One of the biggest things I hear from my readers is that they’ve always wanted to learn how to can fresh produce, but they find it intimidating. They’ve heard it takes forever, it’s hot, difficult, and they’re afraid of poisoning their family. With some simple preparation and the right tools, canning can be fun and easy!
When your garden is producing a bountiful harvest and your kitchen is overflowing with fresh produce, it can sometimes create a challenge. You can only eat so many tomato sandwiches and those gorgeous vine-ripened tomatoes will only last so long sitting on your counter. So what do you do with all the extra? You can it!
Canning is one of the best ways to preserve your garden bounty so you can continue to enjoy it long after the garden stops producing. You can continue to eat from your land year round when you master the art of canning.
If you are new to canning, there are several supplies you will need to get started. Canning equipment is readily available at big box stores, supermarkets, and online. Of course, you can also find some great canning supplies at yard sales or even on Craigslist if you are on a tight budget. Here is a look at the things you need before you start canning.
1.Jars, Lids, and Rims
Canning jars come in a variety of sizes, but the most common used are half pints, pints, and quarts. Choose your size based on what you’ll be canning. Typically smaller jars work well for jams and jellies, while larger jars work best for soups, beans, and vegetables.
The most common brands are Kerr and Ball. As you shop for jars, you’ll also notice that there are two “mouth” sizes. Regular jars have a standard opening on top, but wide mouth jars have a larger opening, making them easier to stuff. Wide mouth jars are especially handy if you are canning larger pieces of produce, like pear or peach halves.
You can find jars practically everywhere these days because they have become quite trendy among the DIY crowd. Look for them at thrift stores, Facebook marketplace, yard sales, or flea markets to get them for a bargain. You can reuse jars and rims as long as they are undamaged.
If you shop used, make sure you check carefully at the top edge of jars for dings or cracks! You will need to buy new lids every time you can so that you get a firm seal for safety. Replacement lids come in packs and are inexpensive, especially if you buy in bulk.
2. Canners – Water Bath or Pressure Canner
Before you start canning, you will need to purchase a canner. There are two basic kinds of canners and the kind you use will depend on what you plan to can. Water bath canners are the easiest option to start out with and you may even have a large pot with a lid at home that you can use without having to buy something new.
For water bath canning, you will need a large pot with a lid and a rack to place on the bottom of the pot. If you place your jars on the directly on the bottom of the pot, they can crack from the heat.
Water bath canning is used for high acid foods. You can use this basic canning setup to preserve pickles, jams, and jellies.
If you want to can foods with low acidity such as beans, potatoes, corn, or meat, you will need a pressure canner. A pressure canner uses pressure in increase the temperature of the canned goods more so than boiling water can.
Learning to can with both types of canners is really essential if you want to get the most bang for your buck with food preservation.
3. Jar Lifter
Sometimes jar lifters come with canners if you buy a kit. However, if you are using a canner you already have at home or if you bought one used, then you will want to purchase a jar lifter.
This handy little tool lets you pick up boiling hot mason jars out of the canner without burning yourself. They give you a snug hold on the jars to prevent you from dropping the slippery, wet jars as you transfer them in and out of the canner during processing.
4. Stir Stick
After you fill up your jars with all that beautiful produce, you’ll need this little tool to eliminate any tiny air bubbles that are trapped in the jar. Just slide the little stick inside around the edges of the jar and you’ll see little bubble come to the top as you released the trapped air.
You can buy stir sticks specially designed for canning and sometimes they come in a canning kit. Here’s a fun little tip: you can also use a chopstick or a butter knife for this job and get the same basic functionality.
5. Canning Funnel
While this tool isn’t necessarily required before you start canning, it is well worth it to spend a few bucks to get one. A canning funnel is designed to sit on top of your jars as you fill them up. When you are ladeling in hot soups, pickling brines, or stewed vegetables, the funnel will drastically cut down on your clean-up time and keep you from spilling down the sides of the jars.
6. Kitchen Timer
You’ll also need a good, reliable kitchen timer. Canning is a bit of a science and you have to follow recipes correctly, processing jars for just the right amount of time to insure that they seal properly. Your oven or microwave may have a built in timer function that will do the job, but just make sure you have some type of kitchen timer on hand before you start canning.
7. Other Handy Supplies for Canning
In addition to all the basic canning gear listed above, here are a few other supplies that will come in very handy when you start canning:
- Wooden spoon
- Slotted spoon
- Mixing bowls
- Sharp paring knife
- Clean towels
Before you start canning, here are a few quick tips that will save you time and hassle along the way.
If you plan to do a lot of canning, it’s really well worth it to splurge on a canning kit. These are easy to find online and usually come with the supplies you’ll need like a funnel, magnetic lid lifter, and jar lifter.
Check out my favorite canning recipes below for some inspiration!
Quick Tips for Canning Success
First, make sure you gather all your ingredients and canning tools before you begin. Canning can quickly turn into a disaster if you get halfway through the prep process and realize that you don’t have enough ingredients or your jar lifter is missing.
If you have a friend or family member that already knows how to can, ask for help. It’s so much easier to learn to can if you can watch an experienced pro at work! If you don’t know anyone that is skilled at canning, check out canning courses online or go to Youtube and watch some videos.
Finally, enjoy the process! Learning to can is an exciting adventure and there are thousands of recipes you can try as you go. In many ways, canning is a lot like cooking. It takes a little more time, but the results are just as delicious and far longer lasting. Start stocking up on your canning supplies and start learning to can today.