Canning Foods – Boiling Water Bath Canning

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The art of canning started back in the early nineteenth century when Napoleon, who was looking for a way to feed his troops, offered a cash award to any inventor who could figure out a cheap method of preserving large amounts of food for the military.

Canning Jar and LidSince that time canning practices have evolved and become a lot safer, but the basic principles of canning remain the same. Today we are going to look at one of the oldest methods; the Boiling Water Bath Method.

What You Need:

The Canner: In general, any large metal container with a tight-fitting lid will work. The main thing you are looking for is a container that is large enough to allow the water to freely circulate around your jars. It should be deep enough for 2 inches of boiling water to cover and freely circulate around each jar.

Wire Basket: A wire basket or wire rack is needed to prevent your jars from touching the bottom of the container. It will allow boiling water to freely circulate under the jars.

A jar lifter or canning tongs: If your basket doesn’t allow you to easily remove your jars, a jar lifter is a must have. This will allow you to easily remove your jars without burning yourself in the process.

Jars & Lids: Mason-type jars that are specifically designed for home canning are great for preserving foods. They are easier to use, less expensive, and allow you to see what’s in your jar. Using commercial food jars (mayonnaise, pickle jars, salad dressing jars,etc..) is not recommended.  Your jars should be clean, free of cracks and defects which would prevent an airtight seal, and should have a two-piece lid. The Jars themselves can be used multiple times, but the lids should be replaced after each use.

Preparing your Food for Canning

The most important part of canning is to start with high quality fresh food. When packing fruits, we generally recommend using the hot pack method. This means heating your freshly prepared fruits in boiling water for 2 to 5 minutes.

Next, you want to quickly fill your jars and then add boiling water, juice or syrup to the jar. This will help shrink the fruit, remove air from the food, improve shelf life and help to ensure a proper seal during the canning process. Hot packing is probably the best choose for anyone using the boiling water method of canning, because it’s the best way to remove air from the food and jar.

How Much Space to Leave in the Jar:

You want to leave some headspace. Fruits generally require about ½ inch of space and jams and preserves require about ¼ inch of space.

Sealing the Jars:

Most Commercially available canning lids are self-sealing lids. They have a flat metal lid with a gasket compound that softens and makes an air tight seal during the canning process.

  1. Fill Jar with food and liquid.
  2. Use a plastic Spatula to release any air bubbles that formed.
  3. Clean the top of the jar with a rag.
  4. Place a preheated flat metal lid, gasket side down, on the jar.
  5. Hand Tighten the Metal screwband on to the jar.

Boiling Water Bath Canning Method

The boiling water bath method is recommended for processing fresh high quality high-acid foods like fruit. You should never process low acid foods like vegetables, meats, poultry and fish with this method because it raises the risk of botulism.

  1. putting bottle in canning potFill the Canner half way with hot water.
  2. After filling and capping your jars, carefully lower the jars into the water and on to your wire basket.
  3. Add boiling water, if needed, so that the water level is at least 2 inches above the jar tops. It’s important to make sure water can flow freely around your jars.
  4. Cover and then bring your water to a rolling boil; start timing according to your recipe and type of food.
  5. Keep an eye on the water level and add more boiling water as needed.
  6. When your processing time is up, carefully remove the jars and allow them to cool -  at room temperature – on a wire rack.

After the jars have cooled, make sure you test your lids seal. If your lid springs up when pressed, the can is not safe for storage and should be placed in the refrigerator for use within the next couple of days.

Processing times for commonly canned fruits with the Boiling Water Bath Canning Method

Fruit
Style of Pack Boiling Time for Pints
Apples, sliced Hot 20
Applesauce Hot 15
Apricots Hot 20
Apricots Raw 25
Berries Hot 15
Berries Raw 15
Cherries Hot 15
Cherries Raw 20
Peaches Hot 20
Peaches Raw 25
Pears Hot 20
Pears Raw 25
Plums Hot and raw 20
Rhubarb Hot 10
Tomatoes Hot 40
Tomatoes Raw 4

Processing times above are estimates based on altitudes under 1,000 feet. Home canned foods must be processed for longer times at higher altitudes. The chart below is the recommended time to add based on your altitude.

Altitude above Sea Level Boiling Water Time in Above Chart is Under 20 minutes ADD MINUTES Boiling Water Time in Above Chart is Over 20 minutes ADD MINUTES
1,000 1 2
2,000 2 4
3,000 3 6
4,000 4 8
5,000 5 10
6,000 6 12
7,000 7 14
8,000 8 16
9,000 9 18
10,000 10 20
Comments

Responses to " Canning Foods – Boiling Water Bath Canning " Please share your thoughts...

