Tomatoes are a special case. They can be safely water bath canned only if they are acidified by adding bottled lemon juice.
These are general directions. Each recipe will be a bit different in how the food is prepared for processing. Links to canning recipes are at the bottom of this page.
Gather your canning supplies:
Remember when pressure or water bath canning, fresh high quality food makes better high quality product.
Fill your canner about one third full of water. Heat water until hot, not boiling.
Wash your jars and keep warm.
Jars can be washed by hand or in the dishwasher
If processing time is less than 10 minutes,you will need to sterilize your jars. Most recipes call for at least 10 minutes processing time.
Keep jars and seals hot until ready to be filled. For keeping jars hot, I have two options for you.
An easy way to keep seals warm is place the seals in a small pan of water. Bring to just below a boil and remove from heat.
Leave the seals in the water until ready for a jar. I usually move this pan to a potholder just to the side of my stove because often I need all the burners.
Remove air bubbles by running a non-metallic spatula around the inside of the jar. I like to use a plastic orange peeler for this step. It is small and easily slides down. A small rubber spatula will also work.
Wipe the rim of the jar clean with a damp tea towel or paper towel.
Place seals and rings on jars. Tighten finger tight. You really don’t have to crank down hard, snug is fine.
The rack should be built so that it rests on the sides of the canner keeping the jars above the water until you have it loaded and then can be lowered down. The picture shows the jars lowered into the canner
Lower the rack gently to the bottom. The jars must not sit directly on the bottom of the canner, or touching each other.
Water needs to flow freely around each jar. Add hot water if needed until the jars are covered by at least 2 inches.
You can also process jars in any pot deep enough to have jars fully covered in boiling water. You will need to put something under the jars to keep them off the bottom. A neighbor of mine uses a small piece of board. I've also heard of using a hand towel. Water bath canners are not too expensive so it may be worth it to just get one.
Cover and return to a full boil. NOW start your timing. Be sure to adjust for altitude.
Check occasionally to be sure that the canner is maintaining a full boil. You may also need to add boiling water to keep the water level up.
When your time is up, turn off the heat.
Carefully raise the rack and jars up. Waite a minute or two before you take your jars out of the canner
Using a jar lifter, carefully remove the jars and set upright on a wooden board or a thick towel to cool. Be sure they are in a draft free area and leave 1 to 2 inches of space in between so air can circulate.
I have butcher block in my kitchen so I simply set them there to cool.
Did you hear it?? This is my favorite part. As the jars cool, the seals (or flats) will pull down and seal. They make the coolest little pinging sound. For some odd reason I love that sound. It is so satisfying. It means all my work is working!
Resist temptation to press the lids at this point. If your kids are like mine keep them away too! Leave the jars alone until cool.
After jars have cooled, NOW you may press on the lid to check the seal. The seal should be sucked down and not pop up. If you find a jar that did not seal, simply put the jar in the fridge and plan on using the food within a few days.
Remove the screw cap and wash the jar. The outsides will often be sticky. It is a good idea (but not essential) to store without the screw cap.
Sometimes the caps will rust if you leave them on. If you have one that is stuck don't force it, you may break the seal. Just go ahead and store it with the screw cap in place.
Label the jar with the food type and date.
You may think that labeling the type of food isn't necessary if you can obviously see it is canned pears. However, what if you are canning applesauce using different types of apples for each batch? You will want to know which is which when you open them later. You can then decide which you like better for next time.
For example from experience, my family knows that Jona-gold apples are the our favorites for the BEST applesauce. (In our humble opinion)
Always record a date, at least the year. That way when you find a jar in the waaaay back of your cupboard, you will know how old it is. You think you will keep them straight, but it is so easy to forget and so easy to label them now. Trust me. Just do it.
Store your jars in a cool, dark, dry environment. Usually a pantry is fine. Don't store in a utility room where there are hot pipes or high humidity. Direct sunlight is a no-no as well.
Now stand back and admire the colorful gleaming jars of nutritious foods ready for your family.
Water bath canning is so easy!
What? You are tired?? Yes, but it is a satisfying tired is it not?