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Tips and Supplies for Home Canning and Preserving

Tips and Supplies for Home Canning and Preserving

Learn the best tips and supplies for home canners, including how to make canning easier and more efficient, the best canning practices to follow, and what canning supplies you will need to fill your shelves with homemade canned goods. 

Canning and preserving your own food takes some time and effort, but the sense of accomplishment and delicious meals it brings is well worth it! Canning may seem hard but with the right canning tips and supplies, it will soon be a breeze. Canning safety is important, but many methods our grandparents used were just inefficient. There are new methods to make canning even easier, giving your grandmother’s canning practices a modern touch! I’ve been a home canner for over 10 years and have made mistakes, but with trial and error, I can now pass the knowledge to you and your family. I have compiled a list of my top tips and favorite supplies to help you build confidence and start canning your fresh food! 

Canning tips

Swap your water bath canner for a steam canner

While any pot can be used for a water bath pot, a steam canner really speeds up the process of water bath canning. A steam canner is a special pot that reaches the same temperature for safe canning (212 F) but uses less water and creates steam faster than the entire pot of boiling water. On average, a steam canner operates twice as fast as a traditional canning pot which is such a time saver when you are canning multiple batches at a time! Here is the steam canner we use and love!

Jars in a canner

Preserve when the season makes sense

You don’t have to stick to one canning season! Most fruits can be frozen and then later turned into jams or jellies. In fact, freezing them helps release the liquid, yielding a better product. This is even true for tomatoes since they are a fruit. Just toss fruits into a freezer bag and make jam in the winter when the season is slower and you need to add heat to your kitchen. Vegetables typically will not can well after being frozen as they get mushy so for best results, can those fresh. 

In the winter I will also can most of my meats, soups, and beans. We can make quick meals year-round with canned chicken or canned beef such as quesadillas or sandwiches. See a list of 10 different ways to use canned beef here!

Minimize your supplies 

We love the Tattler or Harvest Guard Reusable Lids as they create less waste and clutter and are the best quality of reusable lids. We also only keep about 20 canning rings of each size to minimize clutter and because you should not be storing your jars with the bands on anyway. The bands should be removed when you wash jars before storing them. Doing this keeps away mold and allows you to easily notice when a jar comes unsealed. It’s been a dream not having those rings all over the kitchen after I downsized the number I kept on hand! 

Label and keep track

Track your favorite recipes by labeling your jars or shelf! Not sure if you liked the pears canned in light syrup? Make sure to take notes! It is too cumbersome for me to write on each jar, so I just label my shelves with painter’s tape and write notes there. You can also keep notes next to the recipes you used so when you go back next year you can see which recipes you loved and which ones you didn’t like as much. This will prevent you from remaking recipes your family doesn’t really care for and wasting a lot of work!

Filled mason jars on a shelf

Eat in season as often as possible

Canning math would tell you to put away 52+ jars of green beans so you can eat a jar a week for the year. However, our family of 6 actually only preserves about 30 jars. We are only aiming to get through the time we cannot grow beans or other veggies we love. I prefer to focus on eating from the garden and preserving enough to eat when it’s too cold in Iowa for fresh! 

Can in smaller batches. 

Many people prefer to spend 2 days canning for the year but when partnered with about 30 jars for each type of food it’s much more feasible for our family to preserve food when we are able. My canner holds 7 quarts, so if I can put away 7 jars of beans 7 weeks of summer– my shelf is full for winter! It’s much less overwhelming that way. We let the canner run during dinner, clean the kitchen, and put it all away. 

If you do have a big canning session, be sure to invite friends over to share the fun and the food– but also be sure to plan a meal that doesn’t involve the stove top. We love a simple crockpot meal on days we have purchased produce to preserve that needs to be done in a large batch. 

Stay up to date

Stay current on canning practices, both for safety and convenience. If you are still water-bathing meat for three hours, there are much more efficient ways! The National Center for Home Food Preservation updates standards often, for example, there’s no need to boil your canning lids as they are made from a different type of material now. This saves you dishes, time, and stove space. While I love and cherish recipes my grandma passed down, I also love simple, easy steps that allow me to get more food into my larder! 

