Preserving the Harvest: Canning Basics

Have you ever been curious about preserving your food and making it last all year long? Well, now you can, can. Excuse the bad pun, but canning is surprisingly simple, and anyone can do it!

I am kicking off a new series on the blog called “Preserving the Harvest”, my goal is to help you preserve all your favorite seasonal foods. We love to go berry picking and shop from our local farmer’s market, but sadly, seasons come to an end, and harvests are always much shorter than I want them to be. Enter, the world of canning!

Let’s start with the basics: there are two types of canning techniques. You can either do water-bath canning, or pressure canning. Water bath canning is actually the only method I use. It’s ideal for high acidic foods, such as tomatoes recipes, jams, and pickling. The other method is used for low acid foods, so its ideal if you are preserving meat or seafood.

Read + stay true to the recipe. I cannot tell you how many times I have had running jam because I made up my own measurements, it’s much easier to stick to the recipe than re doing a batch.

Sanitize the jars: You don’t want to be preserving food in dirty jars!

Invest. Buy the essentials, rather than cutting corners. Canning supplies are not too expensive, and it will last for a long time.

Check the Lids + Bands: Any rough spots or missing pieces on the bands may cause the jars not to seal properly.

Basic Method: 

Step One: Fill your canner with water. Typically I fill mine up in the bathtub, just because my sink is too small to hold the canner, and I fill mine up until it reaches the second line/indented spot. The rack should be out while you fill it.  Move the canner to your stove, and place the lids and bands for (the jars) in the canner.

Next, put the rack on top of the water, so it fits with the canner. Place open jars on the rack, and lower them into the water. Leave the rack handles up, so it is easy to take the jars out. Turn on the stove to medium-high heat, so it simmers.

I always wash my jars before doing this step. You want them to be sanitized, but you also want them to be the same temperature as the food you will be preserving!

While the jars are simmering, I get my jam or pickling on! Which means, I start my recipe. When the recipe is ready (or almost ready) to be used, remove the jars.

Step Two: Using hot pads, bring up the rack (the handles should not be underwater, but resting against the canner). Once the rack is lifted, use your tongs to take the jars out, and set them aside.

Step Three: Use your magnet to take the out the lids and bands, and transfer them to a towel by the jars. Keep your canner on the stove, and this time, crank up the heat. In the meantime, put your recipe into the jars (always remember to leave about a 1/2 inch of room on the top). After the air bubbles are out, jars are sealed (I will touch on that in individual recipes), transfer the filled jars back into the canner.

Let them boil for 10-12 minutes; thurn off the heat, and allow for them to stay in the canner for another 5 minutes of so. Next, remove them from the water, like you did in the first part. Most of the lids will have gone down, and sealed, but you may hear a little “pop” from the jars in the next couple of hours, as they seal. Let the jars set for 24 hours, or whatever the recipe calls for.

There you go! You just preserved the harvest. In Northern Michigan, we are just starting to get some of our produce, so stay tuned, I will post seasonal preserving the harvest recipes, as our produce becomes available.

The Essentials:

Ball Jars

Water Bath Canner with Rack


Jar Tongs

Food Processor


Kitchen Towels

Fermenting Cookbook

Ball Book of Canning and Preserving

Check out this Starter Kit: Canning Kit 


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • P.S. My canner is well loved and has a little rust at the bottom. This is an easy fix, you just need to give it a good scrub!