While I love watching videos and reading blog posts about canning, books are one of the best ways to learn how to can. The reason for this is because it’s easy to look up canning information in a book at the exact time you need it. With that in mind, here are the two best canning books that I personally recommend.
The Best Canning Books
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I’m going to give a deep dive into my two most highly recommended canning books. But for those of you who just want to know the two books, here they are!
- The Ball Complete Book of Home Food Preserving
- The Complete Guide to Pressure Canning: Everything You Need to Know to Can Meats, Vegetables, Meals in a Jar, and More
If you’re only going to buy two canning books, then grab the ones listed above. However, if, like me, you like to collect cookbooks, I recommend adding the ones below to your collection as well.
Note: The book above is put out by the United States Department of Agriculture and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It isn’t anything fancy but has very solid information. So, if you’re going to buy just three canning books, be sure to add this one to the list.
Now that you have the complete list of the best canning books, for those of you who like details, read on for my specific thoughts on what I feel are the two best canning books.
Why These Are the Best Canning Books
Before I go into depth on what I consider to be the two best canning books, I want to briefly give you the reasons why they made the list.
First, each of the books provides a lot of solid information on how to can. This “basic” canning information is absolutely vital, especially if you are new to canning. Even experienced canners will likely learn some things from these books.
When it comes to the best canning books, if you are only going to buy one, I recommend The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. In my opinion, it’s the best canning book out there. However, it has a short coming. While it addresses pressure canning, it includes a very small number of pressure canning recipes.
That’s why I included The Complete Guide to Pressure Canning on my list of best canning books. This book fills in the gap of pressure canning recipes and information lacking in the Ball canning book.
Without further ado, let’s get into the nitty gritty details of what I consider to be the two best canning books.
The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is the first canning book I bought. While I have a lot of canning books that I love and recommend, if you only plan to buy one canning book, when it comes to the best canning books, this is the one to get. Because of that, when it comes to my coverage of the best canning books, I’ll go more in depth on this book.
The reason that I love this book is that it includes a ton of information on the basics of both water bath and pressure canning. For instance, it covers the following information:
Home Canning Equipment
This section of the book covers the basic things you need to start canning. The items listed include the following:
I’ve linked to each of those items above. If you want to buy just one canner to do everything, and you also want a more high-tech option, I recommend the Nesco Smart Canner. It’s what I use for both water bath and pressure canning. If you can’t get the Nesco, then pick up the Carey. Apart from the name and logo on the canner, they are the exact same thing. 🙂
The getting started section of the book includes the following five basic canning recipes:
- Strawberry Jam
- Mint Jelly
- Simple “House” Salsa
- Traditional Corn Relish
- Pick-A-Vegetable Dill Pickles
The basic idea here is that these recipes are great beginner canning recipes. Once you’ve canned them, you’ll feel more confident to can any of the other recipes in the book.
My only complaint with this selection of recipes is that they are all water bath recipes. I understand why they chose to focus on water bath recipes in this section because water bath canning is easier and the best way to start canning. If you feel at all nervous about canning, then it’s a great idea to can these recipes first.
The next section of The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is all about recipes! The recipes are broken down into the following categories:
- Soft Spreads
- Fabulous Fruits
- Salsa, Relish and Chutney
- Perfect Pickles
- Pressure Canning Low-Acid Foods
There are several things that I love about the recipes in this book.
Tested Canning Recipes
The first thing I love about The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is that the recipes are all tested. Especially if you’re relatively new to canning, you may not feel confident in evaluating the safety of various canning recipes. You can can each of these recipes with confidence, knowing that they are safe.
Easy to Follow Recipes
In addition to being tested, the recipes in this book are easy to follow. They first include how much yield you get from the recipe. For example, you may see that the recipe will fill five pint jars, or seven quarts, etc.
The next part of the recipe is the ingredient list. All ingredients are provided in both American measurements (e.g. cups, teaspoons) as well as the metric equivalents (e.g. kg, ml).
Next, there are step-by-step written instructions. Especially if you’re new to canning, I recommend taking your time and following the recipes one step at a time.
Not every recipe includes tips, but many of them do. I find the tips really helpful. Here’s an example of a tip, on the Orange Chili Marmalade recipe, found on page 96:
If your mixture has not reached the gel stage when first tested, return the pan to medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, for an additional 5 minutes. Repeat gel test and cooking as needed.The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, Page 96
Pressure Canning Low-Acid Food Recipes
If you look at the recipe list above, you’ll see that the final recipe section is on pressure canning low-acid foods. While water bath canning is great, and definitely the best place to start, pressure canning opens up a whole new world of what I call, “practical canning.”
What I mean by practical is that it’s food that really nourishes you, in a more sustainable way. Water bath recipes are great for making life good. Let’s face it, in both good and bad times, it’s nice to have some flavorful foods such as jams, salsas, and pickles. But you really can’t survive on those foods.
That’s where pressure canning comes in. Pressure canning enables you to can meat, beans, vegetables, soups, stews, chili, etc. In other words, the “meat and potatoes” of a diet.
To add the best variety to your prepper pantry, it’s best to do both water bath AND pressure canning.
So, I’m glad that The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving includes a section on pressure canning. Having said that, when you look at the number of pages devoted to water bath canning (332 pages) vs. pressure canning (29 pages), the emphasis is clearly on water bath canning.
Because of that, the next book on my list completely focuses on pressure canning. But before I get to that, let me cover the rest of what’s included in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
The Art and Science of Home Food Preservation
This section is probably either the most or least interesting part of the book, depending on your own personality and areas of strength. If you like getting into the nitty gritty scientific details of any topic, including canning, then you’ll love this section of the book.
This section of the book covers the following subtopics:
- Acidity Determines the Heat Processing Method
- Spoilage Microorganisms
- Ensuring Quality Foods
- Boiling-Water Heat Processing Step-by-Step
- Identifying and Disposing of Spoiled Foods
In this section you can expect a definition of terms. For instance, when the book talks about hermetically sealing food in jars, it explains,
“Hermetic” means “completely airtight”; therefore, when a jar has a hermetic seal, no air can get in to recontaminate the food.”The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, page 409
Important: Even if your eyes tend to glaze over when it comes to scientific information, if you read only part of this section, be sure to read the section that covers boiling water heat processing step-by-step. When I first started canning, I referred to this section every single time that I water bath canned something!
How Altitude Impacts Canning
This next section of the book is important, especially if you live in a place where the elevation is higher than 1,000 feet. Canning recipes are typically based on those living in elevations of 1,000 feet or less. If you happen to live in an elevation greater than 1,000 feet, you have to increase either the amount of time you can something when water bath canning, or increase the amount of pressure you use when pressure canning.
This section of the book is one of the reasons I count this book as one of the best canning books because it’s so important. Now the good news is, I also provide a condensed version of this information on my article, How Altitude Impacts Canning | How to Adapt Canning Recipes Based on Altitude.
Final Sections in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
The final sections in this book cover the following canning information:
- Home Canning Problem Solver
- Produce Purchase Guide
The Home Canning Problem Solver covers common problems such as jars not sealing or becoming unsealed. Each problem is broken into the problem, the cause, and prevention/solution.
The Produce Purchase Guide section is super helpful because for each fruit or vegetable, it tells you how much you need to purchase for a certain amount of ounces or pound. For instance, it tells you that approximately 20 jalapenos equal a pound. I love this because canning recipes often call for a certain number or weight of ingredients. This section helps you know how much produce to buy for each recipe.
The glossary is of course also helpful when you come across a canning term you may not be familiar with.
Why the Ball Complete Book of Home Food Preservation is the First of the Best Canning Books
After reading all of the above, you can no doubt see why I recommend The Ball Complete Book of Home Preservation as the first of the best canning books. If you buy only one canning book, this is definitely the one to buy!
As I mentioned a bit earlier, while The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is my number one pick when it comes to the best canning books, while it covers pressure canning, it focuses primarily on water bath canning.
Unfortunately, the same is true of many canning books, perhaps because water bath canning is so easy.
But if like me, you want to add “real food” to your prepper pantry, you definitely need to learn to pressure can.
Because of that, I was delighted to come across the book, The Complete Guide to Pressure Canning: Everything You Need to Know to Can Meats, Vegetables, Meals in a Jar, and More by Diane Devereaux (also known as “The Canning Diva).
As the name implies, this book is all about pressure canning. In fact, there isn’t a single water bath canning recipe in this book.
This book is divided into two parts:
Part 1: Canning 101
The Canning 101 section is broken into three chapters:
- Canning Fundamentals
- The Pressure Canner’s Kitchen
- Your First Batches
The Canning Fundamentals chapter covers the following:
- A Brief Canning History
- Why I Love Pressure Canning
- Canning 101
- What Can I Pressure Can
- What Shouldn’t I Pressure Can
- How Does Canning Affect Nutrients?
The Pressure Canner’s Kitchen
The Pressure Canner’s Kitchen chapter covers supplies, basic instructions, and safety.
Here are the specific sections in the chapter:
- Essential Tools and Equipment
- Helpful Non-Essentials
- Buying a Pressure Canner
- Why Do I Have to Let My Pressure Canner Sit After Processing?
This chapter is super helpful because it really goes into detail on the most important issues when it comes to purchasing a pressure canner.
For instance, under the “Buying a Pressure Canner” heading, it provides information on the various parts of a pressure canner, the types of pressure canners, determining which pressure canner to buy, including four questions to help you choose the perfect pressure canner.
Your First Batches
This chapter walks you step-by-step through the process of pressure canning two things: green beans, and chicken.
I think these two were chosen because they are two of the most common things to can. This is similar to the Getting Started section in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. The biggest difference is that the Ball book focuses exclusively on getting started canning five popular water bath recipes, and this book covers two popular pressure canning recipes.
What I love about this part of the chapter is that it goes into extreme detail on how to pressure can both chicken and green beans. If you follow the details on these two recipes, you’ll then be able to easily follow all of the other recipes that don’t go into as much detail.
This chapter concludes with The Top 10 Rules of Pressure Canning, which includes tips such as:
Always keep your vent pipe clean and free from debris.The Complete Guide to Pressure Canning, page 19
It then gives five tips for successful pressure canning, and a handy pressure canning problem solver table. This table includes the problem, the reason/cause, and the solution/prevention of the specific canning problem.
This chapter concludes with tips for storing your home-canned goods, and well as tips for buying produce in season.
Part 2: Recipes
The recipes in this book start on page 37. If you’re an experienced canner, you may be able to skip the first 37 pages of information, though it’s worth at least skimming. We all have new things to learn!
But let’s face it – we want canning recipes!
Canning Tomatoes and Vegetables
One thing that I love about this book is that the canning recipes go from basic to advanced. First, the recipes start with canning tomatoes and vegetables. There are a lot of standard tomato-based recipes you’d find elsewhere, but don’t let that put you off. In addition to standard tomato canning recipes such as how to can stewed tomatoes, there are also tomato-based canning recipes that I haven’t seen elsewhere such as bloody Mary mix.
Canning Beans and Legumes
Next is a chapter on canning beans and legumes. The recipes in this section go beyond the typical basic bean canning instructions. For instance, one of the recipes is canning pumpkin with white beans and bacon. Another is roasted tomatillo chickpeas. I’ve made this one myself, and it has a nice Indian-ish flavor to it.
Canning Stocks, Broths, Soups, and Stews
Next is a chapter on canning stocks, broth, soups, and stews. The recipes in this chapter range from basics such as how to can chicken stock, to interesting options such as canning chicken chow mein soup.
Canning Poultry, Meat, Wild Game, and Fish
Next is a chapter on canning poultry, meat, wild game and fish. This is a relatively short chapter, but has some interesting canning recipes. Two I want to try are BBQ pulled pork and beef tips and gravy. There aren’t any hunters in my family, but if you have friends or family members that hunt, you’ll be happy to see canning instructions for venison, rabbit and pheasant.
Meals in a Jar
For the most part, I’m an ingredient canning, which means that I can individual ingredients such as canned tomatoes, rather than meals, such as stew. Having said that, I do love the convenience of being able to pull a jar out of my pantry that’s a complete meal in a jar. We all have days when we either don’t feel like cooking, or are in a hurry. That’s when meals in a jar really come in handy, and that’s what this chapter is all about.
This section of the book includes 20 meal in a jar canning recipes. These recipes range from beef stroganoff to Asian chicken thighs, to chicken curry with vegetables. I love that these recipes are unique compared to the typical pressure canning recipes you find in most books.
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Here are some of my favorite canning tools
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you strive to stock your pantry with delicious home-canned food! Here are some tools that I use as a canner that I’m hoping you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I’ll earn a commission. Please know that these are the tools that I actually use and recommend and believe in 100%!
Nesco Smart Canner: You can see that many of the posts on my site show me using the Nesco canner. This is by far my favorite canner to use, and because of that, it’s the one that I recommend. Note that the Nesco and Carey Smart Canners are the exact same thing. So, if you go to Amazon and see that Nesco canners are out of stock, but the Carey is available (or cheaper!), then by all means buy a Carey. As long as you have either a Nesco or Carey, you can follow along with what I demonstrate on this blog.
Tattler Reusable Lids: I use both Tattler and Harvest Guard reusable canning lids. They are both American made, made by the same family. I prefer to buy my Tattler lids from Lehman’s, since they are a small, family-owned company. You can get Tattler lids from Lehman’s here, but if you prefer to buy from Amazon, you can get them here.
Metal Canning Lids: I have always been a fan of Ball canning lids. However, due to cheap knock offs on Amazon that claim to be Ball lids, I no longer purchase them from Amazon. You can get them from Lehman’s here. Another solid brand that Lehman’s sells is Superb. They are thicker and seem to have better quality gaskets. Here are the regular mouth lids and here are the wide mouth lids.
Norpo Canning Tools Boxed Set: I love this set of canning tools because it truly includes all the basics that you need, whether you’re water bath or pressure canning. Occasionally I’ve lost one of the items in the set and to replace it, had to buy it separately. It’s definitely more cost effective to buy the entire set.
The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: This is the first canning book that I purchased, and it’s still the one that I refer to most often. Especially when you’re first learning to can, it’s important to use trusted recipes and instructions that you know are safe. This book provides some great canning recipes to get you started, and also gives a lot of great “how to” canning information. When in doubt, look it up in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving!