WATER BATH AND STEAM CANNING



How to Water Bath Can

While the act of water bath canning has remained relatively the same, some steps have evolved quite a bit since our (grand) parents’ days. Here I have listed updated directions based on jar and lid manufacturer specifications and the National Center for Home Food Processing instructions, they may not be trendy canning sources, but they do have the most current safety info.

Getting Ready

It’s always best to have everything you’ll need for a canning project ready to grab and go; it makes canning (or really, any cooking) more enjoyable and clean up a breeze. Necessities are: jars, lids, pots and pans, jar lifter, funnel, rubber spatula, headspace measurer (or ruler) and a dishtowel (or baking rack) to remove hot jars to. Other items might include, but are not limited to, a colander, bowls, measuring spoons, measuring cups, and a kitchen scale. Read through your chosen recipe and ready all ingredients, prep your fruit or vegetables, and then you are half way to home canned goodness on your shelf.

Follow recipe

Read your recipe beforehand to get a feel for the steps involved, and to prep ingredients for ease and speed.

Prepare Jars

Place the jar rack in your canning pot then fill to three-quarters of the way with hot water. Submerge clean empty jars and bring the pot of water to around 180° (below a simmer), keep water hot until you are ready to fill your jars. Hot food always needs to go into a hot jar to avoid thermal shock. >Place NOTES (at bottom of page) across from this or in text boxes around this.<

Lids and Rings

Wash lids and rings with warm soapy water, rinse and set aside. The plastisol sealant used in the manufacturing of lids does not require hot or boiling water to be effective.

Fill and lid jars

Working with one jar at a time and using the jar lifter, remove jar from canning pot, dumping hot water back into pot. Fill with prepared ingredients leaving a headspace according to recipe (for most recipes in this book it will be a half inch, but do read them through). Use a small non-metal utensil to scrape around the inside of the jar, between jar and food, to remove any air bubbles that may be trapped. Clean jar rim with a damp paper towel, place the lid on, screw ring on just to fingertip tight*(see note). Using the jar lifter place jar back into canning pot (you will see little bubbles of air escaping the jar). Remove the next jar to be filled and repeat process, placing jars back in pot with some space between them. When you are halfway through filling your jars turn heat up under canning pot to bring water to a boil, if you are small batch canning you might turn heat up once you start filling jars.

Processing jars

Make sure your jars are covered with one to two inches of water, add more hot water if necessary. Place the lid on the canning pot and bring water to a full boil before you begin timing for the process time in your recipe, adjusting for your altitude*; for most recipes that will be 10, 15 or 20 minutes. There may be time your jars are in the canning pot before the water reaches a boil, this time doesn’t count towards ‘processing time’.

Removing jars to cool

Place a dishtowel on your counter, cutting board, placing hot jars on a protected surface helps avoid thermal shock. Once process time is complete turn off heat, remove lid and let jars rest an extra 5 minutes in the hot water bath. Using jar lifter remove each jar by lifting straight up and over to your cooling area, trying not to tip the jars. Tipping can shift the food inside and break the seal (it’s fine to leave hot water on the lids, it will evaporate, or you can dab it off after the jars have sealed). You’ll notice the rings are looser after processing, but do not tighten them.

Testing for lid seal

As the jars begin cooling you may hear the famous ‘ping’ sound of the lids vacuum sealing as the pressure in the jars contracts, you will see an indent in the center of the lid as it’s suctioned down. Let jars sit for 12 hours then remove rings, wipe jars down from any leaked food and check the lids to make sure they’re sealed; do this by gently pushing down on the center of the lid, it should not have any give to it. If lids have sealed, you can place the rings loosely back on the jars. If lids have not sealed store cooled jars in the refrigerator or reprocess with new lids*.

Safely stored

Remove rings and gently wipe jars down to remove any food residue that might have ‘siphoned’ out of the jar, this can attract mold. Store your jars with or without the rings in a cool, dry spot in your home. If you leave the rings on keep them at fingertip tight, this allows the lids to loosen off if any spoilage pressure should occur in the jar, rare, but can happen. Tighten rings only after jar has been opened, for storage in refrigerator.

* Finger Tip Tight: Mason jars are designed with thicker sidewalls than other food jars, so they have a lower rate of breakage. Under too much pressure (if the ring is more than fingertip tight) they will break near the bottom of the jar as opposed to shattering. The threads on the mouth of most mason jars fit with traditional 2 piece lids to form a tight seal, some jars come with single piece lids, make sure they are meant for canning. It’s not worth using anything else. <

Steam Canning has been in use for over a hundred years- and with its safety in question for much of that time. The debate over approval for home canning use that raged for 75 years has been put to an end; in 2015 the National Center for Home Food Preservation finalized their testing and approved it safe for canning high acid foods. This is great news for enthusiastic home canners. The steam canner saves water usage, energy and time. There are different makes of steam canners available and they all function in the same way: the shallow bottom part of the pot is fitted with a jar rack then filled with 2-3 quarts water, which comes only a short way up the jar. The lid is basically a dome that fits on top of the base and contains the steam. Some lids have temperature gauges, some have holes to place a thermometer in, because the temperature needs to be maintained at 210°-212° during processing in order to be effective. All the directions for water bath canning apply to steam canning, except the steam canner instructions, which I encourage you to read. The only caveat is if it runs dry removing the lid to add more water will neutralize the processing; this happens only when processing for 45 minutes or more, and very few recipes require that, and those that do can be water bath canned.


The list of supplies needed for steam canning is the same as water bath canning PLUS a thermometer that can be inserted into the port on the steam canner.

How to Steam Can

Prepare Jars

You will still need to heat (not boil) your jars, this can be done in a small sauce pan with a dishtowel or silicone trivet on the bottom. The steam canner has a limited amount of boiling water best reserved for the canning process.

Lids and Rings

Wash lids and rings with warm soapy water, rinse and set aside, as with water bath canning.

Follow recipe

Fill and lid jars

Follow directions under water bath canning.

Processing jars

Once the temperature gauge (or thermometer) reads 212° and the canner is venting a steady stream of steam, add hot jars to the steamer. Make sure the temperature within the canner stays between 210° and 212° the entire processing time. Monitor the ongoing temperature with a thermometer if your canner does not have a gauge. Once processing time is complete turn off heat and allow jars to sit in steamer for 5 minutes.

Follow water bath canning instructions for jar removal and cooling.


steam canner

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COPYRIGHT © 2019 TAMIKA ADJEMIAN

© 2019 by Tamika Adjemian