Self-Reliance: Canning

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Canning is a method of preserving food in which the food is processed and sealed in an airtight container. High acid foods can be processed by water bath boiling, while all other foods must use higher temperatures requiring a pressure canner.

Canning and Food Storage

Home canning tends to be what a lot of people think of when they think of food storage. The true long term food storage is shelf stable foods with long shelf lives such as grains and legumes. However, supplementing a plain diet with fruits and vegetables is important for your nutrition as well as to avoid flavor fatigue.

There are many many things you can preserve via water bath or pressure canning. Everything from jams and jellies, fruits and pie fillings to salsa, tomato sauce, chicken, hamburger, soups, and more. Because you can purchase foods in bulk when they are on sale, canning them can be a very cost-effective solution to add fruits and vegetables to your food storage (even taking into account the costs of canning materials).

Benefits of Canning

  • You know exactly what ingredients are included (no artificial preservatives)
  • Add the nutrition of fruits and vegetables into your food storage diet
  • Ability to use recipes with meat as part of your three month supply (they become shelf-stable!)
  • Home-canned foods taste significantly better than store-bought canned goods
  • If you have a home garden, it’s a great way to preserve your harvest

More Information on Canning


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  • Kathleen S

    It has been a lower income month and my food storage budget is nill…so I decided I would utilize my time this month researching and learning new skills. I already knew the basics of canning but, like Jodi, had never tried canning meat. I am happy to report my pantry now holds 4 pints of seasoned ground venison. The venison was free (already packaged in the freezer). I defrosted, cooked, packed and canned it with ease! Why did I think canning meat would be difficult??? I also tried canning hotdogs after seeing a YouTube demo. The hotdogs were also in the freezer and free.
    I plan on taking the hotdogs and ground meat camping. No refrigeration needed!
    Off to try my hand at homemade Farmer’s cheese.
    Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Hello,
    I absolutely love your site!
    I have a dilema though. I bought a pressure cooker/canner to start teaching myself how to can. I got the book and an aditional magazine, and all the necessary items.
    I decided on starting with Okra and read about hardpacking so they are whole. However, after following all directions, I lost about half and over half the liquid in the jars! Even though a month later, we opened one to see if it was good, it smelled fine, we threw it all out. I am thinking that my pressure was too high, even though I did what was said (this canner/cooker doesn’t have a pressure gauge).
    Another person said to never hard pack because all the bubbles don’t get out of the jars…? The okra was also soggy…when I was hoping for firm okra to use in soups and such.
    Do you have ANY hints, ideas on what I did wrong and what I can do to stop this from happening? I am kind of discouraged now as I do not want to throw more money in the trash because of my failure.
    Thanks ahead of time!

    • Most of the time when I have pressure canned I have lost water out of the jars. It has to do with the pressure going up and down and the food has been just fine. If you can keep the pressure constant it helps to avoid that problem. I have never canned okra so I don’t have any particular experience with that. Maybe try calling your state’s extension office for help in your area?

  • Breezygirl6

    Is there a free-standing can vacuum that will seal mason jars for nuts, raisens? I know you can use a port from the foodsaver with reg. and widejar attachments – but I saw a woman who had a free standing one, and I can’t find it anywhere. There is a handheld one, has anyone ever used that with the lid attachments?

    • I’ve always just used my food saver, not sure about the other options. Hopefully someone else knows!

    • Nola

      I think I know what you are talking about. I saw a free-standing jar vacuum sealer on an LDS vidio about food storage and canning a couple of years ago. I don’t remember what it was called but when I searched on line for it I got a notice that it was not available any longer. I am still looking for one, but my foodsaver works fine.

    • I once ran across instructions on how to dry can nuts. I haven’t tried it myself but maybe this would be an option for you. “Pack nutmeats in canning jars with lids and rings. Preheat oven to 225 F. Place jars in oven for 45 minutes. Jars will seal once cooled The nutmeats will keep up to 4 years.” I didn’t write down the source so this is all that’s on my recipe card. Good luck!

  • Vanessa

    Can we use our Thrive FD carrots and potatoes to make soup and then can it? Or do we have to only use fresh veggies?

  • Cheeryshirley

    I have looked in so many places for information on pressure canning legumes without sauce or meat.  Here are my questions:

    1) do you pre-cook the beans prior to canning or put them in dry.

    2) do you pre-soak before canning

    3) what pressure and how much time?

    4) Add salt and water only?

    I sooo hope you can answer these questions.  I have a Presto Pressure Canner 23 qt.  Canned as a young’n and not for many decades.  Thank you so much for helping me!  🙂  Cheeryshirley

  • Melissa

    I want to add meat to my stock pile, but I don’t know how to can meat.  I want to use a water bath to can cooked meat?  Any tip or link to how to do this?

    • Stephanie

      Because meat is a low acid food, it needs to be processed in a pressure canner, not a water bath. Alton Brown of Good Eats explains why in his canning episode.

      • Melissa

        Thank you!

  • Paige Norton

    I don’t have a canner, but really want to get started canning.  Would you recommend a pressure cooker, water bath, or are both necessary?

  • Fed-up Citizen

    When I click on the link, “Self-Reliance: Dehydrating
    Resources and posts on how to dehydrate your own foods and the benefits of doing so.” it directs me to the canning link. I cannot find the dehydrating info. 

    • I’ve looked over the pages and I’m not sure I know which link you are talking about? Can you be more specific with maybe the link of the page you are talking about . I’d be happy to help you figure it out.

