Using a Water Bath Canner

Water bath canner sm

A Step By Step Guide

A water bath canner is a handy tool for most food preservation at home. The water bath process is particularly suited for high-acid foods such as: fruits, jams, jellies, salsas, tomatoes, pickles, relishes, chutneys, sauces, vinegars and Pioneer Dad’s favorite: apple butter.

At first glance a water bath canner is little more than a large stockpot, an internal wire rack and a tight fitting lid. But, they provide a less expensive alternative to pressure canning equipment.

The one limitation is, they should not be used to preserve low-acid foods such as: low-acid vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood. These require the higher temperatures of a pressure canner to eliminate the risk of foodborne bacteria.

Most boiling water canners are made of porcelain-covered steel. The canner must be deep enough so that at least one inch of actively boiling water will cover the tops of jars during processing. A 21-quart water bath canner should be considered the minimum size.

When shopping for a water bath canner, look for a model with a flat bottom. Canners without a completely flat bottom will not work well on smooth top ranges. The canner bottom should be flat for use on electric burners. Either flat or ridged bottom canners will work on gas burner stoves.

On electric ranges, the canner should be no more than 4 inches wider than the electric heating element. This will help insure uniform heating and processing of the jars. Before canning on a smooth top range, check the range manufacturer╒s advice on suitability for canning and recommended maximum size for specific burners.

Follow these steps for successful water bath canning. Read through all the instructions before beginning the canning process.

1. Gather your canning gear

A water bath canner, or large stockpot, a wire canning rack and lid.

A basic home canning kit: jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter, canning funnel, tongs and jar wrench.

2. Fill the water bath canner

Before you start preparing the food, place the canner rack in the bottom of the canner. Fill the canner half full with clean warm water for a complete load of pint jars. For other sizes and numbers of jars, adjust the amount of water to 1 to 2 inches over the top of the filled jars.

3. Center the canner over the burner

Preheat the water to 140 degrees F. for raw-packed foods and to 180 degrees F. for hot-packed foods. Begin preparing food for your jars while this water is preheating.

4. Load the canner

Load the filled canning jars, fitted with lids and ring bands, into the canner one at a time, using a jar lifter. The jar lifter should be securely positioned below the neck of the jar below the ring band of the lid. Keep the jars upright at all times. Tilting the jars could cause food to spill into the sealing area of the lid.

5. Top off the water

Add more boiling water, if needed. The water level should be at least one inch above the jar tops. Pour the water around the jars and not directly onto them. For processing times greater than 30 minutes, the water level should be 2-inches above the jars.

6. Turn up the heat

Turn the heat setting to its highest position, cover the canner with its lid and heat until the water boils vigorously. After the water is boiling, set a timer for the total minutes required for processing the food.

Keep the canner covered for the entire process time. The heat setting may be lowered as long as a gentle but complete boil is maintained for the entire process time. If the canner needs additional water, pout the water between the jars not directly on the lids.

If the water stops boiling at any time during the process, turn the heat on its highest setting, bring the water back to a vigorous boil and begin the timing of the process over, from the beginning, using the total original process time.

7. Turn off the heat

Turn off the heat and remove the canner lid. Wait 5 minutes before removing the jars to allow the canner contents to settle.

8. Remove the jars

Use a jar lifter to remove the jars one at a time. Be careful not to tilt the jars. Place the jars directly on a towel or cooling rack, leaving at least one inch of space between the jars during cooling. Do not place the jars on a cold surface or in a cold draft.

Let the jars sit undisturbed while they cool for 12 to 24 hours. Do not tighten ring bands on the lids or push down on the center of the flat metal lid until the jars have completely cooled.

9. Storage

Remove the ring bands from the sealed jars. Check the jar seals by gently pressing on the center of each cooled lid. The lid should not flex up or down. If the lid does flex, the jar did not seal properly. Re-process or refrigerate for immediate consumption.

Wash jars and lids to remove all residues. Label the jars and store in a cool, dry place out of direct light for up to 12 months for the best color and flavor.

Introduction to Home Canning

Canning Equipment

1. What is home canning?

Think of home canning as one step beyond cooking. It is a preservation method that applies heat to food in a closed glass jar to stop the natural spoilage that would normally take place. To do that canning removes air from the jar to create a vacuum seal.

