jar top.

5      Remove air bubbles, if suggested by recipe, by sliding a spatula between the jar walls and your food to release trapped air.  Repeat as necessary.  Level food inside jar upon completion.

6     Clean rim and threads of jar so that it is free of any food.  Remove lid insert from hot water and place it on jar – ensure the lids sealing compound makes contact with the jar rim.  Place lid band on jar and tighten until fingertip tight.

7     Place filled jars in canner until canner is full.  Make sure water covers jars by 1 to 2 inches.  Place lid on canner and bring water to a rolling boil.  Processing time begins; set timer. 

8     Process jars in boiling water for length of time indicated in recipe, adjusting time for altitude (see chart).  Turn off heat when complete.  Allow jars to stand in canner for 5 minutes to slowly bring down their temperature.  Dramatic changes in temperature can result in breakage.

9     Remove jars from canner and set upright on a towel (towel will insulate jar’s base preventing a dramatic drop in temperature and crack the jar).  Do not further tighten bands.  Let jars stand for 12-24 hrs

10   Check lids for to ensure an adequate seal has been formed.  Press the top of the lid to ensure that it does not flex up and down under pressure.  If a lid did not seal appropriately within 24 hours, the food should be immediately reprocessed or refrigerated.  Clean jars and lids.  Label jars when jar surface is dry and store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.