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Canning your own food may sound like something only your great-grandma would do. But it’s the ideal way to preserve your garden’s bumper crop of zucchini or the case of tomatoes you got from the farmer’s market. Canning is simple when you follow the steps, and I promise: Nothing’s more satisfying than admiring a tidy row of apple butter or salsa you just “put up” after a few hours in the kitchen!
The most important thing to remember, though, is that you can’t wing it—you must follow tested recipes when canning. Heat penetration tests, performed by food laboratories, have analyzed the internal temperatures and processing times necessary to kill dangerous microbes. There’s no way to take into account all the variables that affect food safety with your own recipes, such as the consistency of the food and pH levels. So, follow approved recipes such as those at the USDA’s National Center for Home Food Preservation. You also can brush up on basic methods with videos and live workshops through your local university cooperative extension.
Here are our choices for the best canning supplies.
Best Overall, Water Bath Canner: Granite Ware 12-Quart Canner with Lid and Rack
What We Love: Good heat transfer; extremely durable
What We Don’t Love: Porcelain may chip if dropped; must watch water levels because quart jars are nearly too tall for canner
There’s a reason this iconic black-and-white-speckled cookware has been around since 1871: It’s just about perfect! This 12-quart canner is reasonably priced, lasts forever, and can accommodate four quart-sized, seven pint-sized, or seven half-pint-sized jars, so it’s a great option if you’re a beginner or want to do small batches.
It’s also available in larger sizes, such as 21 quarts and 33 quarts, if you want to process more or larger jars at once. The canner comes with an aluminum jar rack that fits the bottom of the pot perfectly. This pot is dishwasher-safe; the rack should be hand-washed.
Material: Porcelain enamel fused to steel core | Dimensions (LxWxH): 13.25 x 11.5 x 7.6 inches | Capacity: 11.5 quarts | Cooktop: All except glass | Dishwasher-safe: Yes
Best Overall, Pressure Canner: All American Pressure Canner 10.5-Quart, Silver
What We Love: No rubber gasket to replace; easy-to-use wing nut clamping system; heavy material; will last a lifetime
What We Don’t Love: Expensive (so not great if you won't use it frequently)
Often considered the gold standard of pressure canners because of its heavy-duty construction, this pressure canner holds seven regular pint jars, five wide-mouth pint jars, or four quart-sized jars.
It has a stay-cool bakelite handle and a unique metal-to-metal sealing system, unlike other pressure canners, which use rubber gaskets that can bunch up and need to be replaced in time.
The wing nut clamps keep the lid securely in place. It also comes in larger sizes, including 15, 21, and 25 quarts. This canner is made in the USA and consistently receives excellent reviews for its ease of use, durability, and craftsmanship.
Material: Cast aluminum | Dimensions (LxWxH): 13 x 13 x 11.8 inches | Capacity: 10.5 quarts | Cooktop: Electric, gas | Dishwasher-safe: No
Best Set for Beginners: Norpro Home Canning Set
What We Love: Contains convenient accessories to make canning more efficient
What We Don’t Love: The rack may be too small for larger stock pots
This seven-piece set of tools includes everything you need to process jars. A jar lifter helps you firmly grip the jars when loading and unloading the canner. Two stainless-steel funnels (one wide mouth, one narrow) make it easier to load jars without slopping food on the rims, which interferes with a clean seal.
A magnetic wand lifter makes it a cinch to handle lids, and a rack holds lids upright so you can retrieve them from the pot after sterilizing them. A 12-inch diameter rack is also included so you can adapt “regular” stockpots into canners without needing to buy an additional piece of equipment.
Material: Stainless steel and plastic | Dimensions (LxWxH): 10 x 8 x 24 inches | Pieces Included: Two stainless-steel funnels, magnetic lid wand, jar lifter, cheese cloth | Dishwasher-safe: Only funnels and canning rack
Related: The Best Pressure Cookers
Best Pickling Salt: Morton Canning and Pickling Salt
What We Love: Inexpensive, quality results
What We Don’t Love: A little goes a long way (should be transferred into lidded container for long-term storage)
While you can use regular table salt in canning recipes, pickling salt has finer grains and no additives, so it results in a clear, not cloudy, finished brine.
This is important when preserving foods such as pickles for a more pleasing appearance. This salt is an old standard, and it’s the most popular and economical choice for canning enthusiasts.
Quantity: 4 pounds
Best Canning Jars: Ball Wide-Mouth Pint 16-Ounce Glass Mason Jar With Lids and Bands, 12-Count
What We Love: Affordable, durable, versatile
What We Don’t Love: Some limited availability
The jars come in both wide-mouth and regular-mouth sizes, and if you’ve canned something such as pickles, which you won’t eat at one sitting, you can replace the two-piece metal lids once opened with Ball plastic screw-on lids (purchased separately).
