Canned peaches with large pot or canner

The Basics of Home Canning and How to Get Started—Quick & Easy!

So, you planted a garden, lucked out when your property included fruit trees, stumbled upon a produce sale you just couldn’t pass up or joined a CSA. Good for you! Now what? What will you do with all that bounty?

Canned peaches with large pot or canner

Your choices are  1) quickly consume your harvest before it spoils 2) give it away or 3) preserve it to enjoy in the future. One of the best ways to preserve—the method of food preservation that is making a big comeback—is known as “home canning.” Canning is not tricky, but it is a procedure that should be followed precisely.

Home Canning Overview

Generally, the process begins by sterilizing canning jars in boiling water. Then, once you’ve filled them with hot jam or another prepared recipe and applied lids, you boil them again. Proper canning or “heat-processing” hermetically seals the jar, meaning no air or tiny organisms can get in. It also kills any undesirables that may be present, like bacteria, yeast, or mold. In addition, it destroys naturally occurring enzymes that cause food to spoil.

For this process, known as home canning, you need a few pieces of equipment, a little time, and beautifully ripe produce. Your investment will pay off in spades come winter when you can enjoy summer all over again.

Beginners should start with fruit, jams, pickles, and tomatoes because these items are highly acidic and do not require a pressure canner—a process used for low-acid vegetables like green beans using high pressure plus high heat.

How to Can

1. Sterilize the jars, lids, and rings

In a big cooking pot filled with water, place jars and lids in the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Allow boiling for 10 minutes. Keep jars hot by turning heat down to simmer until ready to fill.

2. Make the recipe

Use one of the recipes below or another recipe of your choice that has been created specifically for canning. Again, if you are a beginning canner, start with a nice jam recipe or fruit in syrup.

3. Carefully remove jars from the pot

Empty the hot water from each jar back into the pot so you won’t have to heat new water later.

4. Place jars on a wooden cutting board or towel

Placing jars on a cold countertop could cause thermal shock, which could crack the jars. Place the funnel in the mouth of the jar; carefully ladle in the food item you have just prepared.

5. Fill jars allowing for headspace

The empty space between the food’s top and the jar’s top is called headspace. The amount of space depends on what you’re canning. Your recipe should indicate the amount of headspace required by that particular item.

6. Release air bubbles

Air bubbles can prevent jars from sealing and may affect the color of canned goods. Get rid of bubbles by sliding a nonmetal spatula or something like a plastic chopstick between the food and the inside of the jar. Make sure the item you use has been sterilized. You don’t want to introduce bacteria once you’ve been so careful to sterilize everything.

7. Clean up jars

Wipe jar rim and threads (the grooves the lid screws onto) with a clean, damp cloth. Food left on the jar rim or threads might prevent the jar from sealing once the lid and ring have been applied.

8. Apply lids and rings

With tongs, transfer one jar lid from the hot water to the top of each jar, ensuring it is centered perfectly on top of the jar. Apply a screw ring to each jar and twist until it is just finger-tight. Do not over tighten. The ring is to hold the lid in the correct position so that the seal can take place as the contents of the jar cool.

9. Process

Now, you are ready to process the jars. Place them back into the large pot of hot water. Once all the jars that will fit are in the pot, add enough water to cover the jars by at least one inch. Cover the pot and bring the water to a rapid boil over high heat. Boil jars for the required “processing time” indicated in your recipe of choice. For proper canning, water must boil rapidly during the entire processing time.

11. Turn off the heat

Remove lid from the large pot. Let jars cool in the water for five minutes. Remove jars from the pot, being careful not to tilt the jars. Place them on a towel. Allow sitting undisturbed for 24 hours.

12. Test for proper seal

To test each jar to make sure it is properly sealed, look at the lid from the side. It should be concave, slightly curved like the inside of a bowl. Next, press on the lid with your finger. If the lid springs back, the jar is not sealed. Immediately reprocess that jar or refrigerate it to be consumed within the next few days. The contents are perfectly edible and delicious, but, since it did not seal properly, you would not want to put it on the shelf to be eaten six months from now.

13. Label and store

Make and apply labels for your jars that indicate the name of the contents and the date canned. Store in a cool, dark, non-humid place for up to one year.

 

Basic Equipment

Home canning jars

These are specially made, tempered jars with lids designed for canning. The jars can be reused for many years, but you will always want to use new lids (super cheap, easy to find).

Canning jars come in various sizes and are usually sold in boxes of 6 or 12. Each jar includes a two-piece lid. Look for canning jars online, in supermarkets, hardware stores, and discount department stores like Walmart and Target.

