Dive Into Water Bath Canning

2 comments by Halley -Author at MIGardener

Water Bath Canning - A Quick Intro


In our last newsletter, we talked about dehydration as a mode for preservation. Practicing dehydration gives us the opportunity to give our produce a shelf life with little to no equipment.

Water Bath Canning is next in line as we introduce ourselves to the world of food preservation. Into this next step, we are required to use a small amount of specific equipment. To our benefit, most are reusable year after year. Water bath canning has been practiced since the early 1800s. Practices have developed over time always working to better safety. There has been controversy over the years about techniques that have been passed down through families. It is highly encouraged to practice techniques that have been put to the test!

Start with a few great resources!

The most widely accepted resource is the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Ball & Kerr are household names that are respected in the industry as well! 

Tools Of The Trade

Photo by EatingWell



Certified canning jars and flats/lids are the most crucial elements to safely can our food. Because we are putting these containers through a high-stress situation, it is imperative to use jars that have been tested to withstand the stress that comes from large temperature changes. 

Flats/lids are the next on the high importance list. Using lids that are certified and come from a well-known source increases your success rate for a long-term seal. 

The other two pieces are necessary to complete the water bath process, yet proper sourcing of these products is not as crucial. Rings are used to hold the lids/flats in place through the water bath process. And last you will need a stockpot deep enough to place your jars into and to have brought it to a boil without overflow. 

There are a few other tools that help to ease the water bath process. A jar lifter, the tong like tool pictured, is used to take hot jars out of boiling water. A funnel makes filling jars much easier and less messy. There is also a magnet stick used to grab lids out of hot water and a measuring guide used to follow proper head space in recipes.

What Food Can Be Water Bath Canned?



The process works by filling certified glass jars using flats and rings, then processing them at high temperatures through boiling water. Not everything can be can water bath canned. High acidity produce, such as tomatoes fruits and fermented foods, contain the proper chemical make up to seal well. The water bath processing time is enough to kill off contaminants, stop natural spoilage and remove air from the jars. All together this creates a longer shelf life.

A Breif Look At The Process

The description given below is to give you an idea as to how the process of water bath canning works. I highly encourage you to follow a safe and tested recipe from either of the sources above on your first venture!

  • Jars, lids and rings are cleaned and steralized with warm soapy water.
  • Depending on your recipe, there are two modes of packing jars.
    • Raw Pack: Stuffing jars with uncooked produce to then process in your stock pot.
    • Hot Pack: Prepare your recipe and bring to a simmer for 3-5 minutes before packing into steralized hot jars.
  • The rims are cleaned with a rag dipped in vinegar to ensure proper seal. This will eliminate any residue between the jars and the rubber seal from the lid.
  • Submerge full jars in water and bring to a boil. (It is important to have the water level 1 inch above the jars.
  • Once water reaches a full rolling boil, start your timer per your tested recipe.
  • Once your timer chimes, remove the pot from heat. Take the jars out and place on a towel to cool. Be sure not to tilt jars during this process to avoid chance of breaking the seal.
  • Leave jars untouched for 24 hours to cool. As they cool the button on the lids/flats will suction down to create the seal.

Ready To Give It A-Go

Jams, jellies, and tomatoes are a great first step into water bath canning. Then, don't stop there! Following a trusted source and can your harvest to enjoy all year long! Share with us what you are canning from your MIgardener seeds! Nothing can replace the taste of summer on a cold winter night!

You might be wondering how you are going to preserve all of your other produce that doesn't fit in the high acidity group! Follow along for our next blog introducing you to Pressure Cooking!

– Halley from MIgardener

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  • Brian

    My question is: do we tighten the lid ring very tight when submerged in water or leave the outer ring loose while cooking?
    Thank you,

  • Martha Jarrard

    hi Halley, noticed a couple things re: water bath canning. A rack (or some other method of keeping jars off the bottom of the pot), is necessary or you will get jar breakage. We no longer need to pre-sterilize jars as long as you are canning for 10 mins or longer as they sterilize during the canning process. Put jars into hot water (I know you know this but others won’t your sentance just reads water) bring back to a boil. Once the timer goes off, turn off the heat and move the pot (if you can, it’s heavy) but leave the jars to sit for 5 mins or so before taking out of the hot water. This gives the jars a chance to rest before the drastic heat change by removing them from the water. Finally after 24 hrs is up, remove the rings, check for a good seal and then wash the jars (if you get syphoning the gunk will get on the jars and yuck that smells!). Then put in storage…in a space with good airflow, hopefully in the dark and with a constant temp. While the jars can freeze (if there is enough headspace to allow for expansion) the real evil is the heat which will cause the rubber (on the underside of the lid) to deteriorate quickly and break the seal. Overall you did really well listing all the steps. It’s hard to get everything perfect the first time. I look forward to your next installment.

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