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.
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.