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Home Canning Without a Canner

Updated on August 9, 2010
Lilac jelly, canned this spring with a homemade water bath canner.
Lilac jelly, canned this spring with a homemade water bath canner.

Save money, energy and storage space by making your own water bath canner.

Many people hesitate to learn how to can and preserve their own foods because they're afraid that the buying the right equipment for home canning is going to cost them an arm and a leg. When I first started canning pickles and jams, I managed to beg and borrow the equipment I needed, but now, I rarely use it. For me, it's much easier and economical to use items that I already have around the house.

Please note: The following does not apply to folks that are preserving meats and vegetables, because canning low-acid foods like those requires different and very necessary safety rules and equipment, priority number one being a pressure canner.

What You'll Need
If you're interested in water bath canning high-acid foods like pickles and fruits, all you'll need are the following supplies to get started:

Washcloth or towel
Deep saucepan or stock pot
Tongs
Rubber Bands

How to Make Your Own Water Bath Canner
There are three very good reasons that people use special canners to process and seal their jars. Water bath canners are deep enough to submerge jars at least an inch or two below the boiling water water, and come with racks that keep jars from touching the bottom or sides of the pot and also allow for easier lifting and lowering into the boiling water.

Here's how you can accomplish those three things yourself, without the canner:

  1. Make sure that you have a large enough saucepan or stock pot to be able to leave an inch of water over the tops of the jars.
  2. Put a washcloth or folded towel on the bottom of the pot to keep the glass jars from coming into direct contact with the metal.
  3. Cover the ends of tongs with rubber bands, and you have a homemade jar lifter for getting your jars in and out of your canner.

Benefits of Making Your Own Water Bath Canner
Rigging up your own water bath canner is an especially good option for canning newbies for several reasons.

  • If you've never tried to preserve anything, you don't know whether or not you'll enjoy the process or it's results and you don't want to plunk down $30-$50 to find out.
  • If you have a small kitchen or limited storage space, you probably don't need a water bath canner lying around - those suckers are huge.
  • Beginners to the world of canning are probably going to be preserving on a much smaller scale than veteran canners. Having a giant canner that does a ton of jars at once would be overkill.
  • If you only need to can a few jars, firing up a regular-sized canner is a waste of energy and water.

While there are tools that make processing jars of jam and pickles easier, such as jar lifters and lid tighteners (I like this toolkit from Ball for about $10), if you're canning on a small scale, you really don't need to immediately invest in a full-sized water bath canner. Use a little creativity and make your own - you'll save money, time, water and storage space.

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    • profile image

      Sandy 3 years ago

      I thought I had remembered that you could put a towel on the bottom of a stock pot to keep jars off the bottom, but over the years I forgot, but glad to see it on here..I'm going to try it Thank You

    • profile image

      Serena 5 years ago

      Thank you! Our local Fred Meyer was out of the official supplies (which I was shamefully over-eager to buy, this being my first canning experience--tart plum jam!), but I was reassured to find this info. Much thanks!

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Cygnet Brown 5 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      This is good info for someone who is just getting started and wants to begin developing their canning skills. I do believe however, canning is addictive and once you get started, it's worth it to go ahead and invest in the proper tools. If you want to expand, I suggest investing in a pressure canner and use it as a water bath canner as well.

    • profile image

      Jessica 5 years ago

      Thank you for this - confirming what I was thinking!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      I like your tip about putting rubber bands on the tongs to prevent metal on metal or glass. Good information here on home canning.

    • profile image

      Heather 6 years ago

      Thank-you for this information!

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