Are you itching to dive into self-sufficiency and learn how to can food? I've compiled a comprehensive list of 50 canning and preserving tips geared toward helping you begin canning.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Learning how to can food is an essential homesteading skill, whether you live in the suburbs or out in the middle of nowhere. And honestly, you don’t even need a big backyard garden to get started canning and preserving.
Now, I know of apartment homesteaders who stock up on fresh produce and buy in bulk when fruit and vegetables are on sale. They can then preserve their food for the long term by canning, pickling, or even dehydrating.
50 Simple Tips on How to Can Food
With a big nod to safety and best practices, these simple tips will help you stock your pantry with home-canned goods and confidently enjoy the bounty of your harvest, no matter where you live or what season it is.
Or you could even make apple pie filling as a way to store your apples for the long term.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, you need to begin canning. So here are the tips you need to keep in mind.
1. Always use fresh, high-quality produce, free of blemishes or damage, to ensure the best flavor and safe preservation.
2. Follow tested, reliable recipes from trusted sources to ensure proper pH and canning safety.
3. Use only the mason jar sizes recommended in your canning recipe. Do this to maintain safe processing times.
4. Inspect your canning jars, lids, and bands for any signs of damage before use; even a small chip can lead to seal failure.
5. Always sterilize jars, lids, and bands in boiling water for 10 minutes before canning, unless the processing time in the recipe is longer than 10 minutes.
6. Use a jar lifter to handle hot jars safely and prevent them from cracking due to rapid temperature changes.
7. When filling jars, leave the proper amount of headspace as directed in your recipe. Headspace is the space between the food or liquid and the top of the jar.
8. After filling, remove air bubbles by sliding a non-metallic spatula around the inside of the jar. Do it carefully; improper removal of air bubbles can affect the sealing process.
9. Wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth before applying lids to ensure a good seal.
10. Process canned goods in a water bath or pressure canner for the specified time in your recipe to ensure the food is safe from bacteria and toxins.
Bonus Tip: Get a Good Beginning Canning Book
11. Understand that different altitudes affect boiling points and processing times; adjust your recipe accordingly if you live above 1,000 feet.
12. Do not tighten the bands too much before processing; this could cause the lids to buckle and not seal properly.
13. Allow jars to cool naturally at room temperature for 12-24 hours after processing before testing their seals.
14. Test jar seals by pressing the center of the lid; if it doesn't pop back, it's sealed properly.
15. Store canned goods in a cool, dark place for optimal shelf life and check regularly for signs of spoilage.
16. Don't stack jars on top of each other in storage; it can cause seals to break over time.
17. Always label and date your canned goods to keep track of what you have and when it was preserved.
18. If you see signs of spoilage, such as leaking, bulging lids, or an off smell, do not consume the food; when in doubt, throw it out.
19. Remember to always reheat low-acid canned foods like meats, poultry, and vegetables to 165°F to kill any potential bacteria before eating.
20. Last but not least, practice patience and mindfulness during the canning process; it is a skill that improves with time and experience.
21. Utilize a mix of vinegar, lemon juice, or citric acid for acidification in certain recipes to prevent botulism, especially in tomato canning.
Mason Jars and More
22. Never use mayonnaise jars or other non-canning jars for home canning; they can break in the canner or not seal properly.
23. Always cool your pressure canner naturally; rushing this process can cause jar breakage or seal failure.
24. Don't alter the amounts of vegetables and fruits in a canning recipe, it can affect the pH and make the food unsafe.
25. If using a pressure canner, adjust the pressure based on your altitude, according to the manufacturer's instructions.
More Beginning Canning Tips
26. Use only fresh, high-quality spices in your canning recipes to maintain optimal flavor over time.
27. Always heat your lids and bands in warm (not boiling) water before placing them on the jars to help ensure a good seal.
28. If a jar doesn't seal properly after processing, you can reprocess within 24 hours or refrigerate the jar and consume the contents promptly.
29. keep your work area clean and organized while canning to prevent cross-contamination and mishaps.
30. Use white vinegar to wipe the rims of your jars before sealing to ensure no food particles interfere with the seal.
31. Always use a canning rack to prevent jars from touching the bottom of the canner and potentially cracking due to intense heat.
32. Rotate your stored jars over time, using older jars first (FIFO - First In First Out) to maintain quality and safety.
33. Do not use antique or 'French' style jars with bails and glass caps for canning; they are unsafe for modern canning practices.
34. Allow your canned goods to rest for at least two weeks before consuming to let flavors develop fully.
Fermenting food is another good option for long-term preservation. Get a good fermenting crock and give it a try.
35. Be open to experimentation, but always within the safety guidelines; try different combinations of safe ingredients to discover your preferred recipes.
36. In pressure canning, never force the canner to cool faster by placing it under cold water; this may cause a sudden pressure drop that can lead to unsealed jars.
37. Remember, cloudy canning liquid might be a sign of spoilage or a reaction with starchy vegetables or beans; when in doubt, don't consume.
38. Do not attempt to can dairy products, fats, or eggs at home, as these require precise commercial canning to be safe.
39. It's important to keep track of the time when canning; starting when your canner reaches a full boil or the correct pressure, not when the jars are first put in.
40. When you remove hot jars from the canner, don't tighten the bands or push down on the lids; it can interfere with the sealing process.
Pickle Your Cucumbers
Got a bumper crop of cucumbers? Here are seven ways to preserve your cucumbers.
41. When making jams and jellies, ensure to use the correct ratio of fruit to sugar as outlined in your recipe; this balance is crucial to achieving proper set and preserving the fruit safely.
42. Be cautious when experimenting with adding thickeners to your recipes; certain ones can interfere with heat penetration and result in unsafe canned goods.
43. In addition to labeling your canned goods with the date, also note the specific recipe you used. This helps track your favorite variations and troubleshoot any issues.
44. When canning tomatoes, always add a bit of acid (lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid), as modern varieties can be less acidic than older types, increasing the risk of botulism.
45. Use a debubbler tool to release trapped air in your jars before sealing. Air pockets can affect the food's color and texture, leading to seal failures.
Be Cautious With Using Less Sugar
46. If you're using less sugar or salt in your recipes for dietary reasons, ensure they're approved low/no-sugar or low-sodium recipes, as these ingredients play a crucial role in preservation.
47. Regularly check your pressure canner's gasket and vent pipe for any signs of wear or blockage to ensure proper function and safety.
48. Always adjust your processing time or pressure for water bath or pressure canning based on your altitude. The higher the altitude, the longer the processing time or the higher the pressure needed.
49. Be mindful that raw-packed foods will float in the jars if not packed tightly enough. This might not make the food unsafe, but it can affect the aesthetic appeal and texture of the product.
50. If you notice any crystallization in your canned fruit syrups or jams and jellies, remember that while it may affect the texture, it doesn't imply that the food is unsafe to eat.