This set of twelve 32-oz (quart) jars with lids and rings is perfect for jams, jellies, and pickles.

 

 

Large covered water bath canner

A water bath canner must be deep enough to completely immerse the jars with 1 to 2 inches of water covering the top of the lids. Canners have a rack to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot. You can improvise by using any large stockpot with a wire cooling rack or trivet placed in the bottom.

 

 

Jar lifter

A jar lifter is a very handy tong-like tool for removing freshly processed jars from the boiling water without tilting them. It looks like wide tongs.

 

 

Wide mouth canning funnel

A canning funnel makes filling your jars simple in a safe and tidy way.

 

A non-metallic spatula

You want to avoid anything metallic from coming in contact with your prepared food item, so use a non-metallic spatula, a long plastic knife, or chopstick to run through the filled jars to release trapped air bubbles.

Linens

Clean dishcloths or small towels to wipe the rims before placing the lids on the jars and a heavy dish towel or absorbent mat to set the hot jars on after they’ve been removed from the canner.

Resources

Pick-Your-Own Farms Near Me

This is a useful website that will help you find local pick-your-own orchards and farms in your local area.

National Center for Home Food Preservation

This NCHFP offers free, comprehensive information that covers every aspect of canning and food preservation. You can take self-study courses, and find the answers to just about any question you can imagine.

Free USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning

This free guide contains complete instructions for how to can peaches, plums, cherries, nectarines, and vegetables like peppers, beans, okra, and corn. You’ll need a pressure canner to process low-acid vegetables at 240 F.

Books

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, by Judi Kingry, is considered by many to be the bible of home canning. This book includes comprehensive directions on safe canning and preserving methods plus lists of required equipment and utensils. Specific instructions for first-timers and handy tips for the experienced make the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving a valuable addition to any kitchen library. It also includes 400 enticing recipes.

 

 

Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry, by Liana Krissoff. A hip, modern guide to home canning, chock-full of approachable, time-tested, accurate recipes, and intriguing new flavor pairings. In this Updated and Expanded Edition, Krissoff includes 50 new recipes for food preservation in addition to her favorites.

 

 

Website

The Simply Canning website is designed so that even a beginner can fill a pantry! The site offers hundreds of recipes created specifically for home canning, plus lots of instruction, helps, tips and tricks.

Home Canning Kit

The Granite Ware Canning Essentials Kit, 8-Piece Set includes a 21-quart canner, lid, 7-jar rack, bubble remover, jar lifter,  lid wrench, funnel, tongs, and magnetic lid lifter—everything needed to begin canning (except the jars), at a price much lower than if you acquire each of the essential items separately. Look for similar kits at stores like Walmart and Target.

 

 

 

 

Fabulous Starter Recipes

peach raspberry homemade jam in hands of woman
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Blushing Peach Jam

A decadent blend of peaches and raspberries with just a hint of almond ... oh my! This is the jam you will want in the middle of winter. So easy to make and preserve so that you can enjoy it many, many months from now. Or ... Holiday Gifts!
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Servings: 64
Calories: 89kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 cups peaches peeled, pitted, and crushed
  • 2 cups red raspberries crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 7 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 6-oz. liquid fruit pectin
  • few drops almond extract

Instructions

  • Sterilze jars and lids in boiling water or dishwasher on hottest "sterlize" setting.
  • In the meantime, to the peaches add 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Let stand while preparing raspberries.
  • Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice to the raspberries.
  • Combine peaches and raspberries with sugar in a heavy saucepan. Mix well and bring to a boil. Boil hard for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and add pectin. Stir and skim; add a few drops of almond extract.
  • Pour into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace.
  • Process in boiling bath for 10 minutes. Yield: 4 half-pint jars jam.

Nutrition

Serving: 1tblspn | Calories: 89kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 11mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 23g | Vitamin A: 16IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 1mg | Iron: 1mg

 

Tasty home canning caramel apple jam in glass jars.

Tasty apple and cinnamon jams in glass jars.

Tasty home canning caramel apple jam in glass jars.
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
4.75 from 4 votes

Caramel Apple Jam

Autumn in a jar! That's what you'll think every time you spread this yummy jam on toast. Or pour it on top of ice cream! Simply amazing.
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Servings: 91
Calories: 50kcal

Ingredients

  • 6 cups apples, Granny Smith or Gala peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tspn butter
  • 1 pkg fruit pectin, powder 1.8 oz.
  • 3 cups white granulated sugar
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar packed tightly
  • ½ tspn ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tspn ground nutmeg

Instructions

  • Sterilize jars and lids in boiling water or the "sterilize" hottest setting on dishwasher.
  • In the meantime, mix apples, water, and butter in a heavy pot. Cook over low heat, stirring until apples are soft but not mushy.
  • Stir in pectin.
  • Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly.
  • Add sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  • Return to a rolling boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat; skim foam.
  • Pour into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Apply lids and rings, loosely.
  • Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Yield: 7 half-pint jars.