Always have a full canner

If things have similar processing times you can have more than one type of food in your canner. For example, raw packed beef and dried beans can for the same processing time. If I know I am canning beef, I will always soak a batch of beans to make sure I have a full canner running! 

Jar of green beans

Canning Supplies

All of these are affiliate links, but you can often find deals on Facebook marketplace or from friends! Or, feel free to use the Amazon links as a way to compare prices.

Jars 

Over time, you will steadily build up your supply of canning jars! If affordable, it’s good to have a mix of wide-mouth and regular-mouth mason jars. The wide-mouth jars are easier to clean after having meat in them, and they are easier to get foods like pickles or peaches out! Before buying jars, consider your family size and how much you eat. Does a 15 oz. can of corn feed your family? Use pints! Need two cans? Use quarts! 

It used to be easy to find friends giving away unused canning jars, or find deals at thrift stores, but keep searching! 

Do not can in glass jars that are not made for canning, old pasta jars, and jelly jars cannot handle the heat and will break or not store long term. Jars are an investment that your family will use for ages. Think of it as investing in your meal prep containers!  

Jar of meat

Lids and Rings

You actually only need about 30 rings that match the size of your jars (wide or regular mouth). Rings are only used during the canning process and for the 24 hours after canning and then they are removed for storage. 

Traditional lids are for one-time use, but we prefer these reusable canning lids from Harvest Guard. Both pieces that it comes with are reusable so you do not need to keep buying new lids. Just make sure to get the pieces back if you are gifting jars! 

Water Bath Canner 

Water bath canners are used for high-acid foods such as fruit and jams. To process jars with this method, you will submerge them in water that is at a full rolling boil. The high heat mixed with the low pH level preserves the food and kills any harmful bacteria. 

Cheap alternative: Any large pot and lid with a towel or canning rings on the bottom. As long as you can add enough water to cover the jars and something holds the jars off the bottom of the pot, it will work!

Upgrade option: You can also use a steam canner for high-acid foods instead of a water bath canner. This is an upgrade option, but Steam Canners save time and use less water! While it is an expense, if you are canning a lot or need a canning pot, this is definitely a must-have!  

A new (unapproved) hack: Use your pressure canner like a steam canner. Have the canning vent open and pouring steam at a steady rate. Use at your own discretion as it’s not *approved* method.

Canning pots

Pressure Canner 

A pressure canner needs to be at least 16 quarts but I always recommend going with a 23 quart pressure canner so you can stack pint jars inside. 

If you are buying used, make sure to replace the gasket and check that it pressurizes properly. You will want it to be in good condition in order for it to work properly. Check with your local University Extension Office because sometimes they will test this for you!

Canners made from aluminum are superior because they have even heating so be sure to check what the canner is made from before purchasing. And remember, a pressure canner and a pressure cooker are not the same thing!

You will need to use a pressure canner when you are canning low-acid foods. The higher temperature in pressure canning kills the harmful bacteria that can cause sickness and spoil food. To learn more about when you need to pressure can or if it is safe to water bath can, read the blog post on Water Bath Canning vs Pressure Canning. 

Canning Resources and Recipes 

The Complete Canning Guide is a must-have for canning! This can also be found on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website, but having a physical book is always a good idea. Any Ball Book is also great, but this is my favorite because it’s easy to follow and understand and is the complete guide needed for canning. Do not use old and outdated books, mostly because they have come up with more efficient ways to preserve foods! 

All University Extension Resources are also a really great place to look for canning resources. Iowa State University and Georgia both have really good resources to check out.

For more canning resources and recipes, check my list of Best Canning Books for Beginners Home Preserving.

It’s important to follow these resources listed because the canning recipes are tested and proven to be delicious and follow food safety. There are risks of food-borne illnesses in canning, and the best way to ensure you do not waste your energy canning something that’s not safe or delicious is to stick to these resources! 

To learn more about the entire canning process, enroll in Yes, You Can! Here I teach you how to can with confidence! 

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Yes, You Can: A simple method to preserving food!

Last updated Nov 30th, 2023

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