Ahhh… canning. This traditional way of preserving food is one of my all-time favorite things. But did you know there are two main methods of canning? Keep reading to learn how to water bath can – the method commonly used for pickling, jams, and more!
To all my fancy friends with a yearning for yesteryear – I have good news.
We are on the cusp of canning season!
Which means it is a great time to learn how to can or brush up on your existing canning skills.
But before you get started, you must first choose your method – pressure canning or water bath canning.
To help you understand which method you’ll want to use, let’s first dive into the wonderful world of water bath canning, shall we?
I’m answering all your questions around how to waterbath can in this how to water bath can FAQ (Check out my pressure canning FAQ here!).
Simply scroll through or click on the question with the links below!
1. What is water bath canning?
Also known as hot water canning or boiling water bath, water bath canning is a method of fresh preserving foods using a large pot filled with boiling water.
Basically, you add your ingredients to a glass jar, secure your lid and ring, and place the jars into a pot of boiling water for a specified amount of time.
This process will seal your jars and allow you to keep your canned food shelf stable for up to a year!
But not all food can be preserved with this method.
2. So, what can be water bath canned?
Only foods with high acidity can be preserved with the water bath canning method.
Acidic foods, such as fruits, salsas, or pickles, can be water bath canned. These foods do not require the high temperatures produced in pressure canning in order to be safe and shelf-stable.
Many veggies are not acidic enough for a water bath. So, what vegetables can you water bath can?
Tomatoes (if you consider it a veggie) and any pickled vegetable (think peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, etc.). Pickling your veggies – usually involving a vinegar based brine – adds the acidity you need to make a water bath safe.
3. What is the difference: water bath canning vs pressure canning?
To water bath or pressure can? That is the question!
Water bath canning is one of the two main methods. Pressure canning is the other.
For foods not high in acidity, you’ll have to use a pressure canner to make them safe to be shelf stable.
I talk more about pressure canners and other canning tools in my Canning Tools and Supplies: Fresh Preserving 101 blog.
4. How to water bath can.
Depending on what you are canning, these directions may vary slightly. I recommend checking out the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning or the free resources at the National Center for Home Food Preservation for specific information on this process and more.
Here are the general steps for how to water bath can:
- Make sure your jars, lids, and rings are clean and dry.
- Place the jars in the oven at 250 degrees for 15 minutes to sterilize them.
- Place a metal rack in the bottom of a large pot (no need for a special canner here). Then, add water, filling it so your jars will be covered with 2-3 inches of water.
- Bring your water to a boil while you complete steps 4-6.
- Using a funnel, add your ingredients/recipe to your jar. Make sure you leave the required amount of headspace (the space between what is in the jar and the lid).
- Some recipes will also require you to use a debubbler or butter knife to get any unwanted bubbles out of your mixture.
- Gently wipe off the rim of the jar and secure the lid and ring.
- Use a jar lifter to grab your jars and place them in the boiling water.
- Put the lid on and bring the water to a rolling boil. Then let them boil for the amount of time specified in your recipe.
- When the time is up, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Allow the jars to sit in the uncovered pot of water for 5 minutes.
- Once ready, remove the jars from the water and let them sit on a towel. Make sure to double check all lids are sealed after they have cooled.
- Remove the rings, label, and store in a cool dark place.
And there you go! Now you can enjoy canned jams, pickles, and more!
5. What do I need for water bath canning?
To water bath can, you do not need a special canner.
You can simply use any large pot with a wire rack. That is part of what makes this method a great place to start if you are just getting into canning!
The other items you’ll want to have on hand include:
- Jar Grabber
- Lid Lifter
- Debubbler (or a butter knife you have on hand!)
If you want to get started right with a full water bath canning kit, I’d recommend this one by Granite Ware.
Of course, you’ll also need jars, lids, and rings! I talk about all my must-have canning tools and supplies here!
6. How much water is needed for hot water bath canning?
The amount of water depends on the size of jar you are using. (I talk about jar sizes here).
Simply cover your jars with water by about 2 to 3 inches.
7. How long do you boil canning jars?
Water bath canning times vary by recipe and size of jars. Normally, it is around the 10 minute mark.
One of my favorite resources for canning times and information is The Complete Guide to Home Canning put out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This book is an amazing resource, and you can count on it to give you the best instructions in order to keep your food safe for you and your family.
8. How can I learn to water bath can?
I am so glad you asked!
Canning came into my life during a time of a lot of anxious energy.
I needed to DO something.
So, I learned to can. It not only gave me something to occupy myself during those worried months, but it gave me incredible peace of mind around food security for my family.
Canning changed my life. And my pantry has kept on giving since then.
And that is why I created a course to help everyone learn to can and refine their canning skills!
Interested in learning this new skill? Check out my How to Can Food course!
When you join How To Can Food: The Beginner’s Home Canning Course, you will:
- Hit the books (and the country store shelves) to load up on reading material, resources, and, of course, so many jars.
- Discover all about the different kinds of canners – water bath or pressure canning, you’ll be ready to roll!
- Whip up some delicious, basic recipes that anyone can tackle. Can we say amazing jelly??
- Process fresh meats (yes! meat!) and make them shelf-stable and safe for years.
- Learn how to store your filled jars properly so you can enjoy your canning efforts for months to come.
And so much more! Click here to learn more about How to Can Food and register for the course today!
Happy canning, fancy friends!