8:05:00 PM
Ready Set Can!
This is a step by step post with pictures of how to do the basics of water bath canning.  Note: This is not the recipe to process tomatoes. Tomatoes need acidity for canning and these pint jars would need 1 T. of bottled lemon juice in each jar for them to be safely canned.

This post will show you the tools you will need, the preparation of the equipment and your canning area, and finally how to process a recipe using canning tomatoes as the example. Some of the pictures are graciously donated by Bob Wint and his wife Rose, as part of one of their big projects. Thank you Bob for your contribution. 

There are a few items you need to start canning. Each of them has a specific purpose and there are other tools that you can use that you may have in your drawers at home.

Jar Tongs/Lifter - Lifting Jars from hot water 
Magic Wand -Lifting Rings from hot water
Jar Funnel - Used on Jars to ladle food into opening
Bubble Remover – Remove air and bubbles from filled jars and the other side checks headspace
Ladle, Spatula & Thermometer – Ladle the food into jars, check temperatures for water, jams/preserves/jellies, and to stir your recipes.

Water Bath Canner -
 You will also need a canning pot. Water bath canners are widely available at stores, but you can use any big pot that has a lid, but it must be deep enough for the water to cover the tops of the canning jars by 1 to 2 inches inches. You will then want it to be about 2 to 4 inches taller since you are boiling the water and don’t want it boiling over and either putting out the flame or making a mess.  The pot or canner will need a wire or wooden rack to fit on the bottom.  The jars must sit off the bottom so the heat can penetrate properly. The rack also helps to keep the direct heat off the bottom of the jars to prevent cracking or breakage. A couple examples that people have in their homes may be a tamale pot or a pasta pot where there is an insert so that you can set the jars in the pot covered with water but not on the bottom. 

Now that you know your basic equipment we are ready to go step by step to process your jars so they will be shelf stable.  Getting the prep work done ahead of time and setting up your tools to make a "canning station" or area is important so that you have everything within reach.  Now that we're Ready...let's get Set!

Canning Prep 
Prepping your jars  is one of the most critical steps in doing canning because you want to have your jars be clean and sterile when you fill them with your food. You also want to make sure that your jars are as hot as possible when ladling in the recipe. Since your recipe or liquid will be hot and don't want to crack the jars if the they are cold.

You can clean and sterilize either by running them through the dishwasher that has a sterilization setting or sterilizing them in the water bath canner.  When sterilizing in the canner you will put the jars in the canner and cover the jars by 1-2 inches and put on the lid. You will turn up the heat on the stove and once at a boil will leave them at a boil for 10 minutes. Leave them in the canner or in the dishwasher with the lid on or the door shut till you are ready to fill them.

Prepping your lids  is important so that you can soften the rubber outer seal so they will adhere to the glass rim of the jar. Jar lids need to sit for 10 minutes  in hot, previously boiled water. 
You will either add the lids to your canning pot after the jars have finished
being sterilized or you can boil some water in a small pot on your stove, then turn it off and add your lids till you are ready to seal the jars. You can put the lids in the canner and when it's time you will use your magic wand to fish them out. It has a magnet on one end that will help you get them out without burning yourself. (picture to follow)

Prepping your canning area will help to keep you organized. Using a dishtowel or large towel find a location close to the stove and lay it out.
This will be your canning station. You should have your tools above next to the towel. We use a towel to first make sure that when we are filling the jars that the jars stay hot. If we place the jars directly on the counter the counter is cold and it will cool them too fast. We also use a towel to keep the jars from slipping on the slick 
counter when they are wet. The towel will also be the final resting place when the jars come out of the canner to cool overnight. 

Water Bath Processing
When you are ready to fill the jars you will set up your area. Remove the hot jars from the canner or dishwasher and set them on your towel. Using your jar lifter pour out any water in the jar.

Place your funnel on the jar and fill with the recipe. Fill up as close to the designated headspace in the recipe. Headspace is the distance from the top lip of the jar to where the food starts in the jar.

To check your headspace use the "staircase" side of your bubble remover. Shown below set the proper "stair" on the edge of the jar and measure so that the food touches the bottom of the blue flat area. 

Then using the other side remove the air bubbles by going around the inside of the jar between the glass and the food.

