Complete Guide to Home Canning Guide 1 Principles of Home Canning

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Step by Step USDA, How to can with Picture’s Here

Canning foods years of supplies when needed
It makes me feel more peaceful and not so stressed because I know that we have food, and we won’t be hungry. We all have seen empty shelves in the last few years.
This goes for all we use, Put enough back to last a year. Use off your storage and
always replace the food you use. This keeps all fresh and good.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long mandated that all members maintain months of food and supplies — in part to help less-prepared neighbors. How will you feel knowing whatever happens you have food for your family to eat.

Foods and the Problems we run into.

Causes and Possible Solutions for Problems with Canning Foods


Loss of liquid from glass jars during processing. Do not open to replace liquid. (Not a sign of spoilage)
1. Lowering pressure in canner suddenly, after processing period.
1. Do not force pressure down by placing canner in a draft, opening the vent too soon, running cold water over the canner, etc. Allow pressure to drop to zero naturally; wait 10 minutes before opening after weight is removed from canner lid.

2. Fluctuating pressure during processing in pressure canner.
2. Maintain a constant temperature throughout processing time.

3. Failure to work out air bubbles from jars before processing.
3. Remove by running a plastic spatula or knife between food and jar before applying lids.

4. Imperfect seal.
4. Use new flat lids for each jar and make sure there are no flaws. Pretreat the lids per manufacturer’s directions. Use ring bands in good condition – no rust, no dents, no bends. Wipe sealing surface of jar clean after filling, before applying lid.

5. Ring bands not tight enough.
5. Apply fingertip-tight over flat lid, but do not overtighten.

6. Jars not covered with water in boiling water canner.
6. Jars should be covered with 1 to 2 inches of water throughout processing period.

7. Starchy foods absorbed liquid.
7. Make sure dried beans are completely rehydrated prior to canning. Use hot pack for other starchy foods. Otherwise, none

8. Food packed too tightly in jars cause boil over during processing.
8. Leave the appropriate headspace.


Imperfect seal (discard food unless the trouble was detected within a few hours)
1. Chips or cracks in jar sealing surface.
1. Examine carefully before applying lid by observing and carefully rubbing finger around the mouth of the jar.

2. Failure to properly prepare flat lids.
2. Follow manufacturer’s directions.

3. Particles left on mouth of jar.
3. A clean, damp cloth should be used before applying flat lids to remove any seeds, seasonings, etc.

4. Using bad ring bands.
4. Use ring bands in good condition – no rust, no dents, no bends.

5. Ring bands not applied to correct tightness.
5. Apply fingertip-tight over flat lid, but do not overtighten.

6. Inverting jars after processing or lifting jars by tops while hot.
6. Use jar lifter for removing jars from canner, placing below ring band. Leave jars in upright position.

7. Fat on jar rim.
7. Trim fat from meats. Add no extra fat. Wipe jar rim well.

Product dark at top of jar (not necessarily a sign of spoilage)
1. Air left in the jars permits oxidation.
1. Remove air bubbles before sealing jars. Use recommended headspace.

2. Insufficient amount of liquid or syrup to cover all food in jar.
2. Cover product completely with water or syrup.

3. Food not processed after filling jars and applying lids.
3. Process recommended length of time.


Color changes that are undesirable
1. Contact with minerals such as iron, zinc or copper in cooking utensils or water.
1. Avoid these conditions by using carefully selected cooking utensils. Use soft water.

2. Overprocessing.
2. Follow directions for processing times and operation of canners.

3. Immature or overmature product.
3. Select fruits and vegetables at optimum stage of maturity.

4. Exposure to light.
4. Store canned foods in a dark place.

5. May be a distinct spoilage.
5. Process by recommended method and for recommended time.

6. Natural and harmless substances in fruits and vegetables (pink or blue color in apples, cauliflower, peaches, or pears)
6. None.

Cloudy liquid (sometimes denotes spoilage)
1. Starch in vegetables.
1. Select products at desirable stage of maturity. Do not use overmature vegetables. If canning potatoes, use fresh boiling water to cover and not cooking liquid from preparing hot pack.

2. Minerals in water.
2. Use soft water.

3. Additives in salts.
3. Use pure refined salt (pickling or canning salt) without additives.

4. Spoilage.
4. Prepare food as directed with published canning process. Process by recommended method and for recommended time.

Sediment in jars (not necessarily a sign of spoilage)
1. Starch in vegetables.
1. Select products at desirable stage of maturity.

2. Minerals in water.
2. Use soft water.

3. Additives in salts.
3. Use pure refined salt (pickling or canning salt) without additives.

4. Yellow sediment in green vegetables or onions.
4. None (natural occurence).

5. White crystals in spinach.
5. None (natural occurence).

6. Spoilage.
6. Prepare food as directed with published canning process. Process by recommended method and for recommended time.


