Canning 101: Everything You Need to Know to GET STARTED

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The other night we asked this question on our Facebook page: What would be the ONE topic you would want to learn more about? You can only pick ONE, no cheating.

Overwhelmingly the response was that everyone wanted to learn more about CANNING. We’ve posted about different canning projects over the years but have never done a comprehensive “How-To” for you so today we’re going to give you a run down on everything you need to know to get started.

Canning 101: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started | Food Storage Made Easy

Get a GOOD Canning Guide

Ball has put out several canning books that I think are very helpful. Our favorite go-to manual is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. If there is anything you are thinking of canning, there should be instructions in there for you. Make sure to take note of the sections on altitudes as you may find that your processing times are different if you live in a very high (or low) area.

Another book we’d recommend if you like to see more step by step instructions, beautiful photography, and personal tips, is Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too by Daniel Gasteiger. Click here to see a full review on why we love that book. It’s really fun to sit and browse through and great for seeing instructions laid out very clearly.

My pressure canner also came with a booklet with details on processing times for that particular machine. That’s a great resource to use as well.

Get Your Canning Tools

Water Bath Canner and/or Pressure Canner
If you are wanting process high acid fruits and vegetables all you need is a basic water bath canner. If you want to process meats, beans, and some vegetables, you will need a pressure canner. Here is a video we did explaining some of the differences in pressure canners and pressure cookers.

As mentioned in the video, you can also use a pressure canner as a water bath canner (you need a 23 qt pressure canner in order to water bath quart jars due to the size). So if you think you will do both kinds of canning just go with a large pressure canner to avoid making two purchases.

Here are a few links to the canners we recommend.

Presto Pressure Canner

I have the 16 quart shown here but would love to upgrade to a 23 quart some day.
All-American Pressure Canner

This is a higher-end model of canner. It doesn’t have any gaskets and it is a heavy-duty machine. You will never need another canner.
Water Bath Canner

This is your basic canner. I see these at garage sales quite often, so keep your eyes peeled. They are also fairly inexpensive to buy new.

Canning Lids
For all canning projects you must have canning lids and rings. This can be an expensive part of canning because you are supposed to buy new lids every time. At $4-$5 per box of 12 that can really add to the expense of one jar of food. I recently have started to buy Tattler Reusable Canning Lids (I buy a few boxes before each big canning session I do so it’s not too expensive all at once). I’ve had a great experience with them so far and I love that I don’t have to throw them away after one use.

Canning Jars
I usually see these in Wal-Mart at this time of year. Another great place to look is at garage sales or second hand stores. If you buy new jars it’s nice because they come with lids and rings. If you are going to use the Tattler Reusable Lids you’ll need enough rings for a few batches since you process the jars using rings, and then have to leave them on while the jars cool. You can also find jars at a reasonable price on Amazon.

Optional Tools
You can buy extra tools that you may want to have on hand such as tongs, a large funnel, a lid lifter, etc. which will make your canning tasks much easier. This kit is comprehensive and a great price if you are buying everything to get started.

How to Actually Can Things!

Over the years we’ve done several tutorials on canning some of our favorite things. If you are new to canning, these can be a great way to follow step-by-step and give you the confidence to get started on your own.

Canning Peaches … Delish!
Learn how to can peaches, Jodi has a little different technique than most books recommend. (To view in a video, visit this post)

How to Make Strawberry Jam
Homemade strawberry jam is such a treat, it is so much yummier than store-bought, which is truly the reason to make it.

How to Can Homemade Applesauce
Applesauce is one of the easiest and most delicious foods to can. This is a step by step tutorial on how we do it. (To view in a video visit this post)

How to Pressure Can Ground Beef
Jodi gives a step-by-step overview of her experiences with this process that intimidated her for a LONG time. (Includes a video)

How to Pressure Can Chicken
See how easy it is to can your own chicken so that you can have shelf stable chicken ready for recipes, and in case of emergencies. (Includes a video)

  • Lori

    I have an new induction cook top. Oops! Now my canning pressure cooker doesn’t work. I need stainless steel. Does anyone know where to get a stainless steel canning
    pressure cooker?

  • Sheari Lauth-Gandy

    The canning lids shouldn’t cost 4-5 dollars per 12. I agree that they are expensive, but you can usually find them for under 3.00, and walmart sells them in a pack of 12 for 1.38 a box. Just wanted to mention that.

    • It depends if you just need the lids or the lids plus the rings. I think that’s what I was looking at pricing on.

    • Geneva Garrett

      We also have a dollor General that is cheaper, and Tractor Supply Company has them at price of Walmart or cheaper.

  • M Stanley

    I think it would be helpful to point out that some types of cooktops are not suitable for pressure cooking. A glass cooktop has to cycle on and off so much that the pressure is uneven and therefore unsafe. I wish I’d known that – I can’t pressure can unless I use the gas grill burner which is – shall we say – inconvenient.

    • artgirl

      I actually can quite well on a glass top. As long as your canner is flat bottomed it will keep in direct contact with the sensor and not cycle at all.

  • I would love to can my homemade chili, I have high blood pressure and have finally got my chili to where I can eat it, I control my BP with my diet, All the sites I’ve been on says you have to add salt, Do I need to add salt to can my chili or even chicken or hamburger? I sure hope not….

    • I’ve never added salt to my chicken or hamburger. I would think it would be ok with it!

  • Eric

    Hello- I did can 3 jars of chicken. I put a half a cube of Knorr chicken bullion in each one. Everything went well and it canned just fine. I even tried some right out of the jar, just to test. My boys thought I was crazy. My question or problem is this. My jars are “stained”. I can’t seem to get them totally cleaned. Any suggestions?

    • How are they stained? Mine seem to have water spots on them but after scrubbing pretty thoroughly it came off pretty well. I’m wondering if the bullion caused it to discolor? You really don’t need to add that because the chicken processing turns the liquid to broth with all the flavoring anyway. That might help save the jars from staining too. Hope that helps a little. Good luck!

      • Eric

        I’m assuming it was the bullion cube. I’m going to try boiling them in my kettle.. See what happens. I’ll try not using the cube next time.

        “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie ten Boom

  • Lori

    It would be nice to know how long you can store canned foods, since I am looking at canning for long time storage. Anybody know where I can find a list?

    • Most sources recommend 1-2 years for home-canned foods. Many people have had their food last beyond that and it’s been just fine. You should be able to tell that it has gone bad when you open it. You will lose nutrients and flavor over time though. So I’d probably plan to stick to a 2-year max on it. It’s not ideal for long term storage. It’s better to can every year and rotate through what you canned the previous year.

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