A Beginner’s Guide to Canning Food

By Polly Conner

A step-by-step guide on how to easily can your food. Tutorial includes not only directions but spells out everything you will need in order to get started canning. | Thriving Home

I never would have entered into the canning food world if it weren’t for my dad.

Every year, my dad plants a garden that could feed a small village. When it’s time to harvest a vegetable, my dad–much to my mother’s chagrin–has been known to take over the kitchen for an entire day (or for multiple days) in order to creatively preserve his homegrown goods.

dad peeling potatoes

My dad peeling his garden potatoes…in the living room.

It’s not abnormal to come home to find buckets and buckets of tomatoes, green beans, asparagus or other vegetables waiting to be used up, given away or canned.

dad with tomatoes

The great thing about my dad’s farm vegetable garden is that throughout the winter, he will often send us home with canned green beans, potatoes, tomato sauces, salsas, pickles and even an occasional can of pickled beets (which to be honest, have never made it to my mouth). We get to eat organic, garden vegetables all year long!IMG_2710

garden potatoes

Just an average harvest from his garden. (WHO DOES THIS?!)

For my birthday one year, he gave me all of the canning tools I would need in order to start canning my own food. After I persevered through the unknowns of canning, I have arrived at a point where I really enjoy it.

Canning is a resourceful way to preserve fruits and vegetables that are in season. It is also a great way to save homemade salsa, marinara sauces, jams, etc. These also make great gifts for people. It seems like most people shy away from canning simply because of the unknowns.

In this post, I’ll be walking through the process of canning a Roasted Corn Salsa Recipe. It’s a pretty easy recipe that doesn’t require a pressure cooker to safely store the food.

Lets get started by clarifying the difference between two different methods of canning: Water Bath vs. Pressure Cooker.

Safe Canning Techniques

Technique 1: Water Bath (method I use in this tutorial)

Essentially, a water bath canner is a very, very large pot. It typically holds at least 7 quart jars and allows them to be submerged by 1 to 2 inches of water. In fact, if you already own a large pot you can use it as a water bath!

The way water bath canning works is that you submerge the canned food into boiling water for a certain amount of time. This method is ideal for high acid foods. These high acid foods (pH below 4.6) are considered “safe” because their pH level prevents the scary toxins from forming. In other words, you cannot get botulism from a properly canned high acid food. It simply can’t grow there. If you’re looking to can fruits, fruit juices, jams, jellies, fruit spreads, salsas, tomatoes sauce, pickles, relishes, condiments or other high-acid foods, this is the method you will want.

Technique 2: Pressure Canning

When preserving vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood, safety is key. To keep your canning safe, you’ll use the Pressure Cooker canning method which heats the contents to 240º F eliminating the risk of food born bacteria.

Since we won’t be cover this thoroughly in this post, here is a tutorial on how to pressure cook canned goods. Don’t be scared of the pressure cooker. I’ve used it many times, and, after one or two times, you get the hang of it.

Canning Supplies

Canning using a water bath does take an initial investment in order to get started (OR you could just win them all here!). However, if you get quality products, like the ones I mention below, you will likely never have to replace them. The only things that aren’t reusable are the rubber rings for the jars.

Here is what you need to get started canning:

Canning Pot

Canning food

This canner includes a 21.5 qt. canner with side handles, a lid and jar rack. This durable porcelain on steel pot heats quickly and efficiently; saving energy. The versatile jar rack holds: 7 – quart jars, 9 – pint jars or 13 – half pint jars and is dishwasher safe. Canner is suitable for gas or electric stovetops and is dishwasher safe.

Canning Jars (1/2 liter sized)Canning for Dummies

I am loving these Weck canning jars. They are not only great for canning but cute enough to use as gifts or to use as decoration. Weck canning jars are made of thick glass to withstand boiling and sterilization. Glass lids are immune to rusting and can be used to process again and again. Since the lids are made of glass (as opposed to aluminum), there is no BPA coating that is found on metal canning jar lids.