1. Poor selection of fruits and vegetables.
1. Select product of suitable variety and at proper stage of maturity. Can immediately after harvest if possible.

2. Incorrect processing temperature used.
2. Low acid vegetables and meats must be pressure canned for safety. Most fruits and pickles can be canned in boiling water. Process jams and jellies in a boiling water canner after filling jars.

3. Incorrect process time.
3. Follow our research-based recommendations for canning foods. Follow directions for operation of canners and timing of processes. Do not overfill jars.

4. Incorrect pressure.
4. Dial gauges should be checked every year for accuracy. Follow directions for operation of canners.

5. Imperfect seal on jar.
5. Check jars and lids for defects before using. Wipe jar rim before closing. Do not overfill jars.

Floating (especially some fruits)
1. Fruit is lighter than sugar syrups.
1. Use firm, ripe fruit. Heat before packing. Use a light to medium syrup instead of heavy syrup.

2. Air trapped in food pieces.
2. Use hot packs.

3. Improper packing.
3. Pack fruit as closely as possible without crushing it. Release trapped air bubbles and readjust liquid level before applying lids. Make sure liquid covers food pieces completely.

This document was adapted from “So Easy to Preserve”, 6th ed. 2014. Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress. Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.

Selecting Jars and Lids

Mason jars are recommended for home canning. Commercial single-use jars are less likely to seal and may break, especially in a pressure canner. Lids may not fit single-use jars. Canning jars come in a variety of sizes. Most recipes have been developed for pint and quart jars. If processing times are not specified for smaller jars, process them the same as the next larger size that is specified. Half-gallon jars are recommended only for canning apple and grape juices. If properly used, jars may be reused.

Recipes have been research tested using standard Mason jars. Many specialty shops sell novelty jars in different sizes and shapes. Unusual jar shapes may not work with process times and temperatures given in the “Let’s Preserve” fact sheets.

The recommended lid consists of a flat metal disk that has a sealing compound around the outer edge and a separate metal screw band. The lid should not be reused; the bands may be reused as long as they don’t rust. Never reuse lids from commercially canned foods for home food preservation. Zinc lids or bail-type jars with rubber rings are no longer recommended for home canning.

Hot Pack or Raw Pack

When foods are raw packed the jars are filled with freshly prepared, unheated food. Raw-packed foods will often float in the jars, and the air trapped in and around the food may cause discoloration within 2 to 3 months of storage. Hot packing involves heating freshly prepared food to boiling, simmering it briefly, and promptly filling the jars loosely with the boiled food and liquid. Hot packing helps remove air from inside the food tissues, shrinks the food, and helps keep the food from floating in the jars. Preshrinking that occurs in hot packing allows more food to fit into each jar.

General Canning Guidelines
  • Use tested recipes from Penn State Extension’s “Let’s Preserve” fact sheets, the USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning, or So Easy to Preserve (University of Georgia). All these contain research based recipes. All should be 1994 or more recent editions. Older recipes may not have adequate processing times or pressure for safety.
  • Use Mason jars because they withstand the higher temperatures of a pressure canner better than single-use jars.
  • Preheat jars in the dishwasher or simmering water prior to filling them. Do not heat jars in the oven.
  • Use proper head space: ¼ inch for juices, jams and jellies, and relishes; ½ inch for fruits, tomatoes, and pickles; 1 to 1½ inches for meats and vegetables. Refer to a tested recipe. Too much headspace results in a lower vacuum and a weak seal. Too little headspace may force food under the lid, causing siphoning or breaking of the seal.
  • Remove air bubbles with a plastic utensil.
  • Wipe edge of jar with a damp paper towel.
  • Use two-piece lids (a new flat disk and a screw band).
  • Only tighten lids finger-tip tight.
  • Use a jar lifter to place jars into canner and to remove jars. Be careful not to tilt jars.
  • Process according to the boiling water bath, atmospheric steam canning, or pressure canning procedures that follow.
  • Adjust process times or pressure for altitudes that are 1,001 feet or more above sea level.
  • After processing, set jars at least 2 inches apart to cool on a wooden cutting board or towel-lined surface.
  • Do not retighten bands.
  • Do not turn jars upside down.
Boiling Water Bath Procedures
  • Follow all the practices listed under “General Canning Guidelines” above.
  • Fill the canner about half full with water.
  • Preheat water to 140°F for raw-packed foods and to 180°F for hot-packed foods.
  • Place jars on a rack in canner.
  • Add more water if necessary to cover jars with at least 1 inch of water.
  • Place the lid on the canner and keep covered during processing.
  • Turn heat to its highest position until water boils vigorously; then lower heat setting to maintain a gentle boil while processing.
  • Add more hot water if necessary to cover jars with at least 1 inch of water.
  • If water stops boiling at any time during the process, return to a boil and start the process time over.
  • After processing for the designated time, turn heat off, set off burner, remove lid, and let jars rest in the canner for 5 minutes before removing from the canner–this will reduce siphoning (loss of liquid from the jar).
Atmospheric Steam Canning Procedures
  • Follow all the practices listed under “General Canning Guidelines” above.
  • Fill the base of the canner with the amount of water indicated in the instruction manual of the canner (usually 2 quarts).
  • Set rack in the base of the canner.
  • Heat water in the base of the canner to 140°F for raw-packed foods or 180°F for hot-packed foods.
  • Place jars on rack in canner.
  • When all the jars have been placed in the canner, place the cover or lid on the canner.
  • Bring to boil over medium to medium-high heat until a steady column of steam at least 6 inches long escapes from the vent hole(s).
  • Start processing time.
  • Slowly adjust the heat to maintain a steady column of steam.
  • After processing, turn off heat and remove the canner cover or lid.
  • Allow jars to sit in the canner for 5 minutes before removing from the canner; this will reduce siphoning (loss of liquid from the jar).
Pressure Canning Procedures
  • Follow all the practices listed under “General Canning Guidelines” above.
  • Put 2 to 3 inches of water in the bottom of the pressure canner.
  • Place filled jars on a rack at bottom of the canner
  • Heat to boiling to exhaust steam from the canner for 10 minutes before adding the weight or closing the petcock.
  • Add weight or pressure regulator.
  • Allow pressure to rise and maintain at level called for in the tested recipe by adjusting the heat. If pressure goes below recommended pressure at any time during processing, reset your timer to zero and restart the process time.
  • After processing, remove canner from heat and allow canner to cool naturally to 0 pounds pressure. Wait 2 minutes and remove weighted gauge or pressure regulator. Wait 10 more minutes before removing lid–this will reduce siphoning (loss of liquid from the jar).
Testing for a Vacuum Seal

