Home canning is far more a science than an art. There are some practices that must be followed, and others avoided, in order to achieve a quality, safe outcome that you are proud of showing to others and letting them sample.
This page is our attempt at starting a list of dos and don’ts in home canning. Can you think of any we’ve missed that should be added to either list? Let us know in the comments, please.
Home canned and preserved foods are a safe, healthy food option as long as you keep the most important things in mind. Always respect the process. Each step of the canning process is there to protect you and the quality of your food.” 1
- Use only tested recipes from a reputable sources
- Catch up on what’s new, if it’s been a while since you reviewed what you think you know
- Do process every jar that you are going to store on a shelf either by water bath, steam canning or pressure canning, as appropriate for the food product and indicated by your tested recipe.
- Do make sure you have enough time ahead before undertaking a canning session. It always takes longer than you think.
- Do remove the ring on each cooled jar and verify that you did in fact get a solid seal
- Do label and date each jar.
- Always use a pressure canner for low-acid foods
- Always vent the pressure canner for 10 minutes before adding weight
- Test your dial type pressure canner gauge annually, or convert it to a weighted gauge if possible
- Always acidify your tomatoes as directed by the USDA
- Always make altitude adjustments, either in time for boiling water bath or steam canning, or in pressure for pressure canning
- Discard any jar that you find on the shelf with an imperfect seal, or that has mould on the top, or that smells or looks funny. DO NOT EVEN TASTE.
- Don’t use any canning books issued prior to 2009, even if they were issued by a government or a trusted source at the time or were the ones your grandmother used. Just because an old or untested recipe has been used without evidence of botulism, there is no guarantee the next batch will not contain botulism.
- Don’t think that what was true 35 years ago is still valid now. Update your home canning knowledge. The understanding of the science behind canning has changed.
- Don’t take shortcuts.
- Don’t use any processing techniques other than either water bath canning (or steam canning) or pressure canning.
- Don’t eat any home preserve gifted to you if you can’t be sure by polite questioning if was (a) a tested recipe and (b) processed by water bath or steam canning or pressure canning. Discard the contents, and just return the jar with a smile. See: Home canned goods as gifts
- Don’t use a larger jar than the recipe has a processing time for.
- Don’t re-use metal lids for canning purposes. It’s fine to use them for dried storage, short-term refrigerator storage, for freezing or for crafts, etc.
- Don’t move or cover jars while they are cooling, and don’t set cooling jars in front of a fan or air conditioner
- Don’t hurry the cool down process of the pressure canner
- Don’t add extra onions, chilies, bell pepper, celery etc to what the tested recipe calls for
- Don’t put your jars of canned goods away unwashed
- Don’t store your jars with the rings on
- Above all: don’t panic. If you are using a tested recipe, there is a huge margin of safety built-in, so you can can with confidence.
Anderson, Katelyn. Montana State University Extension Agent. ‘Plan to Can’ class will help you preserve your garden’s bounty. Ravalli Republic, Montana. 2 April 2015.
Helper, Shelley. Make it: Home canned. Undated blog posting.
Moskin, Julia. Some Canning Dos and Don’ts. New York Times. 26 May 2009.
Wagner, Fiona. Enjoy the fruits of your labour through canning. Bankrate.com. September 2008.
Plemmons, Skip (2014-09-14). Next Generation Home Canning: Contemporary and Fun Recipes for Beginners . . Kindle Edition. ↩