Canning and Preserving Article -
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Canning and Preserving

Enjoy your harvest year-round by canning and preserving your summer bounty.

Fresh Flavors

Choose the freshest fruits and vegetables available, preferably picked that day. Going to U-pick farms, farmers' markets, or using fruits and vegetables from your own garden are great ways to ensure freshness. Avoid overripe or under-ripe fruits, which can affect the acidity and stability of the final product. Cucumbers, especially, need to be at their peak of freshness to make great pickles.


Pectin--an essential gelling agent--is found naturally in many fruits, such as apples, plums, and oranges. Most recipes call for added pectin, in either liquid or powdered form; there are also special pectins available for making low-sugar preserves. Jams and jellies made without pectin must be cooked longer, depending upon the amount of natural pectin in the fruit.

When making jams and jellies, make sure to use the proper ratio of sugar, acid, and pectin to achieve the right texture and flavor.

Sweet and Sour

In preserving, acid provides flavor, texture, and helps prevent bacterial growth. Acid is also an important part of the fermentation process in pickle making.

In fruit preserves, lemon juice is typically used as the acid, while vinegar is more common in vegetable preserves.

Preserves made with low-acid foods must be processed in a pressure canner to prevent any bacteria from growing (see Pressure Canning below).

Jars and Lids

To sterilize your jars, simmer them in a water bath for at least five minutes before using. Jars should stay hot until filled. You can reuse jars and rings from previous years as long as they are in good condition, but new lids must be used each time to ensure a good seal.

Inspect the rims of jars for any chips, as these will compromise your seal. Soak the lids in hot water for at least ten minutes to soften the rubber edge. This will help the lids grip the tops of the jars when you screw on the rings. Small jars are preferable, as large jars (over one quart) take longer to process--and since it takes longer for the heat to reach the center of the preserves, the outer layer can become overcooked.

Filling Jars

Fill jars nearly to the top. The amount of "headspace" you need depends upon the recipe, so be sure to follow directions. For jams and jellies, it is usually 1/4-inch; fruit preserves and tomatoes need half an inch of headspace, and any low-acid foods that will be processed in a pressure canner will need one inch or more to account for expansion of the contents during processing.

  • Run a thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove air bubbles, and wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel--any food residue on the rims could prevent a proper seal.
  • Place the warm lids onto the rims and screw the rings into place firmly, but not as tightly as you can. The rubber seal on the lid will be soft from the warm water, so you don't want to crush it out of place. Rings can be tightened further once the jars have cooled.


Processing is the final step in the canning process. It seals your jars and sterilizes the contents. Most fruits and some vegetables can be processed in a hot water bath (low-acid foods should be pressure-canned).

  • The water should cover the lids of the jars by one inch, and should be kept at a low simmer or just below the boiling point.
  • Processing times vary based on acid levels and even your altitude.
  • After processing, as the jars cool, the lids will become sunken in the center and you may hear a little "ping."
  • If you can press down on the center of the lid and make it move, the jar is not properly sealed: refrigerate and consume within two weeks. You can also check the lid and jar rim for imperfections, reseal, and process again within 24 hours.

    Pressure Canning

    Foods with low acid levels, such as pumpkin, meats, and some vegetables, must be processed in a pressure canner. This method raises the temperature of the water bath and speeds up the process without damaging the food. Pressure canners are not the same as pressure cookers, so don't be tempted to use one! For more processing information, contact your agricultural extension office.


      Store your jars away from direct sunlight in a cool, dry place. Food should be consumed within one year, although many items will not spoil for longer periods. If you see mold, discoloration, or smell something off, discard the contents immediately--but don't just trust your nose. Some bacteria can produce toxins that are undetectable by sight or smell, so if a jar's seal has been compromised, throw it away.


      The science of preserving has come a long way. Many older canning methods--such as sealing jars with paraffin wax--have been determined unsafe.

      Fortunately, every state has an agricultural extension office dedicated to the latest in food preservation and other home safety issues. West Virginia even provides community kitchens, so gardeners can do their canning while working with experts to ensure success!

      Does the whole process of canning seem intimidating? Get your feet wet by starting with Freezer Jam or Refrigerator Pickles.

