Water Bath Canning

How To Water Bath Can | Easy Water Bath Canning Guide For Beginners
Yes you can can! A comprehensive guide to canning a myriad of delicious creations at home.

Water bath canning can feel intimidating, but with a little key information you can easily can your own homemade jams, jellies, and pickles! Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about water bath canning, starting with some general need-to-knows on the topic, followed by the full step-by-step water bath canning process!

How To Water Bath Can | Easy Water Bath Canning Guide For Beginners

Is It… Safe?? 😬

Water bath canning at home is very safe, so long as you follow the rules (now is not the time to be a rebel, ma’am!)
Here are the 4 rules necessary to follow to ensure safe canning:

1️⃣ High Acidity Foods Only
Only acidic foods can be safely canned using the water bath canning method. High acidity means that bacteria cannot grow.
Some acidic foods (like yellow peaches and oranges) have high enough guaranteed acidity on their own to be canned, while others (like berries and tomatoes) have some acidity, but must be supplemented with a little added lemon juice or citric acid to bring the acidity level up to a safe standard. Other canned goods, like pickles, may be canned in a brine made with white vinegar which contains plenty of acid.
Here are examples of some foods that cannot be water bath canned: chicken stock, dairy, soup. Vegetables, meats, and seafood cannot be water bath canned unless they are pickled, because they are all naturally very low in acid. Do not just stick some mushrooms and water in a jar and water bath can them! Low acid foods like these must be pressure canned, which is a different process.
Until you are an experienced canner, it’s always best to follow a recipe from a trusted and tested source to ensure enough acid is present.
Any other elements of foods involved in water bath canning, such as pectin, salt, and sugar, are not actually necessary for *safe* canning. Salt and sugar are purely texture and flavor preservatives that keep your canned goods tasting their best, and pectin is purely for texture. The quantities of sugar, salt, or pectin will not have an effect on the safety of your water bath canned goods.

⭐️High acidity = the absence of bacteria in the food itself being canned.

2️⃣ Sterilize Properly
Proper sterilization is imperative for safe canning. Sterilizing jars and using clean hands and tools will ensure nothing untoward will infiltrate your goodies.

⭐️Sterilization = the absence of bacteria in the jar.

3️⃣ Process For The Proper Time in Boiling Water
“Processing” is the term used to describe the time the jars are submerged in boiling water. Allow your water to come to a full boil before processing jars, and keep the pot covered to ensure high heat is maintained throughout processing. Process for the proper amount of time, which can vary depending on what you are processing. Processing time can also vary depending on elevation.
Hot vinegar brine pickles, jams, jellies, and apple sauce or apple butter generally process for 10 minutes. Tomatoes, peaches, and other foods process longer, and the time will vary depending on whether those foods are packed in jars raw or pre-cooked. 

⭐️Processing = getting rid of any bacteria left.

4️⃣ Form Successful Vacuum Seals
A successful vacuum seal means that the bacteria-free food and bacteria-free jar have been sealed, preventing any outside bacteria from getting in.

⭐️Vacuum seal = the avoidance of any new bacteria getting into the jar.

Notes on Botulism: 🙀

Botulism is a rare illness caused by a poison that is produced by a germ called Clostridium botulinum. This germ is found in soil, and can survive high temperatures and grow and produce its toxin in the right environment. The toxin cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. If you experience symptoms, get to the hospital.

This is why following the rules, (high acidity foods, sterilization, proper processing time in boiling water, and a successful vacuum seal) is necessary for safe canning. I know I just scared you, but if you follow proper water bath canning protocol I promise you have nothing to worry about!
If you want even more info on safe at-home canning, check out this guide from USDA publications.

How To Make Pickles | Easy Pickle Brine | Pickling at Home

You Will Need:

⭐️Large, Deep Pot
It doesn’t need to be specifically a canning pot, any big pot will do!
The benefit of a canning pot is that it’s wide (for fitting lots of jars) and thin (for heating water quickly.) Be sure the pot is deep enough to hold the rack and the cans while submerging them completely with water by at least 1”.
Here is a canning kit for purchase with pot, rack, tools included.

⭐️Canning Rack
It doesn’t need to be an official canning rack, but you do need a buffer between the jars and the bottom of the pot– direct heat can cause the jars to crack.
A steaming rack works great. I use the one that came with my instant pot– it’s small but it gets the job done!
You can also make your own rack by tying canning bands together.

Will help you get liquid or jam into your jars efficiently.

⭐️Canning Funnel
Has a wider mouth than a regular funnel, and fits nicely into jars. While not completely necessary, a canning funnel can help you avoid making a huge mess while you ladle liquid or jam into your jars.

⭐️Jar Lifter
A jar lifter easily moves jars in and out of boiling water. if you don’t have a jar lifter, use a pair of tongs with rubber bands and or rags around the ends for added grip.
Here is a canning tools set for purchase with funnel and jar lifter.

⭐️Canning Jars
Jars with bands and new lids* made for canning such as Mason or Kerr.

