When you are water bath canning, you want something on the bottom of the pot as insulation / padding for several reasons:
- To encourage proper water circulation;
- To get even heat so that the food in your jars doesn’t get scorched at the bottom of the jars;
- To stop excess heat going straight to the jar and cracking the glass;
- To stop the jars from banging about overly and into each other.
You can improvise a rack with twist ties and extra screw bands (Tip! choose first the old banged up and rusty ones.)
- It’s best to use screw bands for regular mouth-size (70 mm) jars, which will hold up all size jars. Though it really just depends on the size of the jars you want to hold up and the size of your pot and what width of screw bands you have access to — in Europe and New Zealand, you may only have access to the wide mouth 86 mm screw bands such as Leifheit and Perfit;
- Arrange them with all the tops facing up, so that the top rims provide more support structure for narrower jars;
- Tie the rings together a bit loosely, so that it’s easier to manoeuvre the ring structure into place and smooth it out;
- Just be sure that pot is still tall enough to cover the jars with 2 to 3 cm (1 inch) of water ( or 5 cm / 2 inches if the processing time will be longer than 20 minutes.)
Use canning tongs to place and retrieve the jars.
This contraption won’t last forever; it will eventually rust out, but it should get you through a bit until you figure out a more permanent arrangement.
Some people, however, say they prefer this arrangement to the canning racks that come with the old style speckled granite ware water bath canners. They say those racks are often challenging to use because:
- Jars seem to fall through the spaces provided: they only really securely hold quart / litre jars. Anything smaller tips over or falls through;
- The racks have flimsy handles that are supposed to rest on the pot edges and hold the rack safely above the boiling water while you load the jars in, but they often instead fall in with a big kerplop in the air of scalding water;
- When it doesn’t fall in on its own, the idea is that you are supposed to be able to use the handles to lower it gracefully down into the surging water but as soon as you lift one handle off the edge of the pot, the other comes loose and kerplop.
Other things typically suggested that you try as bottom insulation if they will fit into your pot:
- a cake rack;
- a pressure cooker insert;
- a metal trivet;
- a steaming rack;
- a folded dish towel.
Many report in frustration that a folded dish towel just flaps all over in the boiling water and it’s hard to get it to stay in place to put the jars on it.
You may wish to try a search on Amazon for more permanent ideas for canning racks.