      Aug. 2, 2009 7:26 am
      I have found that many of the pickle recipes can also be used for an interesting way to use some of those abundant zucchini at the end of year
      Aug. 11, 2009 10:10 pm
      Thanks for the links to some fabulous recipes.
      Aug. 12, 2009 12:17 pm
      Mary D 
      Aug. 14, 2009 5:28 am
      Anyone out there have any recipes for pressure canning meat products? I want meal in a jar recipes. Will post my chili when time but want other ideas please & thanks!
      Aug. 14, 2009 8:17 am
      WHOOPS! PLEASE CORRECT YOUR SECOND BULLET UNDER "FILLING JARS" ABOVE. You should NOT tighten the bands after they are cool - this can break the seal. In fact, you should remove the bands after the jars are cool, 12 - 24 hours (especially for jelly/jam), to check for a good seal by lifting the jars just holding on to the rim of the lid (hold a hand beneath the jar just in case the seal is not good). Also, wash and dry the sealed jars to remove any food that may have bubbled over during the processing. Store the jars without the bands, so no moisture or food is held close to the lids to cause rusting of the lid. If you are giving jars away, it is fine to loosely add a band, so the recipient will be able to hold the lid on in the frig if they don't use the entire jar in one sitting. Also if you place a circle of fabric on top of the jar to dress it up, the band will hold it on. Just do not tighten the band - the lid is the seal, not the band!
      Aug. 14, 2009 2:48 pm
      does anyone out there have a recipe for preserving tomato sauce and tomato paste with homegrown tomato's
      Aug. 16, 2009 10:29 am
      Aug. 16, 2009 11:05 am
      Does anyone have a recipe for canning peach and apple pie filling? Also, how to can peaches? I can lots of veggies but have never canned fruit.
      Aug. 17, 2009 12:53 pm
      Thanks a lot!!!
      Aug. 18, 2009 8:32 am
      i would like to know for sure, how long to process vegetable soup in a hot water bath? i've always just froze it.
      Aug. 19, 2009 5:50 am
      Canning is an involved process, but very satisfying. There are NO shortcuts in the technique, which insures safe foods. The only "shortcuts" that I have found are using bottled juice(100% juice, not a sugar added product) instead of squeezing grapes for jelly, and making the wonderful freezer jams. They are also delicious on ice cream as a topping. Canning is a very satisfying activity for me. I make gallons of salsa, can tomatoes, make applesauce, freezer jams, both strawberry and peach, and beach plum jam or butter when I can find the plums. To me, there is nothing more satisfying than getting a jar of my own canned fruit or vegetables to use when it is cold and snowy outside. When the farmers markets open with their abundant supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, I think I have gone to heaven. I want to capture everything and save it in a jar. A shelf of home-canned fruits and vegetables in their sparkling jars is like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.
      Aug. 19, 2009 5:53 am
      I buy a new "Ball Blue Book" or Kerr canning book every few years. They are usually available where canning supplies are sold. I am amazed at how the techniques have simplified over the years. There are lots of food processing tables and hints for those who are just learning. A good investment.
      Aug. 22, 2009 4:39 pm
      Vegetable soup should only be processed with a pressure canner. There is not enough acid in the vegetables to safely can it in a water bath.
      Sep. 2, 2009 5:16 am
      Invest in a pressure canner for soups of all kinds, canning meats, etc. A pressure canner can be costly, but it is worth the investment.
      L. Scott 
      Sep. 2, 2009 7:22 pm
      canning pickeled beets
      Sep. 6, 2009 6:12 pm
      I found a short cut, with some things, like when I make my jam..I put the jars in the dishwasher and let them get hot..and give my lids a hot water bath,.. hot jars and hot lids every time. With hot filling.
      Sep. 6, 2009 6:13 pm
      I'm having a hard time finding an antipasto recipe for canning, any help?? please
      Sep. 7, 2009 12:52 pm
      I found a recipe on All recipies for microwave bread and butter pickles. How can I find out if the recipe is safe for canning? It has vinegar and now water, but a lot of sugar. : 1 large cucumber, sliced 1 teaspoon salt 1 onion, thinly sliced 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds 1 cup white sugar 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar 1/4 teaspoon celery seed 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
      Sep. 14, 2009 5:55 pm
