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Preparing to Water Bath Can

Are you looking to start canning but have no idea where to start or even what water bath canning is? This article is for you, my friend. A quick to the point read covering all the important points without all the added BS.

Topics covered in this article are:

Before you dive into water bath canning it's important to know what you can Water Bath Can and what needs to be Pressure Canned. If you are new to canning or need clarification head over to my Water Bath Canning vs Pressure Canning post to read all about the difference.

What is Water Bath Canning

Water Bath Canning is the processing of jars filled with highly acidic canned goods being boiled in water for a certain amount of time to create pressure within the glass jar to prevent harmful bacteria to grow.

What tools are needed to water bath can

It is important to have the right tools for the job especially when you are going to be preserving food for yourself and your family. Here is a quick list of MUST-have things to begin:

  1. Large water bath canning pot

  2. Large heavy bottom stainless steal pot

  3. Glass canning jars with no cracks or chips

  4. New seals and rings for each jar (Ring can be reused if in good condition BUT not seals)

  5. Jar lifter - See link "Canning Essentials"

  6. Canning funnel

  7. Flat wood spoon

Most of these items can be found at your local hardware store but if you are looking to save money check out your local Thrift Store as well. I got a large canning pot and a beautiful stainless steel pot for less than 10 dollars.

Amazon Canning Items

Steps to water bath canning

These are the basic steps you will follow when canning. They are universal for everything and only the time of processing will change from item to item.

1. Clean Jars Always make sure your jars are cleaned in warm soapy water. While cleaning them check for any cracks or nicks and discard them. You don't need to dry them if you are using them right away. If you are not going to be using them put a lid on them so they stay clean and store them where they are safe from getting damaged. I like to keep the boxes and use them

2. Warm the jars While you are preparing your food to be canned you will need to get your jars heated up as well. Jars should be heated for about 10 minutes before hot food is put in them. This is so you are not putting a hot substance into a cold jar which can lead to breaking/ cracking or even blowing the bottom of the jar out due to thermal shock. Ideally, you want the jars to be the same or as close to the same temperature as the food you are filling them with. Keep the jars in hot water until you are filling them.

3. Prepare the water bath pot When you are getting close to finishing you should start to bring your water bath pot up to temperature as well. Like the jars, you can't put jars filled with hot food into a pot of cold water. They will break. I like to fill my water bath pot halfway with hot tap water. I then place the pot on the stove where I am going to be processing the jars. Place the wire rack in the bottom and turn your stove on to a simmer.

4. Prepare your rings and seals in the same fashion as the jars. Wash them in warm soapy water and then put them in a bowl with hot to keep them warm until you are ready to use them.

5. Prepare your recipe if the cooking time on your recipe is more than 30 minutes wait to prepare your jars until the cooking time is almost done.

6. Fill your jars Remove your jars from the water you have been keeping them warm in. If they are too hot to touch use your jar lifter. Place them on a wood cutting board or on a tea towel so you do not place hot jars on a cold countertop. Fill the jars according to the recipe and allow for proper headspace.

7. Burp the jars After filling your jars it's important to "burp" them to remove any air bubbles that form. This can be done by taking a wooden chopstick and gently pushing it down the inside of your jar to remove any air pockets that form as you are filling your jars. Top up your jars as needed to ensure proper headspace is kept.

8. Wipe the rim of the jars This is very important as the little rim on the top of your jars must be clean and clear of all debris to ensure that the seal can make a tight connection to the jar to seal. I always use a piece of paper towel dipped in vinegar to wipe the rim.

9. Add the seal and rings Once the rim of your jars is clean it's time to place the seal on your jar. Try to centre the seal on the rim of the jar as best you can. Next place the ring on your jar, and screw it on till fingertip tight. You do not want to over-tighten as this can prevent the jar from venting and can cause seal failure.

