Water Bath Canning: Tips for the True Beginner

I had the good fortune of spending this past Friday with my dear, sweet, talented mother (and it was her birthday!).

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that canning has been one “homestead-y” thing that has intimidated me.  Well…. intimidate me no further!  My mom was kind enough to pass on her knowledge to me and now I’m hooked!  Bring on the produce!

I know that there are a lot of you out there, like myself, who are slightly intimidated by the prospect of canning.  So, I’m going to do some posts over the next few weeks as I learn to can different things and we can learn together!  Read below for my five tips for the true beginner.

 1.  Have Someone Teach You

If you know someone who has canning knowledge, ask them to come teach you how to do it.  If there is a class given in your area, take it.  If someone is willing to let you come watch them do it, take them up on the offer.  Once you’ve seen someone do it, a lot of the mystery is gone.  I’m lucky that my mom lives near by and knows what she is doing.

2.  Start with Easy Food

Starting with foods that are safe to water bath can is your best bet.  These are acidic foods like jams, jellies, applesauces, fruits, etc.  Using a pressure canner to can lower acidic foods takes a lot more skill and knowledge.  Start simple and then move on.

3.  Start with Small Quantities 

At least in my case, I tend to have the “go big or go home” mentality.  What I mean is, I don’t want to can just 20 lbs of apples…. I want to can 80 lbs of apples!   I often feel like I should jump right in and go wild.  In the case of canning, I want to learn one day and then stock my entire pantry the next.  However, this is just not practical.  It is better to start small.  It can be a ton of work to can, especially when you are just learning.  So my first day of canning I made just 4 quarts of applesauce.  It was a lot of work for just 4 quarts but it gave me a chance to focus and learn.  I’ll work my way up and hopefully it will keep me from getting overwhelmed.

4.  Get a Good Book

You cannot overestimate the importance of having a tired and true recipe to go by.  Canning food for long term storage is not the time to go around experimenting.  Women for generations before us have done that hard work, now let’s just pay them the respect of following their recipes.

Here’s a few that I recommend:
Blue Book Guide to Preserving - http://amzn.to/18NYORs
Stocking Up  - http://amzn.to/17Qmw0L
Blue Ribbon Preserves - http://amzn.to/15IodBi

5.  Buy the Gear

Now, I tend to be a thrifty one (to put it mildly).  I shop for most everything at Goodwill and don’t ever buy anything that is not on sale.  That being said, when it comes to canning, I recommend just buying the gear that is meant for the task.  If you can find it secondhand, great!  If you can’t, then buy it new.  It will last forever and the gear that is designed to do the job can be trusted to work and to work well.

Here’s a list of the “gear” that I think is most important:
Canner with Rack - http://amzn.to/13y43Gy
Wide Mouth Funnel  - http://amzn.to/18NZyX0
Canning Tongs - http://amzn.to/1dUbFZG
Magnetic Lid Lifter  - http://amzn.to/19z1Hb9
Air Bubble Remover - http://amzn.to/18NZR3Q
Food Scale  - http://amzn.to/18NZUwz

There you have it!  Five tips for the true beginner.  For those of you with more experience, what tips would you add to my list?

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Comments

  1. Linda Thomson says:

    I am terrified to try but i really want to. I worry about botulism! I’m going to get at least one of those books before i buy the gear.

    • I understand Linda! I was nervous too but it turned out great! My advice, if you have someone who has done it before, have them with you the first time you do it.

  2. I try to get all my jars and equipment washed the day before I can. It all should still be sterilized as you are canning but if you can get organized and get the produce washed ahead of time it just makes canning a little easier. Oh and when you do take your jars out of the canner I put them on a towel on the floor. I don’t want to ruin my table and my counters are usually filled with empty jars and rings. Oh if your jam doesn’t set use it over ice cream!!! It is a learning process and it is fun!!!

  3. Don’t get the Ball water bath canner at Walmart. You will only get a couple of uses out of it. I use the graniteware sameas my other. She has had hers since I was a kid and it is still going.

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