      How to freeze various peppers, i.e. green, red, jalapeno, serano and mariachi. I want to be able to freeze them together for cooking later. If anyone can help, I sure could use some advice - many peppers in garden! Thanks
      Sep. 17, 2009 12:32 pm
      why di my pickled eggs turn brown???
      Sep. 17, 2009 12:43 pm
      Sherry--I wash and dice peppers like normal. Cover a baking sheet with waxed paper, and spread the peppers out in a single layer. Freeze for a couple hours until firm, then dump in a ziploc freezer bag until ready to use. They won't stick to each other and become one big lump that way. Works great for chopped herbs, onions, etc. I make a huge batch of meatballs or ham balls and freeze them this way too. It's a great way to freeze things and very convenient that you only use what you need instead of defrosting a whole package of something.
      Oct. 13, 2009 2:59 pm
      My hubby just bought me a pressure cooker, but I have no idea how to use it. Any tips or helpful advise?
      Feb. 9, 2010 9:22 pm
      I am new to all canning teqniques so any help would be appreciated. My husband is currently serving in iraq and im trying to gather info about pressure canning so i can feed my poor fellow!
      Cathy Fransson 
      Feb. 10, 2010 12:47 pm
      Hi, I'm getting back into canning, used to help my mom all the time. Born and raised in Sweden, we used wax to seal the jars. Is that available here in the US as well? Thanks, Cathy
      Mar. 10, 2010 8:07 pm
      Sherry- For peppers, I freeze them whole, and cut them up when I need them for a recipe. This has always worked fine for me. Susie- I can't recommend a way to save your tomatoes through canning, but I can recommend another good way to keep them for sauce/paste. Dry them with a dehydrator. The drying process can take a while depending on size of the tomatoes, humidity, etc. but overall isn't terrible, and takes little to no work on your part. Once your tomatoes are dry, you can use a food processor or blender to turn them into a powder, and save this for making sauce or paste. Just add water :)
      May 6, 2010 11:26 am
      I'm wanting to make jalapeno jelly, but want to use dry pectin instead of the liquid that's used in all the recipes here. Is there a conversion I can use? (First time making jelly). @Cathy--paraffin wax is available in most stores, with the canning supplies.
      May 28, 2010 10:37 am
      I'm looking for a way to can the expected abundance of cantaloupe that I'm anticipating.I have very generous neighbors and ended up w/ something like 30 cantaloupe plants :) Can melons be canned the same way as peaches or pears? Anybody?
      Jun. 15, 2010 4:54 pm
      My family has never had to use a pressure canner for any kind of canning. The rule always was when using a canner, we always put 1 tsp. of salt and water at least 1 inch from top of inside of jar, for pints, and canned in canner with water at least 2 inches over jars for 2 hours or 2 tsp. of salt for quarts with 2 inches of water over jars for 3 hours, even for meat. We hardly ever had a jar spoil or open.
      Jun. 20, 2010 9:09 am
      Canning fruit is easy, Blanche peaches, slice, and pack them in a clean canning jar. Boil 4c water with 2c sugar and 4t fruit fresh, pour in jars, slide knife around edges of jar to release air pockets. Top in off leaving 1/2" space. Process in water bath 25 minutes.
      Jun. 29, 2010 6:51 pm
      My strawberry jam has not thickened and is sealed in the jars so it is still quite runny I like it thicker can I do anything about this help Amy @
      Jul. 26, 2010 6:53 pm
      Amy, I don't know the consistency of your jam, however, when you open it you can always add a little disolved gelatin and mix it into the jar and let it stand til it sets. I use the sure-jell no sugar needed. It seems to work better for me and I always have good luck with it. I prepare the sure-jell as suggested in boiling water. When disolved, I add the fruit and stir it until it is well mixed. Just before the mixture comes to a boil, I put it in jars. You don't have the cooked fruit taste that way. It's almost like having fresh fruit jam.
      Aug. 15, 2010 2:23 am
      Looking for a Sweet pickles Canning Recipie? anyone have one
      Aug. 18, 2010 5:17 am
      I am looking into canning because I prefer to use my own ingredients instead of store bought ones. Is it necessary to use a pressure canner if I am only canning fruits and tomatoes right now? I don't really have the money to invest in one right now.
      Aug. 22, 2010 1:04 pm
      If you are doing high acid fruits or veggies you can can them in a hot water bath.And they are pretty reasonable in price. But the best investment you can make is in a ball canning book.
      Aug. 26, 2010 9:08 pm
      I would like a recipe for canning Corn and Black Bean Salsa. This can be purchased in the store.
      Aug. 27, 2010 10:43 am
      I agree with BonBon1, we have never used a pressure cooker/canner in my family and have never had the problems with spoiling or not sealing. We can venison and smoked fish every season and use it right into the following summer with no problems.
      Aug. 30, 2010 11:23 pm
      Those of you who are eating canned fruit, vegetables, and meats without using a pressure canner are taking a big risk. Boiling water processing kills bacteria, but the spores that produce botulism toxin easily survive anything under 240 degrees F. Pressure canning is the only way to achieve this temperature. Without the steam pressure, the water simply turns to steam at 212 degrees (at sea level). Botulism poisoning can easily be fatal, and it can be present without the usual signs of spoilage (bulging or leaking jars, mold, off odors or taste, etc.) You may have been using the boiling water process for years without problems, but you've been lucky, not safe.
      Sep. 28, 2010 11:17 am
      Does anyone know of a chunky salsa canning recipe? I have a mixture of red plum, yellow pear and orange cherry tomatoes.
      Oct. 3, 2010 3:13 pm
      I am looking for a canning recipe for bruschetta... can anyone help?
      Nov. 2, 2010 5:34 pm
      I have wanted to can for years, this year I finally did it. I put up my first seven quarts of home made applesauce (started simple). I am going to do tomatoes tomorrow night. I have no question to post, Im just all bubbly that my first time was a success. Looking forward to doing a lot of everything next year.
      Nov. 10, 2010 9:22 am
      Does anyone have a good recipe for canning brussel sprouts? Do i need to use a pressure cooker? Thank You
      Nov. 21, 2010 2:51 pm
      I received a homemade fresh herbal olive oil one year for Christmas. I wish to make this and have all the bottles but don't know how to preserve it. Do I need a waxed seal? I finally found some recipes but the East Indian recipe said you could store at room temperature for a couple of months but Italian recipes say refrigerate no longer than 2-3 days. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks
      Apr. 11, 2011 6:22 pm
      I made the mistake of cooking my strawberry jelly too long. The directions stated that it should boiled for one minute. I followed these instructions and have nice thick jelly and jam.
      Apr. 29, 2011 8:25 pm
      New to the canning scene and just wondering... What is a ball canning book and how much on average would you say a pressure canner would be?. Just out of curiosity. Thanks!
      May 2, 2011 8:22 am
      Does this process work for high acidity veggies like tomatoes? My grandma always canned tomatoes to make sauce in the winter. Is it better I just can the sauce?
      Debbie J 
      Jun. 1, 2011 9:26 am
      Jennifer, I use a water bath canner for tomatoes. You don't need to use the pressure canner for them. High Acidity foods do better in the water bath canner. Low Acidity foods are canned in a pressure canner.
      Debbie J 
      Jun. 1, 2011 9:32 am
      AdiKane, A Ball Canning Book is a book on how to can and has recipes in it to use with a pressure canner, and a water bath canner. I have 3 different canning books. Each has some recipes, but also has different recipes. My DH and I just canned 25 pints of green beans yesterday. We have a 12 Qt canner that will hold 9 reg. mouth pint jars, or 8 wide mouth. It will hold about 6 or 7 quarts. As for cost? Check online and at your local WalMart or Target. Sears used to sell canners, too. I gave $17 for my canner about 20 years ago. Looking on line, I found a 16 Qt for about $88 on sale at
      Jul. 28, 2011 3:03 pm
      I have canned so many jars of salsa, tomato sauce and stewed tomatoes, pizza sauce, and taco sauce with tomatoes this season. And yes you are taking a chance with canning if not using a pressure canner. Some things you can can with boiling water in a canner, but not other things. is a great canning and preserving site.
      kishin mirpuri 
      Aug. 17, 2011 10:17 am
      need recipe to make foll jams. woodapple jam pineapplejam apple jam pears jam pls help rgds kishin
      Sep. 3, 2011 7:25 pm
      I'm confused. Loads of recipes I've found for pickles and relishes suggest a water canner--even low-acid veggies like peppers and cukes--but some sites have said that vinegar is only a flavoring, not for safety. What' the *real* deal??
      Sep. 11, 2011 4:24 pm
      I used to watch my Mom work herself to shreds canning when I was a girl and young woman in the 80's and I swore back then I would never put myself through that. This year, I have canned pickles, onions, tomatoes, Salsa, Marinara sauce and Rhubarb/Strawberry jam. I know my Mom is laughing at me in heaven!
