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Home Canning Guide: 
Learn How to Can Your Own Food

Canning Jars Rainbow

Why Do We Can?

We looked to our readers to find out why home canning is experiencing a modern revival. Their answer: Canning produces flavorful, high-quality food that saves money, builds self-reliance and creates lifelong memories. Check out some of their responses and get inspired to start stocking your pantry with home-canned food: Putting Food By The Old-Fashioned Way.

How Canning Works

The Science. The more you learn about food science, the more confident you’ll be in the kitchen. This is true for all kinds of cooking, but is especially helpful with food preservation. When you preserve food, you are either trying to freeze time or to encourage specific bacteria to proliferate and crowd out harmful bacteria. Canning is all about freezing time.

With the simplest method of canning — water bath canning — you fill jars with acidic food such as tomatoes, berries or cucumbers in vinegar, cover them with lids and boil them in an open pan of water until a seal forms under the lid. This action forces air out of the food and out of the jar and creates a vacuum in an acidic environment in which bacteria will not thrive.

Water bath canning can provide you with a number of delicious foods, including jams, jellies, whole tomatoes and pickles, and it’s a great place to start. A more advanced method is pressure canning. It requires a little more skill and some specialized equipment, but it will unlock a wide world of food and flavor options. If you want to put up the main ingredients for many meals, rather than just supporting players and condiments, you’ll need to get into pressure canning. To read about these methods in more detail, check out Learn to Can For Homegrown FlavorWater Bath Canning and Pressure Canning: Explained, How to Can Using the Boiling Water Bath Method and How to Home Can: Raw-Packing vs. Hot-Packing.

The Equipment. You can get by without all of the fanciest canning-specific equipment, but you’ll need a few inexpensive basics, most of which are widely available used. A pot that holds enough water to cover whatever size jars you want to use with a little extra room for boiling water is key. Jar lifters are also extremely handy, and of course the jars are a necessity. If you’re serious about putting up a wide range of foods, you’ll also need a pressure canner. New ones can be pricey, but shop around for used options. Your local extension agency should be able to test old pressure canners to make sure they’re still functioning safely, and it’s a good idea to perform this test once each canning season.

The Ingredients. Use only the best, freshest and blemish-free produce, spices and herbs. Buy seasonally to find the best deals. Talk to farmers at farmers markets to see what they’ll have when, so that you can plan your canning time accordingly. Consider making bulk purchases with other canners in order to save even more money. 

The Process. It’s Sunday morning and you’ve just collected your best specimens of perfectly ripe produce. Your clean jars, like ducks in a row, are lined up on the counter and your equipment is at the ready. The next few steps are easy. (1) Prep the ingredients. (2) Fill the jars. (3) Wipe the rims. (4) Screw on the lids and bands. (5) Boil. (6) Remove and cool until you hear the satisfying pop-pop-pops of the seals forming. 

About Safety. There’s no reason to be afraid of canning, because ensuring safety is entirely possible. The basic rules of sanitized canning are simple and practical. That said, it’s important to follow those rules and to use pre-tested recipes. If you decide to experiment with canning recipes, you’ll need a pH meter, and you can learn more about that and all the other important canning concepts at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. See also: Are Old Canning Recipes Safe to Use

Handy Canning Resources

Consult the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more tested-and-approved canning recipes, plus official United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) safety and how-to information. 

Your local cooperative extension agency may offer canning classes taught by certified food preservation instructors, and will certainly have other useful canning resources, to boot. Find the cooperative extension office nearest you by clicking on your state on this map

If you think you might like canning with other folks, check for a list of state-by-state community canning kitchens that make the work of canning easier and more fun by bringing motivated canners together.

Our Favorite Canning Books

Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods by Eugenia Bone is the book for gourmand canners who care more about stocking your pantry with variety than quantity and for urban canners who think it’s cool to have a larder in Soho.

Put ‘Em Up! A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook by Sherri Brooks Vinton is an inspiring resource for new canners and for folks who like to have pretty pictures along with exceptionally interesting recipes.

The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying, and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables by Carol W. Costenbader is for you if you’re looking for a comprehensive canning guide with straightforward, easy-to-understand instructions.

The Joy of Pickling: 250 Flavor-Packed Recipes for All Kinds of Produce from Garden or Market by Linda Ziedrich will delight anyone who loves exploring history and culinary traditions. Of course, pickle love is a must!

Canning Equipment


Canning Equipment
Order ingredients for jams, jellies, preserves and pickles;
plus canning jars, rings, lids and other equipment via 
BallFagorJarden, Kuhn RikonLehman's and
Pressure Cooker Outlet.

Tattler Canning Jar Rings  

Try the nifty, reusable, BPA-free canning jar lids
from Tattler. (Then learn more about the dangers of BPA.)

Corn Zipper
A delightful corn zipper by Kuhn Rikon 
makes easy work of corn processing.

Canning Jar Labels
Decorate your jars with the creative labels, stamps and tags
handmade by the artisans on We like the whimsical
and vintage decorations by Lazy Day CottageLet's Talk Chalk
PapertivityPear Creek Cottage, River Dog Prints, Sincerely Sadie
SugarSkull7 and Sweetpotatojack.

Home Canning

Water Bath Canning Recipes 

Pressure Canning Recipes

How to Can Tomatoes

How to Can Meat, Poultry and Seafood

Steam Canning

Is Steam Canning Safe?