      • borborygmi

        I encountered the same problem as “Fed-up Citizen”  when using the “Healthy Storage” section.  Below the “Healthy Food Storage Recommendations” in “Featured Posts on this Topic” you provide a link to “Self-Reliance: Dehydrating” which, when clicked on, took me to an article on “Canning” instead of dehydration. Love your website!!!

  • Sarnold

    New to canning :). I made and canned various pickles this weekend (okra, green beans, cukes). When I took the jars out of the water bath, some of them had a distict smell of vinegar coming from the jars. How could this be? Once those cooled (they did eventuallyl ping) I put them in the fridge thinking that there must be something wrong with my seal. Is this something to worry about?

    • During processing quite often a bit of liquid is pulled out of the jars due to different pressures, etc. As long as the jars sealed properly it should be just fine. I would only be concerned if it is a substantial amount of liquid released to where it’s very noticeable in the jar. Congrats on venturing into canning!

  • Ccabecky

    I tried to make apple cider vinegar in 1/2 gal. ball jars.  I followed directions, covered quartered apples with water, and I covered with cloth and I rubberbanded the cloth in place and let set for 1 month.  I just checked them today, after 1 month, and I had problems with 1- gnats, 2- there were some maggots-yuck!!!!!, and 3-water loss.  Just wondering what I did wrong….Help…….

    • I’ve never tried this before, but the vinegar instructions in my book say to cover tightly with plastic wrap. Maybe the cloth was letting yucky stuff in?

  • Ccabecky

    I made dill pickles and was instructed by the recipe not to process in canner or water bath, just to let it set for 1 week.  After making these I am just wondering about storage.  Can I store these pickles out in our shed where I store my canned items?

    • I’m not sure about that. All of my pickle recipes involve processing in a water bath.

    • Janine

      they still need to be put through a water bath, I think it’s usually 10 minutes, but the sitting for a week sounds like a fermented pickle in a crock. If you have the recipe still or a link, posting it might help clear up any confusion

  • Melissa M. AZ

    First i want to say i LOVE your website! I am new to canning and food storage but feel that it is becoming neccesary in this economy and its a great money saver, and way to preserve all my garden goods 🙂

    My Question is, If I make green chile with the roast in it, can i pressure can it and store it for another day, or can i just can meat by its self? there are quite a few Chilis and other recipes i would like to can for days i dont want to cook after work but just not sure if they will be okay. Also what is the shelf life for meats, i have looked on here and it seems like the most ppl say is 4 years but i want to be sure. Thank you

    • You can can the foods as ready made chili or as individual meats. I would look in a canning book for a recipe for chili and do a similar processing time to that to make sure it is processed long enough. For home canned goods I generally hear of a shelf life of about 2 years, but I have had stuff last a lot longer than that. I think the main thing is to just check it when you open it to make sure it is still good. And also the nutrient value will go down over long periods of time so that is a consideration too. Hope that helps a bit!

  • Lyndasusan

    I know absolutely NOTHING about canning or the difference in “a water bath” or “pressure” method. Please help. We are growing our own garden this year and I would like to know how to put some of it up. What would I need to start out with…I know..jars and lids..but after that. Thanks.

    • I would recommend starting by getting one of the Ball canning guides. They
      seriously have EVERYTHING you need to know to get started. Then look
      through some of our tutorials here to actually see it happening by a real
      person. Hope that helps!

  • K Baxter

    I have a question: How would one store bottled food in areas that are prone to earthquakes?  I know that if the glass rubs against each other, it is more susceptible to breaking, as well as the shelf stability, etc.

    • Store on lower shelves, and use bungie cords or little shelf end protectors
      which put up a little wall on the end of the shelf. I don’t have those so I
      stored mine in cardboard boxes on the bottom shelf. I’m hoping that will be
      good enough!

      • Janine

        put a rubber band around each jar or bottle, and put a 1×1 strip along the front of each shelf to keep jars and bottles from jumping off the shelf.

    • Cm59532

      put them in a cardboard divided, cardboard box.  are you friggin retarded?  where did common sense go?

  • mur07004

     So, I’m new to all this canning stuff. What is the shelf-life on most canned goods? And is it possible for me to can baby food for my daughter? Making my own saves a lot of money, but I want to make sure I can keep it around even if we don’t have electricity (and our freezer doesn’t work any longer). Is that possible? 

    • Cobbsmom

      Canning pureed food (most baby foods) isn’t recommended.  What is recommended is to can the food as stated in the Ball’s Blue Book or USDA recipe (you can reduce or use no salt or heavy spices) and then puree or mash the food when it is opened.  Years ago I had a manual baby food mill that I mushed the food that I was preparing for dinner so my baby could enjoy the same.

      On a side note, I did an experiment – a can of green beans, drained and mashed, equals two small jars of green beans in amount.  The price is more expensive for the whole green beans than in buying the baby food.  So compare prices if you decide to make your own.  There are organic baby foods on the market that have no additives and little or no salt.

  • Shannon

    You can can chicken with out adding water. I like to fry it lightly first but you don’t have to. Also I usually add 1 tsp salt per quart. So good to make quick meals or chicken salad sandwiches fast.

    • Cobbsmom

      On one blog I was visiting, the recommendation was to add chicken bouillon granules.  The reason is that it has the salt and it gives the chicken a bit more flavor.  Next time I can chicken, I will give this a try.

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