Fresh, perfect, uniformly sized vegetables should be selected for canning. For many vegetables, uniform size is important for even, thorough processing. Tomatoes should be red ripe, firm, and free from blemishes. A few years ago, there was concern that some varieties were too low in acid for save processing in a boiling water bath. However, recent studies show that firm, ripe, and fully colored tomatoes can be processed by the boiling water bath method. Over ripe tomatoes shouldn’t be canned at all, so pass over those that are soft and deep red, and have wrinkled skins. If you add any low acid ingredients to the tomatoes you’re canning, then the mixture must be processed in a steam pressure canner. Water and salt, or a salt sugar mix, are the only other ingredients normally used in the recipes that aren’t for sauces, pickles, or relishes. Since the salt called for in simple canning is for flavoring only, you may omit it without affecting the canning process in any way.


1. Select foods that are perfect, just mature, very fresh, and free from blemishes or decay. Sort by size and maturity.

2. Set out all the ingredients and equipment. Wash and dry all the equipment, counter tops, working surfaces, and your hands. Check jars for nicks and cracks. Wash and rinse the jars, lids, and screw bands, then keep them hot in a pan of hot water or in the dishwasher on the dry cycle. Prepare the lids as the manufacturer directs (usually by simmering at 180 degrees F and keeping them in hot water until needed.

3. Wash the vegetables very carefully, using several changes of washing and rinsing water and scrubbing them with a brush before breaking the skin. Remember that botulism bacteria are in the soil, and only thorough washing will eliminate them from the vegetables. Be sure that you lift the vegetables out of the rinse water to drain.

4. Prepare the vegetables as each recipe directs; cutting, peeling, or precooking only enough for one canner load of jars at a time.

5. Completing one jar at a time, pack food into jars as the recipe directs, leaving head space as the recipe specifies. Stand the hot jar on wood or cloth while filling it.

6. Pour boiling water, cooking liquid, juice, brine, or pickling solution into the packed jars to the level given in the recipe.

7. Run a slim, non metal tool or plastic bubble freer down along the inside of each jar to release any air bubbles. If necessary, pour in additional boiling water to bring the liquid back up to the level specified in the recipe.

8. Wipe the tops and threads of each jar with a clean, damp cloth.

9. Put on lids and screw bands as the manufacturer directs. Tighten bands firmly by hand. Never use a jar wrench or any other device to tighten them.

10. As each jar is filled, place it in the canner. Arrange the jars on the rack so that they don’t touch one another or bump against the side of the canner. Add hot water to cover the jars with one or two inches of water.

Water Bath Canning

11. Cover the canner, and, when water returns to a full, rolling boil, begin timing for processing. Adjust heat during the processing so that the water boils gently but steadily. If the processing time is over 10 minutes, you may need to add additional boiling water to keep the jars covered. If you live above 1,000 feet above sea level, you’ll need to make adjustments in the processing time according to the Altitude Adjustment for Boiling Water Bath Canner chart.

12. When the processing time is up, turn off the heat and carefully lift the jars STRAIGHT UP, DO NOT TIP, out of the canner. Place the jars several inches apart on a folded towel or rack that is in an out of the way, draft free place. Don’t tighten bands after processing.

13. Let the jars cool, undisturbed, for at least 12 hours. You will hear a light pinging sounds as the jars seal as they cool. Don’t cover the jars while they are cooling.

14. When the food in the jars is completely cool, remove the screw bands and check the seals. The lids should be depressed and, when the jar is tipped, there should be no leakage. If the center of the lid can be pushed down and comes back up, or if there are any leaks, use the food immediately (store it in the refrigerator). Or, pour it into another clean, hot jar, seal with a new lid, put the screw band on, and reprocess.

15. Wipe the jars with a clean, damp cloth, then label clearly with the contents, date, batch (if you do more than one a day), hot or cold pack method, seasoning, and/or special ingredients or information.

16. Be sure to remove the screw bands, if they are left on, they could rust in place. To remove stuck screw bands, wring out a cloth in hot water, then wrap it around the band for a minute or two to help loosen it. Clean and dry the bands and store them in a sealed plastic bag in a dry place.

17. Store the jars in a cool, dark, dry place where they won’t freeze. You can put jars in the boxes they came in to protect them from light.

18. Before using, check for signs of spoilage. If you notice bulging or unsealed lids, spurting liquid, mold, off odor, or slimy food, do not use. Discard the food where humans and animals can’t get to it. You can salvage the jars, however. Wash them thoroughly, rinse, and then boil for 15 minutes.

19. As a further precaution, you may want to heat home canned foods to boiling, cover, and boil 15 to 20 minutes more. If the food foams, smells bad, or shows other signs of spoilage, discard it.

Preserved Home Canned Foods


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