Creative Canning-Inspired Goods

With the rise in popularity of home canning, you can now find a wide variety of canning-inspired household goods handmade by crafty artisans. We especially like these: 

  • Repurposed Mason Jar Chandeliers by LampGoods 
 Mason Jar Chandelier 
Canning Recipe Cards  
Mason Jar Thank You Cards  
  • Retrofit Soap and Lotion Jar Dispensers by Trash2Trish 
Mason Jar Soap Lotion Dispensers  
Kitchen Towels  
Keep Canning Woodcut Print 

Photos by Tim Nauman Photography  

Post a comment below.


12/21/2015 8:02:52 AM
Hi, Greetings from Brazil! I am very interested in learn how to canning. However, is almost impossible to get all the equipment and accessories you suggest in your excellent article and tutorial! They are easily available in US but in Brazil, they are "avis rara"! Please, do you have another canning method, maybe based in very, very old methods, more simple and easy to do in resource less country? Thanks for the attention Regards, Paulo

8/17/2015 1:41:32 PM
Ball/Kerr has taken the BPA out of their seals. I'm not sure when (maybe 2014?) as I am new to canning. Just wanted to put that out there.

4/25/2015 7:37:07 AM
Canning is the best option for divide in batches. By

1/31/2015 10:12:50 AM
The canning lids now seem to rust very quickly. Try drying them in your food dryer after using.

8/27/2014 12:46:37 PM
Please provide any information on harvesting and using Jambolan Fruit.

8/12/2014 7:47:49 PM
Can I re can large cans of food to small jars?

6/23/2014 11:53:46 AM
Where can one buy the color jar lids?

10/21/2013 7:50:27 PM
I have a small garden and household and started using The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving. I got it from Amazon a few years ago. It has over 300 recipes and includes instructions on how to can.

8/18/2013 12:34:15 PM
Is it safe to process bottles of tomatoes or tomato sauce by laying the bottles on their sides, on top of a grate set on the bottom of the kettle instead of using the metal bottle separating basket that comes with the water bath canner?

6/20/2013 10:52:35 AM
I have a very small garden. Where can I find some small batch canning recipes. I should mention that I have never canned before.

6/19/2013 4:25:18 PM

Be cautious using the Tatler lids.  I have been canning for years and tried them for the first time last year.  I had nearly a 40% fail rate on these lids and I never have that problem with the regular ball/kerr lids.  Apparently this is a common problem (an internet search turned up a lot of complaints).  As long as you store your jars up right and leave adequate head space the food will not be contact with the regular lids and BPA probable won't be much of an issue.  But let's keep petitioning ball/kerr to remove BPA from their lid liner.  right now I would rather take the BPA risk than lose nearly half my canning effort. 

6/19/2013 10:26:16 AM

6/19/2013 10:24:41 AM

It's interesting that someone who supports the mother earth doctrine would even think about walmart let alone shop there.

4/18/2013 4:38:28 PM
Hello Charlotte, my suggestion is to get a copy of the Ball canning book. They are available at most any bookstore such as Barnes and Noble or even at Walmart. I follow the book for the safety guidelines but use what ever spices or mixtures I like. You just have to process at the proper time the book says. They also have recipes in the book.

2/24/2013 12:28:27 AM
anyone have any recip. for canning meats? Safely.?

Lisa Reinhart
1/19/2013 2:27:45 PM
Penny, check out for a variety of lid options. The greatest variety is in the regular mouth (G70) size. Lids and bands are available seperately in bulk (rings by the piece) lids by the sleeve. All of the 1-Piece lids are available by the piece or by the case.

1/19/2013 2:20:52 PM
Hi Michelle, has the 2-piece canning lids in gold and in silver AND also many options in 1-piece lids for canning! Red, Yellow, Green, Silver, Black, White and Gold...with the plastisol liner that enables you to can. They are available with the button top (so you can easily see that you've created a proper seal) and without (you can still see the depression of the lid). While spray painting closures for a picture is understandable, it isn't recommended for actual food processing or storage items.

Julie Payne
11/10/2012 8:40:42 AM
the lids are spray painted.

Cathy Boudreau
8/17/2012 11:14:07 PM
Try website

Nancy Irons
7/27/2012 2:49:15 PM
Canning rings can be painted with Krylon or rustoleum spray paint, best to process jars using unpainted rings, then replace them with the painted rings.

Ezra Hazard
7/8/2012 9:46:50 PM
the problem with canning green beans is getting them in the jar and in the canner before they get eaten. Fresh cooked Blue Lakes is heaven on earth

Charlen Carignan
6/17/2012 9:11:40 PM
Forgot to ask, do you have a pressure canner? You can't preserve meat and low acid items with a water bath.

Charlen Carignan
6/17/2012 9:09:44 PM
You need to look at Youtube. There are lots of meat, stew, how-tos there. I have really learned a lot!!!

New Hampshire Native
6/14/2012 1:05:12 AM
All I'm looking for is a simple way to can sauce with meat and beef stew. All the preserving I've seen is for vegetables. Where's the meat !!

6/13/2012 8:42:28 PM
I don't think those color lids are 'real'. I was very irritated when I saw the pics and read the article. Ball makes a yellow one like that, but they are for refridgerator use - after the canned item is opened.

michelle mayotte
6/8/2012 3:52:05 PM
Also wondering about colored lids? I did an internet search still could not find:(

Penny Richards
6/3/2012 11:11:24 PM
I would also like to know where to get colored lids

Melanie Pool
6/1/2012 3:35:45 AM
I would like to know where the colorful bands came from or were they painted? I have been canning for years and would like to color id my foods.

5/30/2012 3:50:36 AM
The right link for the Tattler reusable lids is

5/24/2012 11:07:55 PM
I love canning food all kinds.Hot pack and cold ,they tast wonderful in the winter months.

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