Allow jars to cool 12 to 24 hours. Press the center of the lid to see if it is concave. If the center does not flex up and down and you cannot lift the lid off after the band has been removed, the lid has a good vacuum seal

Storing Canned Goods
  • Remove screw bands from jars and wash jars before storing. Properly sealed jars do not need the bands on to hold the lids in place. Screw bands can rust if left on the jars in storage, causing the seals to break.
  • Label with contents, date, and lot number if you canned several canner loads that day.
  • Store in a cool, dry place; 50 to 70°F is an ideal temperature for storing canned goods.
  • Store in a dark place. Place cooled jars in boxes if closed cupboards are not available.


Food Spoilage

When good-quality produce is used and correct canning procedures are followed, canned foods should be safe and of high quality. However, sometimes there are canning failures. A common reason for food spoilage is inadequate processing times or temperatures needed to destroy or control microorganisms. These microorganisms are molds, yeasts, and bacteria.

Molds and yeasts are easily destroyed by the heat used in processing. However, if the product is underprocessed or the lid seal is broken during storage, fuzzy masses of mold may grow inside the jar. Yeasts may react with sugars in the food, causing fermentation. You can recognize yeast activity by slime, scum, murkiness, or gas bubbles.

While some bacteria can be beneficial, as in making sauerkraut, others can be extremely dangerous, as in botulism poisoning as discussed earlier. Bacteria can multiply rapidly with millions growing on a gram of food in just a few hours. Bacteria are too small to see with the human eye. Food can be spoiled without any visual evidence. Therefore, use proper canning procedures. Never taste a food you suspect is spoiled. If in doubt, throw it out.

Enzymes are naturally occurring substances in foods that promote the normal ripening process. If they continue to work after the fruit or vegetable is harvested, they can cause undesirable changes in color, texture, flavor, and nutrition. Adding ascorbic acid or commercially available antibrowning products to the holding water reduces color changes when peeling light-colored fruits. Enzymes are quickly inactivated when heated to between 170 and 190°F. For this reason, heat process foods as soon as possible after preparing them for canning.

Preventing Spoilage

  • Use top-quality produce that is free of disease and mold.
  • Can immediately after harvest.
  • Wash produce thoroughly.
  • Discard overripe produce.
  • Use proper canning methods and equipment.
  • Use clean equipment and work surfaces.
  • Sterilize jars that will be processed less than 10 minutes.
  • Pressure can low-acid vegetables and meats.
  • Acidify tomatoes.
  • Follow a scientifically tested recipe and process for specified time.
  • Adjust time and pressure for higher altitudes.

Important Temperatures

Temperature needed in a pressure canner to destroy bacterial spores in low-acid foods

Boiling point of water and processing temperature for acid foods in boiling water bath and atmospheric steam canner

Temperature at which molds, yeasts, and some bacterial cells are destroyed

Temperature needed to inactivate enzymes

Temperature at which growth of bacteria, molds, and yeasts is slowed, but some microorganisms can survive

Active growing range of molds, yeasts, and bacteria

Best storage temperature for home-canned and home-dehydrated foods

Step by Step USDA, How to can with PIctures Here


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