There are two basic home canning methods: water bath canning and pressure canning.

2. Popular methods for home canning

There are many things you can preserve by canning, but it is important to understand these two canning methods before getting started.

3. Method 1: water bath canning

This method of using water bath canning is ideal for high-acid foods and requires the least cost investment in equipment. It is ideal for canning fruits, fruit juices, jams, jellies, salsas, tomatoes, pickles, relishes, chutneys, sauces, vinegars and condiments.

4. Method 2: pressure canning

Pressure canning is mandatory, for food safety, when preserving low-acid vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood. To keep these types of canned food safe to eat, use the pressure canning method. Pressure canning heats the canned food to 240º F eliminating the risk of foodborne bacteria. This is a higher processing temperature than water bath canners can achieve. Note: when mixing high acid foods with low-acid foods they must be processed using the pressure canning method to ensure food safety.

5. Gather the gear

You will need the following gear for either canning method:

21-quart water bath canner, or large stockpot, with a wire canning rack and lid; about $18 on Amazon.

A basic home canning kit: jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter, canning funnel, kitchen tongs and jar wrench. These are less expensive when bought as a kit; about $13 on Amazon.

A dozen Ball or Kerr glass preserving jars with and bands and lids; $12 to $20 a case on Amazon. Do not attempt to reuse other kinds of jars. Preserving jars are manufactured with high temperature resistant glass. Common glass jelly, pasta or pickle jars may crack during water bath processing and destroy all your hard work.

Common kitchen utensils such as: sauce pan, measuring spoons, measuring cups, cutting board, small kitchen knives, ladle, large spoon, non-metallic spatula and dish rags.

Fresh produce and any other ingredients specified in the recipe.

6. Choosing the recipe

Always use tested recipes from reliable sources for canning. Read the directions thoroughly before starting the canning process.

Several trusted recipe sources are:
The National Center for Home Food Preservation
The Ball Corporation (the jar manufacturer)
The Blue Book Guide to Preserving (considered the Bible for canning)
Recipes are also provided in the packaging for Pectin.

7. Getting started

Wash all jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse them well.

Keep the jars warm until ready to use. Heat the jars in a pot of simmering water, or in a heated dishwasher to minimize risk of breakage when filling with hot food.

Fill the canner half full with enough water to cover jars with at least 1 inch of water and heat to a simmer. Place the lid on the canner. Keep rack to the side until ready to use. An important tip: the jars will displace much of the water in the canner. Only fill the canner half full. Wait until the jars are placed into the canner. Then, top off the water with the additional hot water needed.

Fill each jar with prepared food. Follow the canning recipe for the correct headspace in each jar. Headspace is the space between the food level and the rim of the jar. This allows for food expansion when heated during processing.

Remove any air bubbles by inserting a non-metallic spatula inside the jar and gently pressing the food against the opposite side of the jar. The headspace gauge or chopsticks will work well for this. Air bubbles can impact canning effectiveness.

Carefully remove any food from the rim of each jar, center the new lid on the jar and twist the band until fingertip tight. Do not over tighten the bands. Air must be able to escape during the canning process.

Place the filled canning jars onto the canning rack and lower the rack into the canner. Top off the water to 1 inch above the jars and cover with the canner lid.

Heat to a steady boil. Process for the time specified in the recipe. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, check the recipe for adjusting the processing time. This is usually 5 minutes for every 3,000 feet.

Turn off the heat and let the jars stand in the water for 5 minutes. Remove the jars from the water and cool upright on the wire rack or on a towel place on a kitchen counter for 12 hours.

Do not re-tighten the bands after removing the jars from the canning rack. Over tightening the bands can break the seal on the jar lids.

Check the jar seals by gently pressing on the center of a cooled lid. The lid should not flex up or down. If the lid flexes, the jar did not seal properly. Re-process or refrigerate for immediate consumption.

8. Storage

Store sealed jars in a pantry, or dark cabinet, for up to a year. Jars may be stored without bands.

Canned goods make great gifts for the holidays or any occasion.

Bon Appetite.

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