peach raspberry homemade jam in hands of woman

Home Canning: How to Preserve Summer’s Bounty

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

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You have options:

  • quickly consume your harvest before it spoils
  • give it away
  • preserve it to enjoy in the future, or for gifting!

One of the best ways to preserve is known as “home canning”— or water bath canning, a method of food preservation that is making a big comeback.

Canning is not difficult, but it is a procedure that should be followed precisely. You begin by sterilizing canning jars in boiling water. Then, once you’ve filled them with fruit,  salsa, tomatoes, jam, jelly, or another prepared recipe, you boil them again.

Proper water bath canning requires “heat-processing,” which means to hermetically seal the jars so that no air or tiny organisms can get in. It also kills any undesirables that may be present, like bacteria, yeast, or mold. This process destroys naturally occurring enzymes that cause food to spoil.

All you need are a few pieces of equipment, a little time, and beautifully ripe produce. Your investment now will pay off in spades come winter when you’ll be able to 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.

How to can

Wash equipment

Wash your new jars, lids and screw rings in hot, soapy water. Rinse well and drain.

Sterilize the jars, lids, rings

In an ordinary big cooking pot filled with water, place jars and lids in the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Allow to boil for 10 minutes. Keep jars hot by turning heat down to simmer until ready to fill. Note: There are canning containers that do not use both lids and rings. Some have clamp-on type apparatus, others a single lid. For beginners, I highly recommend the more reliable ring-plus-lid option. Recycled jars with lids, like that empty mayonnaise or pickle jar, will be challenging to achieve a proper safe seal.

Make the recipe

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

Jars of homemade red currant jam with fresh fruits

Carefully remove jars from pot

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

Place jar on 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.

Allow headspace

The empty space between the top of the food and the top of the jar 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.

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.

Clean up jars

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

Apply lids and rings

With tongs, transfer one jar lid from the hot water to the top of each jar, making sure 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 overtighten. 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.

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.

Turn off heat

Remove the 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 to cool 24 hours.

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. 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.

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

New canning jars

These are specially made, tempered jars with lids designed for water bath canning. The jars can be reused for many years. Canning jars come in various sizes and are usually sold in boxes of 12. Each jar includes a two-piece lid. Look for Ball Mason jars in supermarkets, hardware stores, and discount department stores like Wal-Mart and Target.

Large covered water bath canner

A 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 placed in the bottom.

Jar lifter

A very handy tool for removing freshly processed jars from the boiling water. It looks like wide tongs.

Wide mouth canning funnel

This wide-mouth funnel makes filling your jars simple in a way that is safe and tidy.

Non-metallic spatula

Or, a long plastic knife or chopstick to run through the filled jars to release trapped air bubbles.

Linens

A clean dishcloth to wipe the rims before placing the lids on the jars and a heavy dish towel or absorbent mat to sit the hot jars on after they’ve come from the canner.

Blushing Peach Jam

  • 2 cups peeled, pitted and crushed peaches
  • 2 cups red raspberries, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 7 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 bottle liquid pectin
  • few drops almond extract
  1. To the peaches add 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Let stand while preparing raspberries.
  2. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice to the raspberries.
  3. Combine peaches and raspberries with sugar in a heavy pot. Mix well and bring to a boil. Boil hard for 1 minute.
  4. Remove from heat and add pectin. Stir and skim; add a few drops of almond extract.
  5. Pour into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace.
  6. Process in boiling bath for 10 minutes. Yield: 4 half-pint jars jam.
peach raspberry homemade jam in hands of woman

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!
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 52
Calories: 110kcal
Cost: Varies

Equipment

  • Stock pot or canner

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  • 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 pot. 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: 110kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 4mg | Potassium: 12mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 28g | Vitamin A: 19IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 1mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Caramel Apple Jam

  • 6 cups peeled and diced Granny Smith or Gala apples
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • 1 package powdered fruit pectin
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. Mix apples, water, and butter in a heavy pot. Cook over low heat, stirring until apples are soft but not mushy.
  2. Stir in pectin.
  3. Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly.
  4. Add sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  5. Return to a rolling boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  6. Remove from heat; skim foam.
  7. Pour into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace.
  8. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Yield: 7 half-pint jars of jam.

Tasty home canning caramel apple jam in glass jars.

Tasty home canning caramel apple jam in glass jars.

