Canning Foods – Boiling Water Bath Canning

Canning Foods the Old Way

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 is a food preservation technique used for centuries. In fact, the art of canning can be traced back to 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 is a method of preserving food in which heat is used to kill microorganisms that cause food spoilage. Boiling water bath canning is a simple, home-preservation technique perfect for beginners. This canning method is ideal for preserving high-acid foods like fruits, pickles, and salsa.

While the techniques are old, 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 of canning food; the Boiling Water Bath Method.

What is Boiling Water Bath Canning?

Boiling water bath canning is a simple and low-cost method of canning. This canning method is ideal for preserving high-acid foods like fruits, pickles, and salsa. The process involves heating water in a canning pot or a large stockpot until it reaches boiling point. The foods to be preserved are then packed into canning jars, processed in the boiling water bath for a specified amount of time, and allowed to cool.

You should never process low acid foods like vegetables, meats, poultry and fish with this method because it raises the risk of botulism.

Equipment You Need to Start Canning:

The Canner: In general, any 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

Canning Fruit at Home

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.

The boiling water bath canning process involves three main steps:

  • Preparation of the jars and lids
  • Packing the jars with food
  • Processing the filled jars

Preparation of the Jars and Lids

Ensure all the jars, lids, and corresponding bands are cleaned and sterilized before use. Sterilization is essential to prevent contamination by microorganisms that cause food spoilage. You can sterilize the jars and lids in two ways:

Oven Method: Place the jars and lids on a baking sheet and bake them in an oven at 225°F for 10 minutes or until dry.

Boiling Method: Place the jars and lids in a large pot of boiling water and boil for ten minutes. Remove the jars and lids from the pot and place them on a clean, dry towel.

Packing the Jars with Food

Once the jars and lids are sterilized, fill the jars with the recommended quantity of food. Do not overfill the jars or leave too much headspace, as it can lead to poor heat distribution during the canning process. Follow the recipe instructions or consult a canning guide to determine the recommended headspace.

  • Fruits generally require about ½ inch of space
  • Jams and preserves require about ¼ inch of space.

Next, wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth to remove any food residue. This step is essential to ensure that the jars seal properly. Finally, secure the lids on the jars with the corresponding bands. Do not over tighten the bands, as they can affect the sealing process.

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.

Processing the Filled Jars

Once the jars are filled and the lids are secured, place the jars in a canning pot or a large stockpot. The water level should cover the jars by at least one inch. Start heating the water until it reaches boiling point, reduce the heat, and let the jars simmer for the recommended processing time.

The processing time depends on the type of food being canned and the size of the jar. Consult canning guides or recipes to determine the processing time. Once the processing time is complete, turn off the heat, remove the jars from the pot, and let them cool.

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

Style of PackBoiling Time for Pints
Apples, slicedHot20
PlumsHot and raw20

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 LevelBoiling Water Time in Above Chart is Under 20 minutes ADD MINUTESBoiling Water Time in Above Chart is Over 20 minutes ADD MINUTES
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  1. 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?

  2. 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

    • 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!

    • Need to use tested recipe and correct method. Spinach requires a pressure canner to properly preserve. Freezing is best method for spinach. When preserving foods, remember No added fats, butters or margarine as that contributes to spoilage. Lots of free tested canning info at Cornell Cooperative Extensions and National Center for Home Food Preservation.

  3. 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

    • i think more and more people will be doing this soon when society and order crumble when SHTF. However we are our own worst enemy’s in the end. I worry about my wife n kids especially their choosing to just assume our country will be ok and make through this “okay”…..:(


    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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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…

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. After processing my fig chutney using the hot water bath for 10 minutes, and my jars were cooling, I heard the lids make a “popping” sound. Is this supposed to happen

  10. Have blown up a pressure cooker, this is the only method I am willing to do. Now 6 years ago this method was safe for every food except meat. My ancestors used this and they lived to be old! This is a great site. Thank you.

  11. I just read some of the info you have and my question is…………….is it safe to can turnip greens via water bath, if so how long , I could not find the answer in all my searching.

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