Canning Jars (liter sized)How to can food

These are the same kind of Weck jars mentioned above but just larger. These are good for marinara sauces, salsas, or any other big batch item.
Benefits of Weck Glass Canning Jars:
  • Wide easy to fill jars
  • Glass lids that will not rust
  • Seals that are easy to check at a glance
  • Easy open jars (no can opener needed)
  • Easy stack jars for convenient, space saving storage
  • Wide openings making for easy cleanup
  • Glass is microwave safe, dishwasher safe
  • Attractive, fun, decorative shapes nice enough for table use

Here is a bit more about how Weck canning jars work.

Stainless Steel FunnelCanning food the easy way

Since you’ll likely be pouring hot recipes through a funnel when canning, you’ll want to use a metal funnel, not plastic. This stainless steel funnel is a great, safe option.

Jar LifterHow to can food the easy way

The Weck Jar Lifter for canning will make it easier for you to remove the jars from hot water in your canner. The hot jars can be removed from the canner with the lifter, even when they are standing very close together. The stable jar lifter with its well-shaped handles and its chrome-plated metal parts have years of durability and fits not only WECK Round Rim Jars, but also other canning jars.


How to Can Using a Water Bath

Despite Rachel‘s initial reluctance to learning how to can, she agreed to come over while both of our kids were in preschool to learn one morning. It was fun to walk though the process with her and was much easier to take pictures of every stage!

1. Sterilize Your Jars

The first thing you want to do when preparing to can is to get your jars and lids sterilized. An easy way to do this is to fill your canning pot up with water, put your empty jars and lids in there and let them boil until you are ready to use them. how to can food

2. Prepare Your Recipe

We chose to make a Roasted Corn Salsa from Food in Jars. Here are some more canning recipes if you want to browse around for ideas.

In the midst of preparing this post, Rachel and I created some videos sharing cooking tips that you might find helpful, especially when making salsa.

A short video tutorial on the easiest way to chop an onionHow to Chop an Onion Like a Pro


Best way to cut corn off a cobBest mess-free way to cut corn from a cob


How to juice a limeHow to get the most juice from a lime


We ended up making two batches of this recipe. One that came straight from the Food in Jars cookbook and then another that we tweaked quite a bit and turned into a freezer version. Because of the added beans to our version, we weren’t 100% sure the acidity was high enough to be safe to just water bath. So we decided to freeze it instead (you know our love for freezer meals, right?). Check out our original recipe, Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa: A Big Batch Freezer Recipe if you’re interested.

3. Remove Your Jars

Carefully remove your sterilized jars and place them on dish towel. No need to dry them out with a towel. The hot water will evaporate and you don’t want to risk getting anything in your jars. Canning for Dummies-3Canning for Dummies-2

4. Fill Your Jars

Using your stainless steel funnel, fill your jars up leaving about 1/2 inch head space (or more if your recipe calls for it). Canning for Dummies-7Canning for Dummies-5

5. Wipe the edges of the jar off (if needed)

To make sure you get a good seal, wipe down the edges of your jar to remove any food or liquid left behind from canning. Canning for Dummies-20

6. Add Lids and Return Jars to Canner

Place your rubber rings and lids on top of your filled jars. Secure the lid down with the clamps that came with your jars. The jar contents expand due to heating. Pressure is created within the jar. The spring clamps allow air, steam and sometimes even some liquid to escape from the jar, but not to enter it. Genius, right?!Canning for Dummies-21

7. Boil Jars

Follow your recipe and boil your canned food for the amount of time directed. Our Roasted Corn Salsa needed to boil for 15 minutes. After boiling time, take the pan off the heat source and let jars sit for about 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Canning for Dummies-22

A vacuum now prevails in the jar. The normal pressure of the surrounding air outside the jar presses the lid down on the jar, thus firmly sealing it. The spring clamps required during the canning process are now unnecessary and should definitely be removed after the jars have cooled down.

You can now store your canned goods safely in your pantry. Congrats!

Hope this little (OK, big) post on canning gives you the jump start you need to enter into the world of canning. You’ll be so glad that you did!

Disclaimer: Affiliate links included.

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6 replies
  1. Allison says:

    Is your canning pot a flat bottom pot? I just got one, but without knowing much about canning, it is not flat bottomed and says to not use on a flat top stove.

  2. Tara says:

    Oooh! Fun! I love to can too. I’ve been using Tattler reusable lids (which I love by the way). I’ve always admired Weck jars, but I’ve been a little intimidated of learning a new kind of lid. You make it look so easy, I really want to try them now. Hope I win! 🙂