Recheck your headspace and refill to proper measurement if necessary.

Wipe the top rims of the jars with a clean wet paper towel. This will remove any food that might interfere with a good seal once the lid is put on.

Remove hot lids from the hot water
 with magic wand

Using your magic wand remove your hot lids from the water one at a time and place them carefully on the center of the jar. Repeat this process till all the jars have lids. Doing this one at a time will ensure you don't get two lids stuck together. 

Remember the lids are HOT!

Remember these have been in hot water and will be hot to the touch. Use the wand and your fingertip to release the lid from the magnet. 

Add your rings, which do not have to be hot, by turning them on the threads of the jars. You will only turn them till they are finger tip tight.  As you can see in the picture only tighten as much as you can with only your finger tips till you can't turn anymore or have resistance.

If you over tighten by using your whole hand the lid may bend during canning  while the air is trying to evacuate and the jar may not seal properly.

Goal: Water Bath canning is done so that you can heat the contents of the jars to 212 degrees (boiling water) and kill the bacteria and microorganisms inside the jar. At the same time drive out the air in the headspace allowing the jar lids to compress and seal. What you will be left with is a jar that is airtight and free of bacteria that can't grow inside the jar.

Now you will return your jars to the water bath using your jar lifter.  The water will be at a simmer but not boiling. Place the jars, without tilting them in the canner making sure that the rack is on the bottom. 

Add caption
You will want to make sure after all the jars are loaded that the water is 1 to 2 inches over the top of the tallest jar before you start heating the water again. If the water is not high enough add hot water to the canner. 

Put the lid on the canner or pot and crank up the heat.

When you see or hear the water is at a boil start your timer for the amount stated in the recipe. Continue to let the water boil rapidly while you are timing. When the time is up, turn off the heat, take off the lid, and leave the jars in the canner for an additional 5 minutes.

Using your jar lifter remove the jars and place them on a towel without tipping or tilting them. If there is water on the lid leave it there. It will evaporate or you can gently wipe it with the papertowel once the jars have sealed. 
 You will want to keep them out of a draft so they will cool gradually. Leave them undisturbed on that towel overnight so make sure this location is someplace that you don't need to move them.  Never turn your jars upside down!

During the next few minutes, several hours or overnight the jars will seal. You may hear a "pinging" noise that will indicate that lid has sealed to the jar. Your jars may also seal as you are taking them out of the canner. That is fine as well. The jars will seal as they cool so many jars may take time if the area around them is hot or the jars are clustered together.

Checking for the Seal the next day:
To make sure that the seal has been made put your finger on the lid in the center and gently push down and see if you have any resistance or the lid pushes back. If it's solid or the "button" (some lids) is depressed then the lid is sealed.  If you feel resistance or the button is up then you need to put that jar into the fridge to eat. Do not put an unsealed jar in your pantry. This jar is not shelf stable but the contents are still edible if you put it in the refrigerator to eat first.

Cleaning up the jars: Now that your jars have seal you will want to remove the ring and with a warm damp cloth clean up around the lid and threads of the jar. This will help deter ants in your pantry or other pests.  Once the jar rings are off, leave them off for storage. To read more about why we leave the rings off..see 
Storing your Canning jars - Do's and Don'ts
Jar is labeled and you can see that
the center button of the lid is depressed
so that it is perfectly sealed!

Labeling: Now that you have cleaned up the jars you will want to label your jars. Labeling is important since you will want to know what recipe is inside and the date that you canned it. Since the food in the jars will be at the optimal freshness for one year you will need to know when you canned it. With a Sharpie marker or sticker label write the recipe name and date of canning. 

Storing your jars: To store your jars choose a location that is dark, cool, and dry with the optimal temperature between 50 and 70 degrees.

Final notes: This process and method takes a few times to perfect. Each recipe will be different but the procedures of how you ready your jars and process them for water bath canning will be the same. Be extra careful since you are working with water that is 212 degrees and you can burn yourself if you are not paying attention.

Take pictures and/or keep a canning journal so that you can remember recipes that you liked the taste and flavor and how many jars you made so that the following year you can plan for more if the jars were so good they didn't last very long. Remember you can always snap a picture and post it on my Facebook page at SB Canning and I will share it with other canners who love and want your inspiration. 

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