Water bath canning is a resourceful method for preserving food in its natural state. Towards the end of the gardening season, many are left with large amounts of tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, and berries.
Instead of simply giving them away or letting them go to waste, canning them extends their shelf-life and provides you with a food supply for the months ahead.
What is Water Bath Canning
Water bath canning is a method of preserving food in which jars of food are heated in a boiling water bath. The boiling water kills any bacteria that may be present in the food and seals the jars, preventing new bacteria from entering.
Water bath canning is generally used for high-acid foods such as fruits, pickles, and tomatoes. The preserved foods can last for months, even years at a time, making it an easy way to save money on groceries.
How to Do Water Bath Canning Step-By-Step Guide
Choose your recipes and gather your supplies. You will need fresh produce.
Try to plan out what you and anyone else in the household eat often; this will help you save money on items you would frequently buy otherwise. Also, items that are staples, such as tomatoes, because they'll be of most benefit for you in cooking.
You'll also need canning jars, lids and rings, a large pot or canner, a jar lifter, a funnel, and a ladle. Make sure to check the jars and lids for nicks, as they can create issues when canning. They may expand, shatter, or not offer you a proper veal which prevents your food from staying fresh and preserved.
Prepare the Jars
Wash your jars and lids in hot, soapy water to remove any dirt or residue. Rinse well and set aside.
Make sure to check the jars and lids for nicks, as they can create issues when canning. They may expand, shatter, or not offer you a proper veal which prevents your food from staying fresh and preserved.
Prepare the Pot
Fill a large pot with water and heat it to 180°F. Do not allow the water to go too much above this temperature because it can cause the glass to shatter.
Place your jars in the water to preheat them, which is essential for water bath canning.
Prepare Your Produce
Prepare your produce according to your recipe. This may involve peeling, chopping, or slicing the fruit or vegetable.
Try to prepare everything right away so that you don't have to switch between preheating the water and jars and preparing the ingredients. Having the ingredients all ready to go allows you to can multiple items at once.
Fill Your Jars
Remove the jars using the jar lifter, and set them next to the ingredients. Fill the jars with your fruits and/or vegetables using the funnel.
Some recipes will call for leaving a bit of air space, while some will require you to remove any excess air bubbles.
Place the Jars in the Pot
Clean around the rim of the jars and set the center of the lids on the rim. Next, screw on the band and tighten it as much as possible.
Finally, place the jars in the water and allow them to sit. Depending on your recipe, the processing time will be different.
Allow the Jars to Cool
Once finished, turn off the heat and allow the jars to sit in the pot for a few minutes. Remove the jars and set them upright on a towel.
Allow them to sit for between 13 - 24 hours to ensure that they properly seal. After that, they're ready for storage.
Foods You Can Preserve using Water Bath Canning
Canning peaches is a great way to ensure you always have a pie or dessert filling. They are also very easy to find, relatively cheap, and an easy choice for beginners.
Pickles compliment many dishes, both as part of the dish or on the side. They also make delicious snacks all year round.
Come harvest season, apples are one of the most abundant fruits around. Eating them before they spoil can be a challenge. That's why preserving them using water bath canning is a great way to store them.
4. Apple Butter
If your household enjoys toast and bread frequently, chances are you've tried apple butter. Considering preserving this delicious spread, made with simple ingredients, and
Yes, you can even preserve ketchup. Making your own ketchup is a great way to save money, and preserving it saves you from having to make a trip to the store the next time you run out.
6. BBQ Sauce
It's easy to make your own BBQ sauce at home. Consider making a large batch of your favorite recipe, and preserve it through water bath canning to use for the months ahead.
7. Pie Filling
Pie seems to fit just about any occasion. Throughout the year, pie appears on the table for many holidays, making it a household staple. Preserving your own pie filling cuts down on prep time and a trip to the store.
When you think of jelly, do you only think of fruit? You can also jelly vegetables and other plants. Consider preserving your jelly or jam for you and maybe even your neighbors.
9. Tomato Sauce
Tomato sauce is the base of many dishes. During the summer, tomatoes grow quickly and abundantly. Don't let your tomatoes go to waste; preserve them for future use.
Salsa is a popular item for canning because it contains different vegetables and acts as a flavor enhancer for many dishes. If you're a fan of salsa, consider canning some, as a large batch is relatively inexpensive.
Things You Should Never Water Bath Can
- Meat - when water bath canning, meat is one item you'll want to avoid. Meat's composition is less acidic than fruits and vegetables, which creates a home for harmful bacteria to grow.
- Carrots - these vegetables contain almost no acidity. Preserving them can be harmful and won't likely hold up for very long.
- Broth - even though the contents of broth contain small amounts of vegetables, there isn't enough substance for the water bath canning to effectively kill potentially harmful bacteria.
- Milk - the acidity in milk is too low to be effective for canning. Trying to can milk will result in turning old very quickly.
- Pasta - if you try to water bath can pasta, the remaining product will be a deconstructed paste. The flour in pasta can't withstand the canning process.
- Lettuce - canning lettuce is never beneficial. Lettuce leaves are too frail to withstand the canning process, and the remaining product won't be very appetizing.
Do You Boil Lids and Rings When Canning?
Yes, when canning, you want to make sure both the lids and rings are on the jars. These components should be secured tightly; the canning process uses heat and pressure to ultra-seal the lid and ring to the jar to ensure no air can travel in or out.
If the lid and ring aren't sealed properly on a can, the food won't preserve correctly and will likely spoil after a short period of time.
How Tight Should a Canning Ring Be?
When water bath canning, you don't want to tighten the ring around the lid completely. Only tighten the ring fingertip tight, just enough for it to be closed, but also allows some airflow.
Once placed in the water, the pressure will cause any excess air to leave the jar. If the ring is too tight, it will prevent the air from leaving and can cause the food to spoil later on.
Why Do Canning Jars Break in Water Bath?
Have you tried water bath canning only for your jars to break during the process? There are a couple of reasons this can happen.
- Quality - make sure to use high-quality jars. Low-quality jars may not be made to withstand the water's heat or pressure, causing them to break more easily than others.
- Cracks - some jars initially come with chips or cracks in them, which is why it's important to inspect your jars before using them for preservation. These small nicks can cause the jar to shatter immediately when immersed in hot water.
- Lids - if you screw your lid on too tight, it can cause the excess air to become trapped. As it expands, it can cause the jar to break.
- Too Cold - after the preservation, it's important to allow the jars to cool on a towel in a semi-warm space. Placing the warm jars in the fridge or freezer can shock the glass and cause it to break.
- Overfilling - always make sure to follow the recipe's directions for how far you should fill your jars. Some items will expand or create excess air, while others won't change much at all. If a jar is filled too full, it can expand and cause the jar to break.
Do You Need to Sterilize Jars Before Water Bath Canning?
Sterilizing your canning jars before using them to preserve doesn't hurt, but it's not necessary. The time spent submerged in the boiling water will kill any harmful bacteria present.
Water bath canning is a great way to preserve any excess fruits or vegetables you have in your garden. Or, if your household uses a lot of tomato sauce and jelly or bakes a lot of pies, preserving these ingredients beforehand saves you time and money.
With as many canning options out there, you can use this process to keep your pantry full all throughout the year.