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Home Canning Series: III

Canning Methods

Preparing Food

Fruits and Vegetables

Select the freshest fruits and vegetables to achieve the highest quality product. Wash the produce thoroughly in small batches under running water or through several changes of water. Be sure to remove all particles of garden soil to remove any disease-causing bacteria that may be present. Cutting, peeling or coring should be done quickly to minimize the time produce is left sitting.


Make sure to handle all meats carefully to avoid contamination. Refrigerate purchased meats, but chill freshly slaughtered venison, poultry, etc. to 40 degrees F or lower immediately. Chill freshly cleaned fish and soak it in a salt solution for about an hour.

Preparing Jars

Inspect each jar for cracks and chips. Check the edge of the mouth of the jar for small chips in the sealing edge. If any chips or cracks are found, discard the jar.

Wash the jars thoroughly in hot soapy water, and rinse. Place them in a deep pot and pour boiling water over them. Leave them standing in the hot water until the moment you are ready to fill each one.

Filling the Jars

There are two methods which may be used to fill your jars: raw pack and hot pack. Raw packing is the method of packing raw food into jars and then adding a boiling liquid to the desired depth, usually a pickling syrup, water or fruit juice. Hot packing is the practice of partially cooking the food before placing it into the jars.

For both packing methods, always pack food into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top for low starch vegetables and fruits and 1 inch for meats and vegetables high in starch such as potatoes and lima beans.

It is helpful to place a towel or small mat under each jar as it is filled to prevent it from slipping. Jars become hot to the touch as they are filled, so use a pot holder for protection.

Work out any air bubbles in the jar by running a table knife around the inside. Take care not to break up the pieces of food. Add boiling liquid if necessary.

Wipe off the edge of the mouth of the jar carefully with a paper towel to remove any food particles from the sealing edge. Place a lid on the jar firmly. Add the metal band and tighten it securely.

Canning Methods

Water Bath Canning

This method is recommended for all pickles, relishes, most fruits and vegetables with a high acid content such as tomatoes, pimentos and sauerkraut. Either packing method may be used when filling jars.

Place 4 to 5 inches of water in the bottom of the canner. Place the rack inside and set in on the stove. Put on the lid and begin to heat the water on high heat. Heat more water in a teakettle or other pot. This will be used to fill the canner the rest of the way once all the jars are in the rack.

Once the water in the canner is hot, begin filling the jars. As each jar is lowered into the canner, replace the canner lid. Make sure jars do not touch. When the last jar is in, check the water level. Then add the boiling water in the teakettle until the water level is 1 to 2 inches above the tops of the jars. Replace the canner lid and bring the water in the canner to a rolling boil.

When the water boils, begin timing the processing according to the times listed in the recipe being used for the size of jar canning. Higher altitudes will require adjustments in time. See the chart at the end of this article for altitude corrections.

Adjust the heat so that the water boils gently during the entire processing time. If the water level drops, more water may need to be added from the teakettle. If boiling stops when you add water, stop timing the processing until boiling resumes, then begin timing again.

When processing is finished, turn off the heat. Using a jar lifter, remove the jars from the rack onto a table or other surface to cool. Make sure the jars do not touch to allow for air circulation, and minimize drafts in the area.

Pressure Canning

This canning method is absolutely necessary for foods with a high starch or low acid content. Corn, peas, potatoes, beans, beets, most garden vegetables and greens, and all meats and poultry fall under this method. This is the only method that will destroy botulism in low acid foods. When the canner reaches 10 pounds of pressure, a temperature of 240 degrees F is created inside it. The processing time assures that the heat penetrates the food and kills the bacteria. If the canner has a pressure gauge instead of a weight, you may want to contact your county extension agent about having it tested for accuracy. If it is more than 5 pounds off, it should be replaced.

Assemble the canner and place it on the stove. Fill it with 2 or 3 inches of boiling water (or depth specified by the manufacturer) and turn the burner under it to a low heat setting.

Fill hot jars as above and per the canning recipe. Remember to leave enough space at the top of each jar depending upon the jars contents. As each jar is filled, place it into the basket inside the canner. Always process the same food and the same size jar per canner load.

Place the cover on the canner and lock it down securely. Raise the heat to high. Keep an eye on the pressure regulator or open vent looking for when steam begins to escape from the pipe. Reduce the heat so that the steam flows at a medium rate. Let it flow for 10 minutes to exhaust the air from inside the canner and jars.

Referring to the owner's manual, close the vent and begin to raise the pressure. Turn the burner up to high heat again and maintain it until the canner reaches 10 pounds of pressure.

Begin to count the processing time when 10 pounds of pressure is reached. If pressure should drop, stop timing and resume when pressure reaches 10 pounds again. To avoid having too much liquid drawn out of the jars, 10 pounds of pressure must be maintained throughout processing. Processing times listed in recipes are for sea-level, so be sure to consult the altitude adjustment table below.

When processing is finished, turn off the heat and set the canner on a wooden board or wire rack. Do not open the canner until the pressure has normalized by itself. Do not rush cooling by running the canner under cold water. If your canner has a gauge, wait until the gauge returns to zero and the safety plug is normal. If your canner has a weight, nudge the weight with a fork, if no steam escapes, the pressure has returned to normal. Pressure should normalize about 20 - 25 minutes after the canner has been removed from heat.

When pressure is down, unlatch the canner. Lift the lid pointing away from you to avoid being blasted by hot steam. If the food in the jars is still boiling, wait another few minutes before removing the jars from the canner. Place the jars 2 or 3 inches apart on a rack, wooden board or towel to cool.

Loud pops may be heard as the jars cool. This is the sound of the metal lid suddenly being pulled down into an airtight seal. Not all jars make a sound when they seal however. Sealed jars have a slight depression in the center of each lid. You can test the seal on each jar by pressing a finger down on the center of the lid. If it does not spring back and stays depressed, the jar is sealed. Jars which do not seal must be repacked with a new lid. They must then be processed again for the full length of time. If there is only one jar which did not seal, do not reprocess it. Refrigerate it and serve the food within 2 days time.

Once the jars are sealed, remove the metal bands. Their purpose is finished. Do not tighten them or you may break the seal.

Label the jars with the contents, including spices used, and the date the food was canned. This will save stress and headache later. There is a vast variety of paper labels with adhesive backs that can be used or simply write on the lid with a permanent marker.

Store jars in a dark, dry place. They will keep best if stored at temperatures below 70?F. Food quality will deteriorate quickly in a warm room.

Water Bath Canning Altitude Corrections Above Sea Level
Processing 20 Minutes

or Less
Processing More Than

20 Minutes
Add 1 minute for

each 1000 ft.
Add 2 minutes for

each 1000 ft.
Pressure Canning Altitude Corrections Above 2000 Feet
Spring Dial Gauge Weight Gauge
Add 1 pound of pressure for each additional 2000 ft. Use 15 pounds of pressure instead of 10 pounds.

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