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.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 91
Calories: 50kcal
Cost: Varies

Equipment

  • Stock pot or canner
  • 7 half-pint canning jars with rings and lids

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  • 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.
  • Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

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
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Resources

Pick Your Own

This very useful website, PickYourOwn.org, will help you find local pick-your-own orchards and farms, together with complete instructions for how to can peaches, plums, cherries, nectarines, and even pie fillings.

You’ll also find a plethora of jelly and jam recipes, and instructions for canning vegetables like peppers, beans, okra, and corn. Caution: You’ll need a pressure canner to process low-acid vegetables at 240 F. Electric pressure cookers are unable to reach that temperature so make sure you research this fact plus the altitude where you live.

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.

US Department of Agriculture

The USDA has created The Complete Guide to Home Canning, 193-page free download that covers everything there is to know about home canning, including the answers to just about any question you can imagine.

Books

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, by Judi Kingry (Robert Rose, 2006). 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 this resource a valuable addition to any kitchen library. It also includes 400 innovative and enticing recipes.

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

Canning jars

Ball Mason jars are available at Amazon, Walmart, Target and quite possibly your local supermarket. Typically, you’ll find canning jars in a variety of sizes from half-pint to two-quart. Make sure they come with lids and rings,

Home canning kit

The Norpro Canning Essentials set includes long tongs with green vinyl-coated handles, vinyl-coated jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter, extra wide-mouth funnel, vinyl-coated jar wrench, bubble freer/measurer all of which are the ideal tools for water bath canning.

Look for similar kits at stores like Wal-Mart and Target.

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11 replies
  1. Sharon Helsel says:

    Canning has become so popular that finding canning lids have become the new hoarding craze-impossible to find them in the stores in our area.

    Reply
  2. Tracy Lang says:

    I do a fair amount of canning myself & have two things to share. First the jar lids. Tattler makes reusable rubber rings & lids. Great if you’re canning for yourself. I’ve had mine for several years now & they’re still great. Second, the deep water bath. There steamer canners where you use less than 2 inches of water. Works on the same principle & you steam for the usual amount of time. Again, I’ve been using mine for several years & love it!

    Reply
  3. Cheryl says:

    When I was growing up we canned a lot….my job because my hands were small was to wash the jars, and then grandma would have oven set to 250 to keep them warm, the lids and rings gently simmered in warm water on the stove. God Bless SureJell!!, we made so many jellies and so as to keep from wasting the pulp, we would then go back and make jam. I loved Black Raspberry Jelly best, and then for savory, I loved Pickled beets best!!! :0) Anyone else remember “Leatherbritches”? I called them sewed-up beans. Yellow Wax green beans, white Quilting Thread (it was thicker) you tied a knot (after you threaded the sterile needle) in the end of the thread , and slid the needle through each bean until you had enough to make a “mess”. It used to be one of my requested birthday dinners. I ate them with meatloaf and homemade potato salad.

    Reply
  4. Ginny says:

    5 stars
    I love to can anything around that is ripe, it started when I was about 5. My mom taught me how to make applesauce but the jars exploded to the ceiling. Not sure why to this day, but she showed me again around 10, we made raspberry jam. I’ve been hooked ever since, it’s so nice to go get a jar of whatever, salsa, jam, venison and put together a quick simple meal. Don’t let your failures hold you back, try, try, try again.

    Reply
  5. Myrna M says:

    Excellent article! I’ve canned all my (long) life. The only thing I would add is to leave about an inch of space between your cooling jars and cover them with a dish towel to avoid cooling too quickly.

    Reply
    • Myrna M again says:

      5 stars
      I should have added you can bounce a spoon, right side up and held lightly by the handle tip, on each lid to check for a good seal. If sealed, the bounced spoon will “ding” and if not it will “thunk”.

      Reply
  6. Bonni says:

    I have canned for many years and recommend removing the “ring” after 24 hours provided the seal is still secure. In humid climates the ring can rust and make it extremely difficult to remove when you are ready to eat your tasty treats.

    Reply
  7. Bill says:

    I have, what most people claim, is one of the best dill pickle recipes. I don’t know where my wife came up with it but it is simple.
    My problem is I’m such a ludlite that I don’t know the best way to share it with you.
    If you’re curious or you would like to have the recipe, let me know.
    Your faithful disciple,

    Bill

    Reply
  8. Gina Stevens says:

    Your articles make my day! How many of us remember our mothers and grandmothers canning jam and fruit–in the days before air conditioning? How many of us remember bare produce departments in the winter? I remember craving lettuce! Keep it up, Mary! Love and air hugs!

    Reply

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