Canning: Where to Start

If cooking is an art, then preservation is an an extension of that art. It tastes great, but will it last? Can you cook something to perfection now and enjoy it to the same extent in one year?

Two basic fears go alone with canning:

1. You will die due to botulism.

2. The pressure canner will blow up and that will be your demise.

The resolutions here are this. Follow the directions, pay attention, and don’t waste your money on a crappy canner. Read reviews. Do your research. I am a bubble head and no one has died yet.

It’s easier than you think.

Let’s begin.


a good book about canning (see bottom)

canning jars



stock pot ( for most fruits, sauerkraut and tomatoes)

pressure canner ( for low-acid foods like veggies and meats)

Note: With out the lid, a pressure canner is a stock pot.

Nice, but not essential:


Jar wrench

Jar lifter (like giant tongs shaped esp. for cans)

tomato sieve

So the jars can be found at the supermarket, Walmart, Target, Kmart, online, etc. If you have eyes like a hawk, watch for them on places like Freecycle or the freebie pages of Craig’s list

Same for the pressure canner, although more thought should go into this investment.

Pressure Canner Considerations:

Seal or no seal:

Personally, I prefer the no seal. seals wear out. I don’t want to discover the seal finally died, while my garden harvest rots, waiting for the new seal.


If you are familiar with pressure cooking, you will probably be fine without the gauge, watch the weight rock. If you are unsure, a novice or like the security of being able to read a gauge get a canner with one.


Small : 15- 16 quart canner – will generally hold 10 pint jars or 7 quart jars.

Pros: lightest available, good if your out of shape or have a bad back or canning for two. Take note: A pressure cooker is a very small canner. It might not fit quarts jars, but the little jars should fit.

Cons: small means less canning at once. When you see the unbeatable price for a bushel of peaches at the farmer’s market, it will take you a while to produce all your little Xmas gifts of Spiced Peach Jam.

Medium: 21-23 quart canner – will process about 19 pint jars or 7 quarts.

Pros: You can still lift it. It will process about twice as many pint jars, due to extra headroom

Cons: Getting heavier… You can still only process 7 quart jars at a time

Large: 30 qt. – will process 19 pint jars or 14 quart jars

Pros: you’ll be done soon

Cons: the price is really climbing now as is the weight. Think about it. Full– the filled jars alone will be like lifting 3 and a half gallons of milk. Oh and don’t forget the water in which they are boiling and the canner itself.

Giant: 41.5 quarts- are you insane?

Call in the Marines cause you are not going anywhere with this one filled by yourself. I inherited one. It barely fits in the bathtub. Yes, that is the only place I can fill it. Unless you like running pots back and forth forever. Also, your gonna have to wait for this beast to cool on the stove.

The beast does, however, hold 32 pint jars or 19 quarts.

Canning alone? I wouldn’t go bigger than the medium unless you’re very strong or like a lot of running around and waiting.

Canning with a partner? I still wouldn’t go bigger than the large. Unless you are wealthy and very strong.

Recommended Canning Books:

Ball Complete Guide to Canning by Kingry and Devine — popular, but not one of my favorite

Preserving Summer’s Bounty — focus on stuff you grow

Putting Food By — considerate of the small batch cook

Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving by The US Dept. of Agriculture — That’s right from your government. Wow! The basic textbook. Afraid to can? This will keep you from blowing things up or poisoning anyone. How, why and basic recipes. Click here to read the information online for free

Preserving (1981) Time-Life Books — My favorite is out of print so you may have to dig. Fantastic step-by-step pictures. Interesting recipes. I guard it with a carving fork and a 10″ Wüsthoff.

Holy Toledo! Thanks for reading all that. I need a nap, before I check how the maple sap is flowing. But that is another advenutre.

Maybe, I’ll go daydream at Well Preserved and drool at their pictures.

What would you like to try?

What will your first adventure be?


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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Very rapidly this site will be famous amid all blogging visitors,
    due to it’s fastidious posts

  2. I am not familiar with spelt. Please share your experiences with it.
    This spring will be our first journey into grains. We will be growing some Ingot Hard Spring wheat and some hulless oats. Should be interesting. I’m sure by this time next year I will have oat recipes coming out of my ears.

  3. Have you ever used spelt flour? I think I might try this with spelt…I try use it when I bake because it seems to agree with us better.
    I have been thinking about making some spelt bread…and your tips will help. :0)

  4. I am so thankful that my wife cans! We grow a small garden and fit as much as we can on it always promising ourselves it will be bigger next year. We can almost everything we grow. A big one is tomatoes. Then in the winter, Lord willing, I harvest a deer or two, or three. We freeze some and can some. This last year was the first time we canned deer. It is SOOOOO good! Nothing like fresh veggies from the garden and some venison in the middle of the winter! =)

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