      Sep. 28, 2011 10:14 pm
      For those interested, I purchased a Silicone Glove last night @ BB&B for $9.99 (and cheaper with coupon). I got so frustrated having to use that ridiculous jar lifter to load & unload jars from my canner. I went searching for something that would be easier and came across this glove. I used it today while making my apple pie flling in quart jars and it was fantastic. I think I will go back and get another one tomorrow!
      Nov. 2, 2011 5:04 pm
      I notice there have been requests for Antipasto. If anyone needs the recipe email me at I have a very good one that I have been using for years.
      Dec. 20, 2011 5:35 am
      I'm trying to find a good canning recipe for persimmons, not the fuyu, the big ones.Anyone have one? I'm new to canning, so any advise is very welcomed.
      Jan. 9, 2012 10:14 pm
      AdiKane, I just bought a Presto 23 quart pressure canner/cooker from, and it was $54.
      Jan. 9, 2012 10:15 pm
      esmith8917, what a great idea!! I know what you mean about the jar lifter gadget. I always feel like I am going to drop the jar (and I have a glass top stove). I have a silicone glove, and I will try it next time. Thanks for the tip!!
      Feb. 16, 2012 6:26 am
      can any one tell me how to can meat like chicken and beef not in a soup
      Mar. 4, 2012 11:22 am
      Does anyone have a recipe for jams & jellies for diabetics. Are you able to use sweeteners in canning? Any recipes would be helpful. Thanks
      Mar. 17, 2012 8:56 pm
      evilnakita, I canned peaches for my husband, who was a diabetic. I used no sugars of any type whatsoever. I just sweetened it with artificial sweetners when he ate them. I did hundreds of jars, and anyone who ever ate them said they tasted like fresh! Good luck.
      pat lipsey 
      Apr. 4, 2012 8:20 am
      i am trying to get away from processed foods. would like a recipe for homemade tomato sauce. to use fresh and for canning
      Apr. 13, 2012 5:29 pm
      Does anyone have a recipe for canning whole plum tomatoes or tomato puree? We grew too many tomatoes last year & I am trying to plan for a repeat. Thanks Jen
      May 7, 2012 1:07 am
      This was an interesting article and so were the comments that followed. I also watched and helped my mom can all the fruit & veggies we grew. It was so much work that I swore I would never do such a thing. Well, I did can peaches and pears and made jam after I got married 40 yrs ago. But after a few yrs of it, I lost interest and ambition to do it. Now at 60, I am thinking about at least trying to make sugar free jams.I have only made jam with sugar in it. Does anyone have any advice other than not sweetening it till u use it?
      Jun. 3, 2012 2:02 pm
      I am very new at this so any help would be gratefully appreciated. I was told that I can't use and electric stove to can. I don't have a gas stove and just bought a Granite Ware boiling water canner. It's not flat on the bottom. Is this a problem and can I use an electric stove?
      Jun. 3, 2012 5:22 pm
      I would like to do some canning this year, but we have a glass top stove instead of one with the raised burners. Can I still use a pressure canner on it?
      Jul. 1, 2012 3:24 am
      I can chicken all the time and I do what is called cold packing. (which means using raw meat) We prefer dark meat so sometimes I will cut up breast meat because it fills in the empty spaces and then add thighs too. As I am filling, I insert chopped onions, bell peppers, and celery. Keep layering until about 1 inch from the top. Then make sure that there are no air pockets. I stuff the jars pretty tightly. Then add 1 teaspoon of canning salt to each jar. Then clean the lip with wet paper towel. Put the seal on it and the ring. No liquids are needed when cold packing, as the meat will make its own when cooking. When I have enough jars to go into the pressure canner, I put them all in and get the pressure up to whatever the canner calls for and keep it there for 90 minutes. I do the same thing for hamburger except that I cook i with the onions, bell peppers, and celery in it along with enough water to cover the top. The only reason that I do that is so that the meat will rem
      Aug. 17, 2012 8:05 am
      How to make liquid in pear preserves thick?
      Aug. 18, 2012 2:05 pm
      Hi all, I've been reading the canning tomatoes recipe on this site and I just wish to add that my mom, my sister and I have been canning tomatoes for 50 years and we never boil the jar once filled with the tomatoe sauce. Much easier and they last for ever in your pantry. The longer they have been canned the better it tastes! If you are interested in the recipe, just e-mail me at I will e-mail you back. Angie
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