  1. Bob says:

    Ok, so I don’t understand how you “fill and cap your jars?” Is there a syrup you put the food products in, or just water? Do you have to pre-treat the foods, like salting/sugaring? How full does the jar want to be? When putting on the lit, how tight do you want to tighten it? Do you want to put anything as a barrier, such as plastic, between the cap and the jar?

    That’s all I’ve got for now. (in case you can’t tell, I know jack-$hit about canning.)

    Oh, also, why is it called “canning,” when you’re putting the things into jars?

    • Gary says:

      USDA Home Canning Guide available at link. It goes much more in depth. I use the very light syrup because it is closest to the natural sugar level in most fruit.

      http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html

    • Off Grid Survival says:

      Bob… I just added the “Preparing your Food for Canning” section to the article. I hope it addresses some of your concerns.

  2. Charlie says:

    I just recently done up several jars of spinich,love me some spinich,I seasoned it up like I do for dinner,seasoning and margerine.They held up for a few weeks, then the tops popped on a few of them and had to be thrown out.The last 2 that didn t pop,was put in the fridge to save them.I opened them up,and a bad gassy odor came out.Would love to know what I done wrong.
    I did do the bath method,and have done tomatoes in the past,and they came out great.I am new to this ,but wanting to learn more. Thanks

    • Tina says:

      Charlie, the reason your spinach went bad is because it’s not acidic enough to be processed in a hot water bath. Hot water canning only works on fruit and tomatoes. All other non-acidic items (like veggies) need to be done using a pressure canner in order to get hot enough to destroy the bacteria. Hope that helps for next time!

  3. Jebadiah says:

    The end is nigh. Repent of thy evil ways. You hath been forwarned.

    • Sherry says:

      I agree. Where are you from? I’m from Phoenix, AZ and I am a baby Christian.

  4. Enter your name... says:

    I’m thinking it’s time to learn the old ways, off the grid, community style, where everyone has something to contribute to the whole.
    Sherry Phoenix, AZ

    • daniel says:

      Im in Gilbert, AZ

  5. Lori says:

    Can I use store bought fruits and tomatoes in a can then transfer them to a jar and give it a hot bath?

    • glenn packer says:

      If they are in a can leave them their…laff.
      You home can free fruits and veg.

  6. JOKER says:

    >DEPLOYED<

    Close buddy of mine was just teaching me this lost art that i never knew about. After reading more about canning here, i am going to try it out once i return home.

    FYI this site is awesome have learned alot on here for when SHTF i'll be ready for it!

  7. jay says:

    great info! thanks!

  8. Standing On The Brink in MO says:

    Goodday to you all & God bless & protect you in the coming times!
    I first started home canning for the self-sufficiency & enjoyment years ago. I see there’s a lot of “newbies” to the world of canning here. Let me assure you, it is NOT DIFFICULT!! Time consuming, YES! Very enjoyable to hear that ‘pop’ from the lid & to sit down to eat knowing you & your family are eating chemical & preservative free food, Irreplaceable!! Try it, you’ll love it! Again, God bless & good luck!

  9. Becky says:

    Most probably know this but I put my clean jars into my hot water bath with rack lifted and let the water boil and sterilize my jars while I am cooking my tomatoes or what ever. Take one jar out at a time fill and put back in rack once all filled then I lower my rack into the boiling water and start my timer…

    • Kimberli says:

      Becky, you shouldn’t start the timer until the water is at a full boil again after adding the full jars.

  10. summer says:

    I have a glass top stove. I have a water bath canner, flat bottom, but I still have concerns about temp and cook time. If I boil foods longer, and with the pot covered, will this help in ensuring that the bacteria has been killed. Also, if this is not a safe alternative, can a pressure canner be used instead of a water bath canner? Will a pressure canner help with safety issues that are presented with a water bath canner being used on a glass top stove?

  11. Sophiecommonsense says:

    Pick up a hard copy of the Ball canning guide. Walmart usually has it with canning supplies. Canning is great but it has to be done right. But, if you can read, you can do it. Times for pints differ from quarts. Additionally, there are two methods, hot water bath (described above) and pressure canning. But it has to be done carefully. For example if you attempt to use hot water method for green beans, you could get botulism. But all this is in the Ball book. Don’t be intimidated.

  12. Woody says:

    I use reusable canning lids, mine are from Tattler, but there might be others out there.

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