How to Make Your Own Preserves

Canning and pickling are back in a big way, and it's easier than you think! If you know how to boil water, you can stock away sweet, juicy, peak-season produce in a few simple steps.
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Canning and pickling are back in a big way, and it's easier than you think! If you know how to boil water, you can stock away sweet, juicy, peak-season produce in a few simple steps.

The Cool Kitchen Craft

Sealing fresh fruit and vegetables in mason jars is a perfect-for-summer food fad. Let's get started!

The Cool Kitchen Craft

What You'll Need: Canning Rack

Insert this rack into a large stockpot to keep water flowing around the jars.

Canning Rack

What You'll Need: Canning Tongs

Made for transporting hot, heavy jars in and out of the water bath, these tongs protect hands from the heat.

Canning Tongs

What You'll Need: Funnel

Buy a wide-mouth version to help chunky fillings slide into jars more easily.

Funnel

What You'll Need: Jars, Lids and Bands

Boilproof, they come in many sizes (8 oz. to 1 gal.) and have two-part tops. Remember: The flat lids are single use.

Jars, lids and bands

Step 1

Sterilize the mason jars. Getting jars squeaky clean will help ensure that food stays uncontaminated and can keep for long periods. Wash jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water.

Step 1

Step 2

Fill the rack-lined pot or water-bath canner two-thirds full with water; bring to a simmer. Place jars and lids on the rack and lower into the water to sterilize for at least 10 minutes; keep hot until ready to fill.

Step 2

Step 3

Remove jars using canning tongs.

Step 3

Step 4

Parcook the food. To store food long-term without preservatives, you often need to heat it through in a saucepan before it goes into jars to eliminate any bacteria from the raw ingredients. This is also the time to season or add flavorings like spices or sweeteners.

Step 4

Step 5

Fill the jars. Ladle in the cooked fruit or veggies using a wide-mouth funnel, leaving the headspace -- the room at the top of the jar, which allows food to expand and a vacuum to form -- called for in your recipe.

Step 5

Step 6

Use a ruler to be sure you have enough headspace.

Step 6

Step 7

Stir the contents of the jar with the handle of a clean wooden spoon to remove air bubbles. Wipe the rims with a towel, then top with the lids and screw on the bands.

Step 7

Step 8

Preserve 'em. Using the tongs, immediately return the filled jars to the pot. (Be sure they are covered by at least 2 inches of hot water.)

Step 8

Step 9

Cover the pot and bring to a rolling boil, then begin the processing time called for in your recipe. Turn off the heat; let sit for 5 minutes.

Step 9

Step 10

Transfer jars to a towel and listen: In minutes, the lids should "pop" from the suction. Let rest for at least 12 hours.

Step 10

Safety Checks

Stick to the Steps: Canning recipes are designed to keep food free of harmful bacteria, so do not substitute ingredients, omit steps, alter amounts or reuse tools without sterilization.

Test the Lids: Unscrew bands 12 to 24 hours after processing to test the seals: lift each jar by the edges of its lid; it should stay firmly adhered. (Replace the bands before storing.) If you spot a non-vacuumed jar, you can refrigerate and use within 1 week; otherwise, discard.

Be on Spoilage Alert: Mold or cloudiness is a sure sign that preserves have not been properly processed. Discard any suspicious jars.

Safety Checks

5 Fabulous Canning Recipes

Spicy, smoky or sweet, have your pick at five of our favorite home canning recipes.

Canning recipes

Get the recipes!