Canning 101: How to waterbath can

I’ve been writing this blog as an experienced canner speaking to other experienced canners.  It’s come to my attention that I’ve nothing on here talking about the basics.  So lets do!

The first thing I’m going to tell you is to go and buy the Ball Blue Book –  It’s a basic how-to guide on everything canning.  If you expand beyond the Blue Book, then you can figure out which books to buy (I personally like much older books, from the 40’s and earlier!).   However, the Blue Book will is really the place to start.  It has timing, techniques for different methods and recipes.

So, moving on, you’ve got the book, you’ve picked a recipe and you’ve got the veg – what do you do next?  Here’s how I work it.  Now, keep in mind that I’ve got a tiny kitchen, so I have to stage things to work, but it does work.

1) I wash and sterilize my jars.  How do I sterilize my jars?

  • I get out my flat frying pan and fill it 3/4 of the way with water
  • Bring to a boil
  • Put jars into the water, upside down – steam is hotter than water, right?  Let it do the work for you – this also saves on energy as you won’t need to boil as much water for as long


  • Leave in for 15 minutes
  • Remove with jar lifter SDC12144and place right side up,  on a towel near your stove top – this to reduce temperature shock on the jars.  If they hit a cold surface while they’re very hot, they can shatter
  • Repeat with the lids and rings, excepting you’ll need to pull these out with tongs

2) Make the food – cook up your recipe and keep it on a simmer thru the next few steps – sometimes kitchen size and cook top size make these hard…I have to boil all the water in my kettle if I’m going to be filling my granny-ware boiler and have the recipe on a burner.

3) Put your largest pot on to boil.  Make it 1/3 -1/2 full.  Also fill your kettle and put that on to boil as well (to replace steam loss without cracking jars)

4) When your water is          boiling, fill the jars with your hot product.

5) Wipe your jar tops before sealing – some folks recommend vinegar – I just use water and a clean towel.

6) Seal your jars.  Use the recommended for what ever type of lid you are using –

  • Vintage jars – have your rings boiled up and clamp the wire down on the glass top ASAP
  • Metal rings and lids – screw them down tightly
  • Tattler lids – screw them down tightly and then back the screw off 1/2 a turn

7) Put your jars into the boiling water bath for the recommended length of time – every veg is different, so check your Blue Book.  The water should COVER the top of the jars – this allows you to check for bubbling and siphoning, which is the technical term for when a product gets hot and seeps out of the jar during processing.

SDC12157  SDC12162

See the bubbles in the center left of the photo on the left side?   And, in the photo on the right, it’s in the lower left hand corner of the photo, just above the jar in the corner.   That’s the jar sealing – the air space is being reduced by the expansion of the product due to heat.    We want to see this.  (I used vintage jars here because it’s easier to capture this effect in them, plus, it’s what I had empty in the basement on Tuesday!)

8) When the time is up, pull the jars out of the water bath using a jar lifter and rest them on a towel – again, to prevent thermal shock


9) Some types of lids, such as the Tattler, require that you check the seal by waiting for the product to completely cool, then removing the ring and lifting gently on the seal.  Others, such as the metal lids, will be self evident in the metal “button” in the center of the lid getting sucked down (good seal) or not  (bad seal).  Any jar with a bad seal will need to be checked for problems – open it back up, make sure that the lid is seated correctly and re-process.  If it doesn’t seal on the second try, I give up and put it in the fridge…  😛

10) Let cool and store!

About catfeet1

Mom, canner, reader, sci-fi geek, she who loves car seats
This entry was posted in Canning, Household, Safety and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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