Material: Tempered glass | Capacity: 8 ounces, 16 ounces, and 32 ounces (regular) or 16 ounces, 24 ounces, and 32 ounces (wide mouth)
Related: The Best Sous Vide Cookers
Best Jar Storage: Roots & Harvest Canning SafeCrate for Pint and Quart Jars
What We Love: Stackable; prevents jars from clanking together and breaking
What We Don’t Love: Expensive if you have a lot of jars to store
These handy plastic containers hold either a dozen pints or a dozen quarts of either finished or empty jars. Each jar will be separated from the others so they won’t clink together and break, and the translucent material allows you to locate the jar you need. They’re also stackable, so you can save space in your pantry.
Reviewers like how sturdy and well-made these containers are, and that they can even accommodate square ball jars.
Material: Plastic | Dimensions (LxWxH): 18.3 x 13.1 x 5.5 inches or 20 x 14.5 x 7.5 inches | Capacity: 12 pint- or quart-sized Mason jars
Related: The Best Instant Pots
What to Look for When Buying Canning Supplies
Decide what you’re most likely to can. Will you do mostly fruits, tomatoes, pickles, and jams? A water bath canner is sufficient. But if you plan to can low-acid foods such as all vegetables, meats, or fish, you’ll need a pressure canner, which heats to higher temperatures and kills dangerous bacteria.
Decide what size jars you plan to preserve. Pint jars are great for pickles and jams or canning for small families. Quart jars are ideal for sauces, big amounts of produce, and large families. Remember that jars must be covered by a few inches of water to process safely in a boiling water bath canner, so choose a pot that can accommodate your preferred jar size.
Essential Canning Tools
You’ll need canning jars, three-piece lids for sealing, jar lifter tongs, a canning pot, and a pot rack to keep jars off the bottom of the pot. Optional tools include a magnetic lid wand, a sterilizing rack, and funnels.
What do I need to get started with canning?
“You don’t need a lot of single-use equipment to start canning, especially for the boiling water method, which is the most popular technique for creating shelf-stable foods,” says Sherri Brooks Vinton, canning expert and author of “Put ‘Em Up: A Comprehensive Home Canning Guide for the Creative Cook.”
She says you'll need some specialized tools, such as jars designed for canning, special three-piece lids that create a seal when processed in boiling water, and canning tongs to place jars in and out of boiling water. “Don’t use regular tongs—I’ve tried and failed—and you don’t want a jar of boiling hot food to slip from your grasp,” she adds.
Other than that, you can improvise with what you have on hand, such as a large lidded stockpot that’s a few inches taller than the jars you plan to process. You’ll also need a canning rack or something to raise the jars off the bottom of the pot, such as a layer of jar lids. And don’t forget the kitchen towels because it’s a messy process, says Vinton.
What is the difference between water bath canning and pressure canning?
The boiling water bath method is exactly what you think: Jars of food are processed in a pot of boiling water. This method is used for foods that are naturally acidic, such as jams and pickles. But other foods that are not acidic, such as veggies (except tomatoes), poultry, meat, and fish need to be processed in a pressure canner. These pots have a domed lid with vent holes and a pressure-level gauge.
The reason you need a pressure canner for low-acid foods is because spores of the bacterium that causes botulism are heat-resistant. Boiling water baths only reach 212 degrees Fahrenheit (the temperature at which water boils), but pressure canners can attain 240 to 250 degrees, which is hot enough to kill these dangerous spores.
What is small-batch canning?
Small-batch canning is just as it sounds: “You’ll process small amounts of produce rather than diving into bushels every time you preserve,” says Vinton. “I think it’s really important to think of home food preservation simply as another cooking method, like sautéing or baking, which is part of your kitchen repertoire. It doesn’t have to be an all-day project!”
Can I use a canner on any kind of cooktop?
Not exactly. Some canners cannot be used on glass cooktops because they do not sit flat on the surface and the excessive heat can build up, causing the cooktop to crack. Also, canners made of aluminum will not work on induction cooktops, which require metallic pots for cooking.
Is it cheaper to buy jarred food instead of canning food?
Not necessarily. Yes, you’ll have the initial investment of jars and other accessories, such as jar lifters or a canning pot, but one-time-use lids only run a few dollars per dozen for future canning sessions. And canning jars last a long time; as long as the jar rim has no chips, you can keep using it! Plus, you often can find them at secondhand stores. Finally, canning prevents you from wasting food from your garden and grocery store or farmer’s market trips, especially if you process in small batches.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Arricca Elin SanSone has been putting up everything from jams to pickles since she first learned to can as a teenager in her mom’s and grandma’s kitchens. She still uses her Gram’s vintage canner and has amassed an (embarrassing) number of canners of every size to preserve her garden’s bounty.
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