Canning Foods at Home

Imagine it’s late summer. The kitchen feels warm and humid. The air smells sweet. Jars of beautifully preserved peaches sit cooling on a dish towel on the kitchen counter. This is what home canning is all about.


Fun Facts

  • Home canning is a tradition going back more than a hundred years. It’s less common today, but families with large gardens or access to fresh produce in quantity still work together in the summer to can foods.
  • Foods that are high in acid—fruit and tomatoes—can be processed in a big pot of water called a water bath canner. Alkaline foods, including green beans, potatoes, meat, and soups, must be canned in a pressure cooker to destroy bacteria.
  • The steps for canning are pretty simple: wash, peel (if necessary), and cut the food. Sterilize canning jars in hot water or in the dishwasher. Fill the jars with the food and add a liquid. Secure the lids on the jars and boil the jars in hot water. Allow the jars to cool overnight.
  • After the jars cool, press down lightly on their lids. If they pop back up, the jars didn’t seal. The food must be reheated and processed again.
  • Home-canned foods will last for many years, but their quality starts to go down after about one year. These foods should be stored in a cool, dark location.
  • Some of the easiest foods to can are fruits like peaches and pears. They’re canned with sugar water or juice. With a little more work, you can make delicious applesauce by pureeing steamed apples and canning the puree. Applesauce is extra good with a little brown sugar, cinnamon, and orange peel.
  • If you have a juicer, you can process grape juice or other juices. These juices make a refreshing drink or you can make them into jelly or syrup.
  • Making jam is another great first project. You need only fruit, sugar, and pectin and a little time on the stove. You can process the jam in a water bath canner to seal the jars or simply put the jars in the freezer.


Questions and Answers

Question: Is canning food safe?

Answer: Canning food is safe as long as you follow the guidelines. Use only fresh, high-quality produce and keep everything clean. Boil the jars according to the recipe directions (cooking time increases at high altitude). Make sure the jars are properly sealed before you store them away.

When you open a jar, you should hear a distinct pop. Throw out any food that is discolored or smells bad.

Learn More

Learn how to can berry jam, carrot pickles, apple butter, and more.