Canning 101

I've never canned anything before, mostly because the equipment/process intimidates me a little. However, I now find myself with quite a lot of CSA fruit I don't want to see go to waste. My question is: is it possible to can safely without a whole lot of extra equipment? What basic advice can you offer a first time canner?

Cristina Sciarra


MeghanVK August 29, 2012
I find this article useful and un-intimidating:

In general:
-stick to jam for your first forays into canning (lower acid food should be pressure canned, which is more complicated)
-don't cut the sugar in your recipe
-you can get a basic canning kit (jar lifters, funnel, magnetic wand) from Amazon for under $10, and it will make your canning so much easier

Just put aside a big block of time to do it and have fun!
chl0525 August 29, 2012
Check with your local state extension office. I live in Kansas City and jut took one that was offered by the K State extension office. 2 classes, one on water bath canning and one on pressure canning, and I was ready to go. Check, she has some really creative recipes.
AntoniaJames August 29, 2012
All these answers are helpful. I've made jam on the tiniest stove imaginable in a rental unit on the North Umpqua River, with just a couple of medium-large pots, a large spoon and a box of Ball jars. With a normally equipped kitchen, you can do it more easily. A jar lifter, a magnet for jar lids (I use a nice telescoping one from the hardware store) and a wide mouth funnel make the job much easier. You don't need a canning pot and rack; you can just put some dishcloths on the bottom of a regular large pot, to keep the jars from rattling too much. I highly recommend that you make jam or chutneys, with a fair bit of acid and sugar, as those are the least worrisome. And, as dymnyno says, follow the directions with the canning jars to the letter. And don't play around with recipes, as the acid levels, etc. needed for shelf stability have been worked out, so don't upset that balance. Have fun!! ;o) P.S. My favorite helpful trick for canning is to put your clean, empty jars in brownie pans or similar large rectangular baking pans, sterilize them in the oven, and then leave them in the pan while you are filling the jars; then take the pan with jars back to the stove, to lift them into the boiling water bath. This reduces the amount of handling and moving around of hot glass jars.
dymnyno August 29, 2012
The first time that I canned anything I just followed the directions that came with the jars to the letter. Then as I kept reading up on canning from the many many books on the subject , I found my best way to do it.

Voted the Best Reply!

HalfPint August 29, 2012
For water bath canning:
The only equipment that are essential are 2 large pots (one for the processing, one for sterilizing jars), a ladle, tongs, and the canning jars with unused lids. Other than the jars and lids, you probably already have this stuff in your kitchen. You will also need some kind of a rack for the water bath, to keep the jars from knocking against each other and breaking. They're about $3 from the hardware store. Or you can make your own out of aluminum foil and it's not even hard to do.

The most important advice is to read up on water bath canning, the how-to and the limitations (safe for high-acid food only). Here's a very helpful link:
It's a bit of a d'uh, like reading through a recipe before you start it. Know what to expect every step of the way.

Second most important thing, have everything ready (like hot sterilized jars, water bath hot and ready to boil, lids in pan of hot, but not boiling water) before you start making the jam/jelly/preserve, because the cooking and immediate processing goes very quickly. So mise en place!

ChefOno August 29, 2012

First step, bookmark this site:

The USDA's Complete Guide to Home Canning is available here (for free):

Like anything else in the kitchen, canning is easy once you get started. And it's perfectly safe as long as you follow the advice in the guide.

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