Are you wanting to can all of your fruits and vegetables, but don’t have a canner? Or do you just want to try out a new method for canning? In any case, this article can teach you an alternative way to can, rather than just using your basic canner.
Water Bath Canning is a method you can use to can fruits and vegetables without the use of a canner. While this is a method used to can, it is important to note that this method is intended for foods that are highly acidic. This can include things like jams, jellies, fruits, sauces, and more.
If you would like to learn more about what water bath canning is and how to do it even if you don’t have a canner, keep reading to find out!
What Supplies You Will Need
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Here are a few supplies you’ll need if you want to home can food.
First, you will need a boiling water bath canner or a large and deep saucepot that also has a lid and a rack that will fit in the bottom of the pan as well.
Next, you will need glass preserving jars, lids, and bands.
First, let’s talk about canning lids.
It is recommended to always use new lids when canning. There are a couple of exceptions to this. I write about that in my article, Can Canning Lids be Reused? | Tips for Reusing Canning Lids.
It also helps to start with quality lids. I used to always purchase Ball and Kerr lids from Amazon. Unfortunately, in recent months, there are a lot of knock off lids being sold under the Ball or Kerr name. Those lids are inferior quality, and I’ve lost many of my home canned items due to failed seals.
Because of that, I now purchase my lids from a smaller, family-owned site, Lehman’s. They sell both authentic Ball/Kerr lids as well as Superb brand lids. The Superb branded lids are newer to me but appear to be thicker and better quality than Ball/Kerr lids.
Now, let’s talk about canning jars.
When canning, it’s important to use jars that are made specifically for canning. This is true regardless of whether you use a water bath canner, pressure canner, or large pot.
I’m a big fan of Ball/Kerr branded jars. Since there are a lot of knock offs on Amazon, I now either go into my local Walmart to purchase them or if I want to buy them online, I order them from Lehmans.
You can reuse both the canning jars and bands many times, if they are not chipped or damaged in some other way.
Other Helpful Canning Supplies
You will also want to make sure you have a wooden spoon, a ladle, and a paring knife. These are common kitchen items. They are inexpensive if you don’t have them already.
When I first started canning, I purchased this set of canning tools on Amazon. Buying the set was not essentially, but it was cheaper to buy the set than to buy the individual items separately.
Pro Tip: For a deep dive on essential canning tools, check out my article, Essential Tools for Canning.
Buy Quality Fruit for Canning
The next supply is one that can make or break the quality of your preserves altogether. That is the quality of the product you are using. You want to make sure that you have fresh, ripe produce that doesn’t have too many bumps and bruises.
This will ensure that you will still have quality fruit when you open the jar later on. Making sure you have a jar lifter is another item on the supplies list.
Jar lifters make lifting the jars out of the hot water easier, rather than using tongs or another method that isn’t as effective.
After all your hard work making the preserves and prepping them for the jars, you want to make sure you get as much of the preserve in the jar as you can. And a canning funnel is just the thing to help with that.
However, it’s important not to overfill jars. Before you put the lid on the jar, use a headspace tool to make sure you have the proper amount of space between the top of the jar.
Pro tip: To better understand headspace, check out my article, What is Headspace in Canning?
Instructions for Water Bath Canning without a Canner
The first step to start the water bath canning process is to fill the pot half full with water. Then, place it on the stovetop until the water is simmering and has reached 180 degrees. Keep this temperature and the simmering going until the jars are filled and in the pot.
Check the Condition of Your Jars, Bands and Lids
The second step is to make sure all of the jars, bands, and lids are in good condition, without any cracks, chips, or dents in them. After collecting all the ones that are ready for use and getting rid of the ones that are damaged, wash all of the jars, lids, and bands in hot, soapy water and allow them to air dry completely.
Heat Water and Your Canning Jars
The third step is heating the jars in water that has reached 180 degrees. Prepping your jars like this helps them not break when you fill them with hot preserves. Do not do anything with the lids and bands. Keep them at room temperature so they are easier to handle.
Fills Your Canning Jars
The fourth step is to prepare and bottle the preserves you want to can. As stated earlier, the water bath canning method is meant for high acid foods. This includes fruits, fruit juices, jams, jellies, fruit spreads, salsas, tomatoes, pickles, relishes, chutneys, and other condiments.
Once you have your preserves made, remove the pre-heated jars from the pot. Use a funnel to fill them to get as much as you can inside the jar. But remember to use the headspace tool, to make sure there is sufficient space for the lid and band to seal properly.
Add Canning Lids and Bands to Your Jars
Next, add the canning lids and bands to your jars.
Pro tip: To better understand how to put bands on your jars, read the article, How Tight Should a Ring be When Canning.
Continue until you’ve filled all of the jars. Then place all the jars in the bottom of the pot. Make sure to cover the jars with at least one to two inches of water.
Process Your Jars in a Water Bath Canner or Large Pot
Put the pot’s lid on and bring the water to a boil. Then boil for the time called for in the recipe.
Pro Tip: Canning recipes are typically based on canning at altitudes of 1,000 feet or less. Read this article to understand how to adapt canning recipes based on your altitude: How Altitude Impacts Canning | How to Adapt Canning Recipes Based on Your Altitude
Remove Your Jars from the Pot, and Test the Seals
When the time is up, take the pot’s lid off and turn off the heat. Leave the jars in the pot to rest for about five minutes. Then take the jars out and set them upright on a towel and leave them to finish sealing for 12-24 hours.
When that 12-24 hours are up, test the seals by pressing in the center of the lid. If there is a popping sound they have not sealed. Another way you can test if the lids have sealed is to remove the bands. Then try and lift the seals from the jars.
If the jars are sealed properly, the lid will not separate from the lip of the jar. When sealed properly, the jars last up to 18 months in a cool, dry place. If they were not sealed properly, immediately put the jar in the fridge, and consume the product within a few days.
Best Water Bath Canning Recipes
Now that you know the supplies you need and the process to get started with water bath canning, you may wonder what recipes to use when water bath canning without a canner. Some suggestions for recipes to make for your first-time water bath canning are crushed tomatoes, strawberry jam, pickled green beans, or zucchini marmalade.
For a deep dive into water bath canning recipes, here are some books I recommend, all available on Amazon: