5 Things you’ll Want to Know Before you Start Canning

It’s the season for canning. If you’ve never preserved food before by canning it might be intimidating. However, once you start doing it you’ll realize it doesn’t need to be scary.

tips for canning


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I’ve been canning for years. The first year I canned just a bit of jam and it grew from there. Now, every summer I can quite a bit of produce.

It used to be that people learned canning from their mothers who learned it from their mothers and so on. These days though, the number of people who can or preserve their food has greatly dwindled. We no longer are learning these skills from our mothers and grandmothers.

It’s just a different time we live in.  Now with everything so readily available at the grocery store it is no longer a skill that is necessary to pass down.

However, I strongly believe it’s still a very beneficial skill to learn.

If you have the desire to learn how to can some produce and no one to teach you, I have great news! There are a ton of resources online that can guide you and get you up and running with canning. That’s actually how I learned.

I don’t even know if I have ever witnessed someone canning food when I was a child. My mom didn’t do it and while I am sure some of my friends had parents who did, most of them didn’t and I don’t remember ever watching anyone do it.

But as I got older and discovered the benefits of canning I wanted to learn. And so I watched a bunch of tutorials and read a bunch of books.

One of my favorite food preservation by canning books is  The Complete Book of Home Preserving. I pull it out every year and use it.

You can preserve food you grow yourself, but if you don’t have a garden you can purchase produce from the store or a local farm.  We always go pick berries at a local berry farm to can jam.

At the end of this post I’ll link to some great tutorials that can help walk you through canning. Before that though, I want to share with you ten things you should know to help you get started with canning.



You’ll need some equipment.

You’ll want a few key items to get you started. You can buy a canning pot but any pot will work as long as it deep enough to allow for the canning jars to be covered by a few inches of water. I say any pot, but that is just for water bath canning. If you want to can things that need a pressure canner, that’s a different story. But we’ll talk about that a little later.

The canning pots often come with the canning racks to keep the jars in while they are in the pot, but you can buy the racks separately as well here.

You’ll also want one of these jar lifters to lift the jars out.

While not necessary, a couple of my other favorite canning items are the wide mouth funnel (trust me, you’d be surprised how messy things can get when you are trying to pour hot liquid into canning jars) and a lid wand which allows you to lift the lids out of the bottom of a hot pot that you sanitize them with without getting burned.

Of course, the easiest way to make sure you have the equipment you need is to just buy it all in one kit. If you plan to do canning year after year it’s a good investment to make. I’ve had my canner tools for probably 10 years now.

Some other equipment you might use that you probably already have around your house are tea towels, a spatula, and a ladle.

You’ll need jars and special lids

Mason jars are your new best friend. Whenever you see a mason jar, at a yard sale or thrift store or for a ridiculously good price at your local grocery shop, buy them. You can also find them on Amazon here.

You might be confused at what size to buy. It will depend on what you are canning and what works best for your family. For our family I find that canning food mostly in 500 ml jars are best. I sometimes use the 1L jars for tomato sauce too. I never use the 250 ml jars, not even for jam because our family goes through them so quickly. The 250 ml jars can be nice if you want to give jam away as gifts though.

As for the lids, this is one of the most important parts of canning you need to know. You can’t just use any lid. There are a few options.

If the mason jars are brand new you will be able to use the lids that come with it – but just once. After that you’ll have to buy more lids.

That is, unless you buy these reusable lids. They are a little more money up front, but you can use them again and again.

You’ll need to decide if you will can things that require a pressure canner.

Many foods only require the water bath canning method (which is basically sticking them in a hot pot of boiling water) but there are other foods that need a pressure canner or it would be unsafe to consume them and you could get very sick.

I do not have a pressure canner and have been fine without it. I have been able to can jam, tomato sauce, pickles, peaches, red pepper jelly, blueberry syrup, pie filling, and more. However, this year when I wanted to can green beans I knew I would need a pressure canner to do it safely. I still was able to get around it though by pickling them instead. Pickling them made them safe to be canned in a water bath canner.

There is also some debate on the best way to can tomatoes and tomato sauce but I just add lemon juice to the bottom of each jar to raise the acidity levels to make it safe.

My preference is to stick to water bath canning but this means I can’t can certain things like meat, stock, beans that aren’t pickled, and more. If you want to be able to can ALL THE THINGS you’ll want to pick up a pressure canner like this one.  

You’ll want to store them safely

A couple ways I like to maintain safety while storing my finished canned goods is to take the screw rings off and to avoid stacking them.

How does this contribute to the safety of the product? If the screw lids are off and one of the lids loses it’s seal you’ll most likely easily be able to tell. The air will have been able to get in and will probably leave mold, or you’ll go to grab the jar and you’ll notice right away that the lid is not on securely.

This is the same reason to avoid stacking the finished jars. It allows you to see if there are any lids that have become unsealed. And of course, any unsealed jar is unsafe to eat.

If you are nervous, start with jam.

Jam, in my opinion, is one of the easiest things to can. It doesn’t take too long, it’s absolutely delicious, and it’s one of the things you can make and feel safe about it because most fruits contain enough natural acidity that you don’t have to worry about botulism. Acidity is the key to avoiding botulism.


I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I would share with you some great tutorials on how to get started with canning.  Try a few of these posts below to get you started:

Canning Tips for Beginners

The Ultimate Guide to Canning Safely

Step-by-Step Guide to Water Bath Canning (Youtube Video)



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