Nutrition

Serving: 1tblspn | Calories: 50kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 15mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 4IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 5mg | Iron: 1mg

 

 

 

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13 replies
Newer Comments »
  1. Ellen Rottschafer says:

    Wonderful jam recipies, Mary! Thank you for getting me started early on my Christmas gifts! We buy our canning jars from estate & garage sales for next to nothing – just check jar rims for no nicks, and buy new lids & rings!

    Reply
  2. Luisa says:

    Such good information, Mary! My grandmothers taught me to can fruit preserves, jams, pickles, and tomatoes. They were happy to teach me, particularly since their children weren’t interested in those old-fashioned ways. (Though they did love eating the end products, lol.) I remember such happy times in my grandmothers’ kitchens during the hot southern summers, talking and laughing for hours while we cut and cooked the produce. I have it easier now in my air-conditioned kitchen with more modern equipment, and I like to imagine they’re happy that I’m continuing the skills they taught me. I love to line up the finished jars in my kitchen so the sunlight hits them. The vivid colors look like jewels and I feel close to my grandmothers again.

    Reply
  3. Penny says:

    4 stars
    Just a couple of points I noticed in reading this: (1) The Ball book, the bible of home canning, no longer instructs that jars, lids & rings need to be sterilized but washed & kept hot to be ready for filling. (2) The picture with the article showing 2 shelves jars of different sizes stacked on them has jars stacked directly on top of each other with no divider between the jars. Ball advises to not do this as it may negatively effect the seals over the time of storage. The jars also appear to have the rings still on the jars as well. Rings are to be removed in storage because a ring can deceive people into trusting that the lids are safely sealed, which they may not be if the ring is left in place. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Laura says:

    5 stars
    Very good article. I’ve canned off and on for years. One note: Make sure processing times are increased at high altitudes. The Ball canning book has good guidelines.

    Reply
  5. Red says:

    Both my grandmothers canned but I never had the opportunity. When we bought this house we had an orchard and I found recipe book for canning without granulated sugar. Who taught me? My hubby had done tomatoes with his mom throughout his childhood.

    Reply
  6. Sarah says:

    I’ve been canning (both water and pressure) for many years and thought your readers would like to know you no longer have to boil new jar lids in hot water. The new jar lids can be simply placed directly onto the jar. Also, you can heat your jars more easily an oven set to 200 degrees–much less messy than in boiling water.

    Reply
  7. Anita Esser says:

    Hello Mary, when I was a young girl, I had to help my mom can, every summer, tomatoes, peaches, and any thing else she would get, I hated it, hot summer day and I would have to help her with all that work.

    I told myself that when I get married, I will never can. And I never did, the only thing that came close was making Strawberry Freezer jam.

    When my daughter got married, her mother in law canned all the time, and she thought oh how wonderful, so she learned from her, and did lots of canning.

    How funny this works out. Just thought I would let you know that. thanks. Anita Esser

    Reply
  8. Gigi Gall says:

    5 stars
    FYI, Jars should not be stacked. If the seal breaks and reseals because another jar was on top you’d never know. Also you should remove the rings before storing, again so you’ll know right away if the seal fails in storage.

    Reply
  9. Ginny says:

    My first canning experience was early in my life around 6 years old with my mom and let’s just say I might never have done it again but…
    The second time I was a bit older again with my mom, say around 10 or so and it was raspberry jam, most amazing sweet treat I ever tasted at the time. It also opened up my eye’s to the fact that not everything has to be processed by an unknown mysterious far away factory/processing plant. As an adult there have been fails from time to time but as a mom it started me on a path of trying my hand at many types of fresh food canning and freezing. Shop around though for the best deal on canning start up supplies and buy local if you can, your farmers market, coop op or roadside garden stands are often willing to take orders of larger quantities for you also if you ask.

    Reply
  10. Linda Grigsby says:

    Mary, a wonderful article on canning. One thing….if a jar does not seal and one decides to re-process, you have to use a new lid, don’t you? If so, might be good to mention that. I have just completed several containers of peaches for the freezer. Such a treat to have in the wintertime! Thank you for all your great ideas and information. I appreciate you!

    Reply
    • Sarah says:

      Yes, you need to use a new lid every time you want to create a seal–if it didn’t seal correctly the first time, it’s best to use a new lid when you try again.

      Reply
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