If you’re interested in canning, then you’ll need to make sure you have the right tools. This blog post I’ll cover everything you need to get started, from the basics like a jar lifter and canning funnel to more specialized tools like a water bath canner or pressure canner.
So, whether you’re just starting out or are looking to add to your canning toolbelt, read on for the essential tools you need for canning success!
Safe Canning Recipes
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Home canning is a great way to preserve food, but it’s important to use safe canning recipes.
Follow safe canning recipes from a reliable source, such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation, to ensure that your canned foods are safe to eat.
Safe canning recipes take into account the acidity of the food being canned, as well as the type of canner you need to use. Canning recipes also specify how long to process the food to kill any harmful bacteria. By following safe canning recipes, you can be confident that your canned foods will be delicious and safe to eat.
In addition to consulting the National Center for Home Food Preservation, I also enjoy using canning books from reputable companies such as the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, available on Amazon.
There are three main types of canners that you can use: water bath canners, pressure canners, and steam canners. There are pros and cons of each type of canner, and each canner type is used to can specific types of food.
Water Bath Canners
Water bath canners are the most common type of canner. It’s a simple and effective way to preserve fruit, jams, and pickles.
The basic process involves boiling water in a canning pot and then using a canning rack to lower jars of food into the water. The jars are heated for a specified period of time, which kills any bacteria that could cause spoilage.
Once the jars have been processed, they are removed from the pot and allowed to cool. The sealing process creates a vacuum that prevents oxygen from entering the jar, which further prevents bacteria from growing.
Water bath canners are less expensive than pressure canners and are less complicated to use. However, water bath canners can only be used for foods that are high in acid.
If you want to canned low-acid foods, such as vegetables, meat, or soup, then you’ll need to use a pressure canner.
Pressure canners are the only type of canner that can be used for low-acid foods. Some examples of low acid foods that need to be pressure canned include:
Pressure canners are different from regular canners because they have a pressure regulator and gauge that enables them to maintain a consistent pressure inside the canner.
Pressure canners can reach and maintain pressures of 10 or 15 pounds per square inch (PSI). The proper amount of pressure depends on altitude. You can read more about how altitude impacts canning in this article: How Altitude Impacts Canning.
Pressure canners are more expensive than water bath canners, but they are a necessary tool if you want to be able to can a variety of foods.
Steam canning is suitable for processing the same things you can process in a water bath canner. Generally speaking, if you can water bath can something, you can steam can it! The primary restriction is that the maximum processing time for steam canning is 45 minutes. That shouldn’t be a problem, because most water bath recipes require 30 minutes or less processing time.
Be sure to purchase a canner that is made specifically for steam canning (rather than something meant for steaming food) such as this steam canner on Amazon.
Newer on the scene are electric canners. While some people are reluctant to embrace this new way of canning, it’s now my preferred canning method.
If you’re using a traditional stovetop canner, you have to keep an eye on the pressure and make sure it doesn’t get too high. Electric canners take care of all of that for you. All you have to do is load up the jars and set the timer.
Here are the electric canners typically available on Amazon:
Nesco and Carey both make electric canners that are specifically designed for canning. Both the Nesco and Carey are essentially the same canner, so get whichever one is available for the best price. The Instant Pot Max is an electric pressure cooker that also has a canning function. And Presto makes a digital pressure canner as well. Each of these canners are safe for both water bath and pressure canning.
There are also some electric canners that are made specifically for water bath canning or for canning jam and jelly. Two examples are the Ball Electric Water Bath Canner and the Ball Jam and Jelly Maker.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, an electric canner is a great way to take the hassle out of home canning.
If You Don’t Know Which Canner to Buy. . .
Pro Tip: If you are unsure about what type of canner to get started with, I recommend starting with a simple water bath canner that you can pick up inexpensively here on Amazon. Then grab a book on water canning, such as The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving available on Amazon. Once you’ve mastered water bath canning, invest in a pressure canner so you can take your canning to the next level.
Canning Jars, Lids, and Rings
Besides a canner, the most important things you need to start canning are canning jars, lids, and rings. These are made specifically for canning and are different from regular jars.
Canning jars are produced in two types: wide mouth and regular mouth. I prefer wide mouth because they are easier to fill and empty. Ball, Kerr, and Mason are all brands that make canning jars. You can find them online or in most stores during canning season. I generally buy mine on Amazon, or on Lehman’s. I’ve also picked them up from my local Walmart.
Be sure to avoid using jars that have cracks, chips, or nicks as these can cause the jars to break during processing.
Canning jars come in a variety of sizes from half-pints to quarts. I most often use pint and quart-sized jars because those are the sizes that my family tends to go through the quickest. But if you’re canning for one or two people, you may want to use half-pints or even jelly jars.
Canning lids are two-part lids that include a screw band and a flat lid. The screw band holds the flat lid in place during processing and helps to create an airtight seal.
Pro tip: Check out my article, How to Use Reusable Canning Lids.
A canning funnel isn’t absolutely essential for canning, but it sure make the job easier! A canning funnel helps you to fill your jars without making a mess. There are a wide variety of canning funnels available here on Amazon.
It’s important to remove the bubbles from your filled jars before putting the lid on. A debubbler is a simple tool that helps you to do just that. You can also use a chopstick, skewer, or even a plastic knife. To debubble the jars, simply insert the tool of your choice into the jar and push down to the bottom. Slowly move it around the perimeter of the jar to release the bubbles.
Here is the one that I use, that I got on Amazon. I like it because it also measures headspace.
Pro Tip: If you don’t know what headspace is, check out my article, What is Headspace in Canning?
Magnetic Lid Lifter
A magnetic lid lifter is use to pick up the canning lids out of boiling water. They have a magnet on one end that helps to grip the lid and a handle on the other end so you don’t burn your fingers.
A jar lifter is another tool that isn’t absolutely essential, but it makes canning a lot easier and safer. A jar lifter is a tool that helps you to lift hot jars in and out of the canner. They have a padded grip and a long handle so you don’t have to worry about getting burned. Check out this assortment of jar lifters on Amazon.
Pro Tip: If you don’t have a jar lifter, you can use a regular pair of tongs. Just be sure to get a good grip on the jar and be careful not to drop it. Honestly, I would only do this if I was in the middle of canning and didn’t have a jar lifter. Since jar lifters are reasonably priced, it’s best to just pick up one. You can also use silicone mitts such as these on Amazon. Just be careful not to get hot water on your arms or into the gloves when using them.
A timer is also helpful for canning, since it’s important to process canned food for the time specified in the recipe. You don’t want to lose track of time or process your food for too long. You can use a simple timer like these on Amazon, or use the timer on your phone or microwave. I like having a dedicated timer because sometimes if I use something like the timer on the microwave, other family members may inadvertently stop the timer.
Canning Tool Set
Sometimes it makes sense to buy a set of canning tools, such as these on Amazon rather than buying each tool individually.
Although safe canning may seem daunting at first, it is a skill that can be easily learned with the right tools and recipes. With the proper equipment and knowledge, you can rest assured that your canned goods will be safe to eat for years to come.
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