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Tips for Preserving Food and Canning

Updated on April 25, 2020
Cynthia Hoover profile image

Cynthia is a gardening enthusiast. She has a green thumb and always plants a variety of items for harvesting during gardening season.

Not everyone had a grandmother canning and preserving foods growing up. Learning to preserve foods you harvest or even stock up on at the store is easy. Anyone can learn how to store food with these tips on canning and perserving methods.

Canning is the most effective ways to preserve food harvests from our farm. Canning and preserving food is not a new trend. Canning dates back to the 1800s and many other forms of food preservation date back even earlier than that.

If you are a beginner, you'll find those of us who love canning are happy to share our knowledge and skills. Many with knowledge that has been passed down for generations in our families. There may even be some canning groups you can find locally for hands on experience.

Yes you can preserve food purchased at the store, it is much more cost effective to establish a garden and grow your own fresh food. Especially if you have a small budget to work with.

Do you preserve foods from your garden?

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Why You Should be Canning

The simplest step to be prepared for any hardship or emergency is preserving food. The two most common ways being canning and dehydration of food. Just about every food you can grow or buy is a candidate.

Canning food is done easily with a hot water bath method or a pressure cooker. Occasionally I use the pressure cooking method for foods such as meats, as I want to ensure they reach the needed temperatures.

But for my fruits and veggies I prefer to use the hot water bath method. I find the hot water bath method is easiest. Over using a pressure cooker because I have a small child running around.

Benefits of Preserving Food

  • Saving Money
  • No Chemical preservatives
  • Having food stored for Emergencies

By canning and storing my own food at harvest time, I don't need to pay for expensive foods out of season. Whenever possible, I like my family to eat fresh, organic produce from our own garden. Canning food today can help you through a hardship later.

Creating a well stocked food pantry is essential to survival preparedness.
Creating a well stocked food pantry is essential to survival preparedness.

Having Food Covered During Hardships or Emergencies

During the 1000 year flood here in West Virginia, my electric was out for a week. Since we use well water, it limited what we could prepare. We had no easy source of fresh water. We even had to boil rain water to wash the dishes. Saving what little bottle water we had for drinking.

Luckily I had plenty of canned foods. Many of those were edible and complete meals straight out of the jar! My favorite is a spicy mix of lil-smokie sausages, pepperoni, banana peppers and onions, with my own secret sauce.

Had I not been an avid food preserver, we would have been hungry. We lost power to our home, and within less than 48 hours (due to the extreme temperatures) all our refrigerator food and freezer items had spoiled.

Unable to get to the outside world due to the water hieght over our bridge. Even if the local stores had been stocked and powered, we couldn't reach them. So my family is living proof that canning your own foods is beneficial.

While you may think you are prepared for hardships or emergencies. If you are not canning foods and storing them for an emergency, you're not as prepared as you could be.

Preserve Fresh Fruits

Fresh fruit is wonderful. But to enjoy the taste out of season (and to prevent wasting any), you'll need to preserve some of your fresh fruits at harvest time.
Fresh fruit is wonderful. But to enjoy the taste out of season (and to prevent wasting any), you'll need to preserve some of your fresh fruits at harvest time.

What You Need To Start Canning

Canning your own food is simple. Even if you are a beginner you should not stress over your first attempt. First you will need certain supplies to get you started.

Canning Supplies List

  • Large Pot
  • Jars
  • Jar Lids (Rings And flats)
  • Jar Tongs
  • Funnel
  • Small Spatula
  • Fruits And Vegetables
  • Canning Recipes
  • Kitchen timer

Simple as that. You can purchase a hot water bath pot, specifically designed for preserving food or use a large stock pot you have. You can even use a smaller pot for smaller batches of food. So long as you have about 3 inches of water above the top of your jars. You may very well have some of those items already in your kitchen.

For safety reasons I do highly recommend the tongs, as they allow you to remove the jars without getting burnt. In case you have a jar start spewing out of the top that did not seal properly. The tongs will keep your skin away from the potential burn hazard.

You will need jars to preserve food with this method. Jars can be purchased with the lids in flats of 12 or 24. Jars are a small investment but the jars are reusable, as are the rings. After you start preserving food, you will only need to reinvest in the flats to ensure that your jars seal.

Not having a funnel is a pain. Having canned for many years before I purchased mine, I can tell you it is worth its weight in gold! It saves so many messes. It also keeps me from getting burnt when I fill jars with food. Making and canning jelly is a dangerous task, and a funnel is most definitely a safety tool.

A small spatula designed for food canning purposes is ideal. This spatula is a needed tool to help rid your jars of air pockets and bubbles before the hot water bath. Removing air pockets is essential for proper preservation.

I use a Enamel Water Bath Canner, the same one has been serving me well for over 10 years. They are well worth the cost as they do last a long time even with regular use.

Sterilizing Is Essential

Without proper sterilization you risk contamination in your food. Sterilize even brand new jars. Sterilization needs done every time before filling jars with food. Sterilizing jars is straightforward and simple. Set aside around 20 minutes prep time for sterilizing.

How to Sterilize Canning Jars


  • Wash jars in hot soapy water.
  • Thoroughly rinse in scalding water.
  • Put jars in a water-bath canner or on a rack set in a deep pot and cover with hot water.
  • Place a lid on the pot and allow to boil.
  • Boil for a full 15 minutes from when steam first emerges from the pot.
  • Before filling your jars, invert them on a clean towel to dry.

Sterilizing is perhaps the most important step. Sterilizing jars before you put food in them will ensure that your food is not contaminated during the process. If you have sterilized but aren't ready to fill jars. Leave them inverted where you left them to dry.

Choosing Canning Jars

The brand and type of jars you choose will be personal preference. I have a family of 4 so I regularly use Ball Mason Wide Mouth Quart Jars. They are quality jars, I never have issues and rarely need to replace them.

Over the last 10 years I have only had to replace a few, and each was because I dropped it. It helps for storing, and for making meals with canned foods. Wide mouth are also easier to fill and I spend less time canning using larger jars than I would small options.

Jars For Canning

By the end of every winter, I'm planning to buy even more jars before the next harvest season. My family would happily eat our home-grown produce every day of the year!
By the end of every winter, I'm planning to buy even more jars before the next harvest season. My family would happily eat our home-grown produce every day of the year!

Do Not Skip The Salt

Canning is the easiest ways I preserve food. Having a good recipe is key. I have a large canning book with detailed recipes. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has over 400 easy to follow recipes. This book has been serving me well for 10 years. Paying attention to the details of a recipe is important for canning success.

Finding a good book of recipes is highly recommended. Canning recipes are not something a novice should take lightly. If you fail follow the instructions completely your first canning experience could be a disaster.

A good canning recipe should include instructions from start to finish. From cleaning and preparing the food, to other needed ingredients and how to process the jars. Even things you consider non-essential in everyday cooking, make a difference when preserving food.

For instance, you may think adding the full quantity of salt in a canning recipe may be too much. Trust me, sometimes it seems like there's too much salt in canning food recipes. But never skimp, because salt also acts as a preservative. Skipping some of the salt may very well have your food fail in the canning process. Particularly when you store it.

As you grow more accustomed to basic canning recipes you will get an idea of which ingredients are there for food preservation. If you are just beginning to can foods, I suggest starting with some very easy recipes. Cold pack green beans. Or even a jelly (jam) recipe is a great starting point for beginners.

I have been canning foods since I was a little girl on a stool helping my grandmother. While I have many recipes memorized, I still consult my canning book. Following a written recipe is a great help when there's distractions in the kitchen. Making mistakes can result in wasted food.

Some canning recipes are much more complex than others. But sometimes, even when I'm working on a relatively simple project, I like the reassurance of having the recipe laid out before me.

Stocking a Pantry

Is your food pantry stocked to carry you through a hardship or unexpected emergency? If you found yourself without a job today do you have enough food to cover you? If you answered no, then you should look at canning and preserving foods.

Before you begin purchasing food at the store to carry you and your loved ones through unexpected emergencies. Consider canning and preserving foods at home.

Yes you can buy metal cans of food in the store cheaply, but eventually those cans will rust and swell. Making the food unfit to eat. Effectively canning your own food in jars should last much longer than the same food in a metal can.

Even if you are using coupons, price matching and a savvy shopper, you are doing yourself a disservice stockpiling metal cans of food.

Buying bulk products fresh from a local farmers' market can be much cheaper than buying canned foods at the store. Many farmers offer co-op boxes of fresh produce you can get delivered monthly. It also gives you the freedom to create many recipes with the food you buy. (Cold packing, and hot water bathing give foods a better texture and taste than over-cooked steel cans of food in the store.)

If you decide to build up your food pantry to cover you during hardships or emergencies, remember you can still preserve food by canning even if the power is out. If you lack solar power, you can build a fire and use a hot water bath canning method to can food. Year in, year out, those of us with orchards and vegetable gardens can continue to harvest our fresh foods and preserve them by canning.

What is your canning level?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Cynthia Hoover

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