10. Process the jars Once your jars have the seal and rims on use your jar lifter to put the jars into the water bath pot one at a time. The water bath pot has been simmering this whole time so it will be hot. Fill your water bath pot with as many jars as you can remembering that each jar but be standing straight up. It is ok if they are packed tight because this will help with them bouncing around too much. When your canner is filled ensure that each jar has 2 inches of water covering it. Cover the canner with a lid and turn the heat on your stove up. Bring your canner to a full rolling boil over high heat. Once the canner is continuously boiling hard, begin the timer to process as specified in the recipe. The hard boil must continue for the duration of the processing time.

11. Cooling At the end of the processing time. Turn the stove off and remove the lid from the canner. Let the jars cool in the canner for 5 minutes before they are removed. Once the 5 minutes are up, use your jar lifter to remove one jar at a time placing them on a wood cutting board or on a tea towel on the countertop. Do not worry about the water on top. Try not to turn your jars over, simply lift them straight up and down. Leave your jar for the next 24 hours.

12. Check your seals and remove the rings After 24 hours, it is time to check those jars. Start by removing the rings of each jar and take two fingers to press down on the centre of the seal. There should be no movement or sound when you do this. A cooled, sealed lid will stay firmly attached to the jar. If you are ever unsure grasp the edges of the seal and lift the jar up while having your other hand close to catch the jar if needed.

How to store your canned goods

Once you are sure that your jars are sealed it is time to label and date them. If your jars are sticky give them a good wipe before storing them. You should also clean your rings before they are put away. The rings will NOT go back on your jars. Jars must be stored without the rings.

Jars should be stored in a cool, dark place such as a panty, a cold room or a cupboard. Basement storage is ideal. Avoid high-humidity areas or rooms with lots of light. Jars need to be stored in a single-layer fashion, never stacking them. You should also have easy access to them and remember to put the newer jars at the back and the older ones at the front for first use.

When jars are stored properly they can last on your shelf for years. For the best quality, they recommend use within 1 year as after a year natural chemical changes can occur that might reduce the nutritional value or change the colour and flavour of the product. Food that stores longer than 1 year is not necessarily bad, the quality might be reduced though.

When jars don't seal

If you have jars that didn't seal within 24 hours you have 2 options. 1. refrigerate and eat before it is spoiled or 2. reprocess using the same method. To reprocess some might suggest taking the product out of the jars and reheating it but I don't find that solution time effective. Here is what I do: I will remove the seal and carefully inspect it to see if there is damage to the seal or rim of the jar I missed. I check that proper headspace is met and I then clean the rim of the jar with vinegar again. I also warm up my seal before putting it back on the jar and putting the ring on fingertip tight.

When the product in my jars is not hot I do not need to fill my water bath canner with hot water. I will fill it with water that is around the same temperature as the jars which is probably lukewarm. This is so I don't cause climate shock by having cold jars go into hot water. Make sure you have 2 inches of water over your jars, turn your stove on and reprocess according to the recipe.

As a busy mom sometimes I will be making a canning recipe, get my jars filled and then something will happen and I won't have time to process my jar right away. If this happens it is ok. If you are going to be processing them later then simply leave them on the counter for a few hours until you can get to them. Just remember the water bath water needs to be the same temperature as the jars. If a few hours have passed and I just know I won't get to processing them I will put them in the fridge until the next day. Do NOT put hot jars in a cold fridge. Make sure your jars have cooled off before putting them in the fridge overnight. Also, remember when it comes time to prepare your water bath canner you will need cold water as your jars will be cold coming out of the fridge.

Stay positive

Just like when learning any new skill there is going to be trial and error. I key is to not get discouraged. Start small and simple with something you know you and your family will enjoy. Can what you already like to eat.

If you are looking for more support sign up for one of my classes or simply send me a message and I will help you troubleshoot.

I hope this article helps you feel more confident in what you are doing by answering a few questions. Watch for a full video tutorial coming soon, and sign up for my mailing list to not miss out when it drops. If you are able to leave me a comment or share this article with a friend it would mean the world to me.


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