USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning
Foods that are being canned fall into two different
canning techniques. High acid and low acid. High acid
foods can be canned in a boiling water canner, while the
low acid foods can only be canned safely in a pressure
cooker. Our site deals only with high acid foods that are
done in the water bath.
Low Acid Foods
Low acid foods (pH higher than 4.6) such as vegetables,
meats, seafood, soups, and sauces can't combat the harmful
bacteria at the low temperature of a boiling water canner
(212*F). They need the high temperature of a
pressure canner (240*F) to be canned safely. When canning
vegetables (beets, cucumber etc.), the acid level is
brought higher when pickled with vinegar, and can safely
be canned with the boiling water bath
High Acid Foods
High acid foods (pH lower than 4.6) such as fruits, jams,
jellies, pickles, relishes, chutneys, and acidified
tomatoes can all be safely canned
with the boiling water bath technique. The 212*F
temperature is high enough to kill any bacteria that can
survive the high acid. There is another important issue
when canning... time. The food being processed must be
boiled in the canner for the exact time on the recipe or
you run the chance of not killing all the natural yeasts,
enzymes, and microorganisms.
It is important to not use just any jar for canning.
You must use a proper canning jar with the proper
2-piece lid to ensure an air tight seal. Discard any
jars that are nicked on the thread or are cracked
The 2-piece lid consists of a sealing cap and a
screw cap. The screw cap can be reused but always
use new sealing caps to ensure an air-tight seal.
Boiling the lids is no longer required. Heat to
180*F/82*C only. They must be placed on the jar hot
for a proper seal. There is no preparation needed
for the screw cap as it doesn't come in contact with
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Step by Step Guide
to Canning with a Boiling Water Canner
of Empty Jars
To sterilize empty jars, place them right side up on
the rack in a boiling-water canner. Fill the canner
and jars with hot (not boiling) water to 1 inch
above the tops of the jars. Boil 10 minutes at
altitudes of less than 1,000 feet. At higher
elevations, boil 1 additional minute for each
additional 1,000 feet elevation. Remove and drain
hot sterilized jars one at a time as filled.
Heat lids in hot water
at 180*F/82*C only. They must be placed on the jar
hot for a proper seal. There is no preparation
needed for the screw cap as it doesn't come in
contact with the food.
Select the best fruit and vegetables for canning.
Overripe and blemished fruit and vegetables
shouldn't be used. To prevent some fruit from
discolouration, use commercial ascorbic acid and
citric acid mixtures such as "Fruit
Fresh" according to directions.
Filling the Jars
Use of a canning funnel is recommended. It has a
wide mouth to match up with the jar opening.
Hot pack means the food is hot going into the
jar. Whether it is cooked, like relish, or
brought to a boil, like jam, it goes into the
- Cold Pack
Cold pack means there was no cooking of what you
are canning. Pickles are an example of that.
Just place the cucumbers in the jar after being
washed and add the remaining ingredients and
pour the hot liquid over top and process
Always remove the air
bubbles by sliding a wooden or non-metallic utensil
down the side of the jar. You may have to adjust the
headspace after releasing all the trapped air
This is the space at the top of the jar. It is
measured from where the lid sits and goes
Headspace differs depending on what you are
processing. For proper sealing, use the following
|Jam & Jelly - 1/4"
||Pickles & Tomatoes -
|Fruit - 1/2"
||Relish, Salsa and Chutney -
Clean the Rim
Wipe the rim with a clean damp cloth to remove any
stickiness and anything that would hamper a good
Place the sealing cap on the jar. Apply the screw
cap only until resistance is felt. Overtightening
may cause seal failure
When all the jars are filled and are ready
for processing, lower the jars into the boiling
water canner making sure the jars are completely
submerged with at least 1" of water over the
top. Place the lid on the canner and bring back to a
boil. When the water returns to a boil, start
counting the processing time according to the
recipe. When the processing time has finished, turn
off the heat and wait for the rolling boil to stop.
Gently remove the jars from the water without
tilting and place on a dish towel to cool. Let cool
24 hours. While cooling, you'll here the pop of the
lids being pulled down. That sound is the sound of a
good seal. If the sealing cap isn't pulled down, the
jar needs to be reprocessed. If after a second
processing doesn't give you a good seal, refrigerate
and use first.
Processing time depends on the altitude you're at.
The higher the altitude, the longer the processing
time. Please adjust your recipe as follows
|1,001 - 3,000
||306 - 915
|3,001 - 6,000
||916 - 1,830
|6,001 - 8,000
||1,831 - 2,440
|8,001 - 10,000
||2,441 - 3,050
are normally considered high in acid, but the
acid level isn't quite high enough for canning.
To bring tomatoes up to the proper acidic level,
vinegar, lemon juice or citric acid must be added. Add
4-tbsp vinegar, 2-tbsp of bottled lemon juice or 1/2-tsp of
citric acid per quart of tomatoes. For pints,
use 2-tbsp vinegar, 1-tbsp lemon juice or 1/4-tsp citric acid
Processing time doesn't
start until the canner is brought back to a
Spoilage signs are a
swollen lid, leaky jar, and discolouration of
the food. Never eat food from the jar with these
signs. If the lid isn't pulled down in the
sealed position, discard.
What is Pectin?
Pectin is a natural product found in the skins and cores of fruit. The commercially prepared pectin is usually made from waste citrus peel after juicers are finished with the crop.
The reason for adding pectin to jams and jellies is that the pectin helps the fruit gel. Some fruits are naturally high in pectin and can be made into jelly without the assistance of pectin. Some examples of high pectin fruit are tart apples, crab apples, gooseberries and cranberries. When a fruit is just about to turn ripe, the pectin level is at its highest, so if a high pectin fruit is going to be made into jam without the assistance of added pectin, the best time to do this is when the fruit is ĺ ripe.
There is a ratio of sugar to pectin that must be kept if the fruit is to gel. Thatís where a good proven recipe comes in. This ratio is already set in the recipe.
There are two types of commercially available pectin, liquid and powdered. These have different properties and canít be interchanged so stick to the type of pectin in the recipe.
A good standard to adhere to is to purchase fresh pectin each year. Old pectin may result in poor gels
Big Dave wrote in with
this handy tip:
I found a old fashioned trick for checking
pickling brines for sufficient salt.
You put a raw egg into the brine and when it
floats there is enough salt
Virginia Cooperative Extension
Dakota Extension Service
Center for Home Food Preservation
A Guide to Home Canning (great links page)
USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning
Downloaded from Penn State University (pdf format)
of Home Canning
Preparing and Canning -- Fruit and Fruit Products
Preparing and Canning Tomatoes and Tomato Products
Vegetables and Vegetable Products
and Canning Poultry, Red Meats, and Seafoods
and Canning Fermented Foods and Pickled Vegetables
and Canning Jams and Jellies