Jar: the glass
Lid: contains the vacuum seal
Band: binds the lid to the jar

*New lids must be used for canning, as lid manufacturers do not guarantee that lids will seal properly more than once. Use your old lids for storage! New lids can be purchased on their own without the bands or jars, so that you don’t end up with a million extra jars and bands. Jars and bands are infinitely reusable so long as they aren’t damaged!

💸💸💸 Places to purchase canning supplies: Target, Walmart, some grocery stores, and some craft stores.
Amazon.com carries canning supplies too, but be warned that I’ve found many of their canning items to be overpriced.

Canning Tools for Water Bath Canning
Pictured here: headspace tool, canning funnel, jar lifter, canning jar, lid, and band.

Notes On The Vacuum Seal:

How Does It Work? 🤓
During processing, air is driven out of the jar, creating a vacuum. When the jar is removed from the pot, the button of the lid is pulled down upon cooling, and the seal is formed.

While the jars process, you will see little bubbles coming out of the jars, which is the air being driven out. This is why it is important to screw on bands only “fingertip tight” (screwed on using the strength of only the thumb and ring finger)– if bands are too tight, they can actually prevent air from escaping.

Here are a couple of things that can prevent a vacuum seal from being successful, and how to avoid them:

Potential Vacuum Seal Issues:Solution:
✖️ Used lids, or knicked/dented rings or lids✔️ Always use new lids, and don’t boil lids before using
✖️ Brine or liquid on the rim✔️ Be sure to wipe the rim clean before putting on 
the lid
✖️ The band is screwed on too tight, meaning no air can escape during boiling✔️ Tighten to only fingertip tight using the thumb and ring finger

How To Water Bath Can | Easy Water Bath Canning Guide For Beginners

⭐️ Step-By-Step Water Bath Canning Method ⭐️

1. Sanitize 🛁

  • Sanitize Jars:
    Bring water to a boil in your pot or water bath canner. Submerge the jars in the boiling water, being sure they are covered by at least 1” of water. Cover the pot to keep the heat high, and boil for 10 minutes. 
    Alternatively, jars can be sanitized in the dishwasher on the “sanitize” cycle without soap.
    After sanitizing, keep the jars warm until they are ready to be filled. They can be kept in the boiling water or inside the dishwasher until ready to use. Warm jars are more sanitary, and are tempered to receive hot jam/jelly or liquid, avoiding cracks.
  • Sanitize Lids:
    Always use new lids for canning, because lids previously exposed to high temperatures (from canning or the dishwasher) are not guaranteed to seal by the manufacturer. New lids should not be sanitized (boiled) before use for canning for the same reason– because high heat can compromise the sealing compound (the sticky part on the bottom of the lid.)
    You can use new lids straight out of the box or wash them in warm (not super hot) water with soap.
  • Sanitize Bands: 
    Bands should be clean, but do not need to be sanitized because they do not touch anything inside the jar. But, you are welcome to sanitize them if you want to.
  • Sanitize Tools:
    All other tools used, including your hands, should be clean. Boil tools if you wish, but just clean should be fine!

2. Pack Jars 🧳

  • Fill your jars with desired high acid foods using a ladle and canning funnel. Leave a ¼” headspace for pickles and jams, ½” headspace for some whole canned goods.
  • Wipe the rim of each jar clean with a clean towel to catch any rogue liquid that could interfere with a strong vacuum seal.
  • Place lids on each jar.
  • Screw on bands “fingertip tight” using just the thumb and ring finger (air needs to escape the jar during processing to form a vacuum.)

3. Process Jars 🕒

  • Bring water to a boil in your pot or canner, keeping water displacement in mind (I usually fill mine ⅔ full.) When the water is boiling, lower the jars into the water, being sure the jars are fully submerged by at least 1”.
  • Cover the pot to keep the heat high, and process for the required amount of time.

4. Remove Jars ➡️

  • Use a jar lifter to remove jars from the boiling water onto a doubled over dishcloth (temperature changes can cause jars to crack!)
  • Leave the jars to seal. Seals usually form within an hour, but can take up to a full 24 hours. You can see and hear the vacuum seal button pop if its quiet!
  • The jars will be hot for quite a while. It’s okay to transport or move the jars if needed.

5. Check Seals ✅

  • Check the seals of your jars after a full 24 hrs after processing.
  • When the center of the lid is pressed it should not move. If you want to go a step further, remove the band and use your fingertips to gently pull up on the edges of the lid. If the lid does not lift, your seal has been successful.
  • (Fun fact: if you want to reuse your bands right away, your jars can be stored without their bands. Crazy, right?)
  • If any of your jars did not seal properly, move them to the refrigerator and eat within 4-6 weeks.

6. Storage 💪

  • Most canned goods will be shelf stable for 1 year and possibly longer. Store in a dark, cool place. Always refrigerate after opening!
  • If a water bath canned good is leaking, bulging, or rusting, if the vacuum seal is broken, if there is mold, or if odd smells are present, do not eat, just toss. Look and smell, never taste, to see if a canned good is in eating condition.

You are a water bath canning STAR! Go forth and can! 💯

Want to get started on canning some pickles? Check this out!

How To Make Pickles | Easy Pickle Brine | Pickling at Home
Join the Conversation


Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.