Canning is a fantastic way to preserve foods you love, from jams and jellies to all manner of pickles, so that you can enjoy them throughout the year. You might hesitate to jump into canning, but it’s actually a very simple and safe process, especially if you use this walk-through of how to can recipes using a water bath.
It’s easiest to sterilize jars using your dishwasher. Or, wash them in hot, soapy water, then simmer them in your canning pot, covered with water, for 10 minutes. The jars should still be warm, when it’s time to fill them. To avoid damaging lids, simmer them separately in a small pan of hot water over medium heat. You don’t have to sterilize the bands or tongs, but dipping the funnel and ladle in the pot of boiling water is quick and simple.
HEAT WATER, MAKE THE RECIPE, FILL THE JARS
Because boiling the large amount of water necessary for processing takes time, fill your canning pot with water and start heating it well in advance. Your recipe and the jars should both be warm when it’s time to can, so if your recipe takes more than 30 minutes, you can prepare it before sterilizing the jars; otherwise prepare it after sterilizing the jars. Fill the still-warm jars with the prepared recipe, leaving headspace at the top as specified in the recipe (typically ¼ or ½ inch). If pickling, make sure the fruit or vegetable is fully covered by the pickling liquid. Stir the contents to release air bubbles, wipe the rim of each jar clean, then put on the lids and screw on the bands fingertip-tight (don’t completely tighten them so air in the jar can escape).
Place the filled jars in the canning insert and lower the insert into the pot of boiling water (or lower the jars into the pot and onto the rack using a jar lifter), making sure the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Process the jars for the amount of time prescribed in the recipe, making sure the water is at a rapid boil before you start the clock. Processing times vary not only based on the size of the jars you are using but also altitude. As elevation increases, water boils at lower temperatures that are less effective for canning. We specify the times for various elevations in each recipe. After the processing time is up, turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for 5 minutes.
Remove the cans from the pot using the canning insert and jar lifter (or just use a jar lifter to remove the jars if you are only using a rack) and let the jars cool on a wire rack or towel for 24 hours. During cooling, you should hear a popping noise, which is the sign that the jars are sealed airtight and the process is complete. You can check the seal by removing the bands; the lid should be taut and should adhere tightly to the rim of the jar. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place; they will keep for at least 1 year.
See more heirloom recipes and projects like this in From Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens.