Canning
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Thinking About Home Canning? Here’s Everything You Need to Get Started

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Canning
RonBailey/istockphoto

Preservation Station

Home canning is a great hobby that's fun and productive. It's a way of preserving food, so you use whatever is cheap and abundant and it helps you save money over time. But it does take investing in some of the right tools and equipment upfront, though the costs can be pretty minimal, and easily under $75. You may have some of the basic equipment already, but some, like a jar lifter, is specialized.

Before you get started, it's imperative that you educate yourself on canning safety. If you don't follow very specific (but simple) guidelines, botulinum bacteria, which causes botulism, a potentially deadly food poisoning, could grow in your canned goods. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a number of free guides from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is a great place to get started before you purchase any equipment on this list.

Note: Prices and availability are subject to change.

Covered Water Bath Canner
Blain Supply, Inc.

Pot

Price: $22 from Blain's Farm & Fleet
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In order to safely can high-acid products like jams and pickles, you need to boil them in a water bath canner, which is called processing. It's really just a huge pot, but this GraniteWare one is the gold standard because it's lightweight, inexpensive, and durable. At a 21.5-quart capacity, it's also sized just right to hold up to 7 quarts or 9 pints at once. Bonus: This pot comes with its own canning rack that's sized exactly right. Your grandma might have had this same pot.

Canner Jar Rack
Blain Supply, Inc.

Rack

Price: $7 from Blain's Farm & Fleet
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You can't just set the jars you're processing onto the bottom of the pot. The direct heat will make them burst, and you'll lose their entire contents, which is such a bummer. If you're using a pot that doesn't come with its own removable canning rack, you can purchase one separately. Just check the measurements to be sure it'll fit.

Pint Clear Regular Mouth Glass Canning Jars
Blain Supply, Inc.

Jars

Price: $9 from Blain's Farm & Fleet
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You must use purpose-made canning jars for your food to be safe. Reusing jars from commercially made products like Claussen pickles is not safe because they are not designed to be reused and do not have sealing lids. The two most common brands for canning jars are Ball and Kerr, and both are fine. The most common sizes are pint, quart, and half-pint, and they come in wide- and regular-mouth sizes. There are lots of variations in color, design, shape and size, but you only need some standard pints and quarts to start out with. (Jars can also be found on Amazon.)

Silver Regular Mouth Lids
Blain Supply, Inc.

Lids

Price: $2 from Blain's Farm & Fleet
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Canning jars are each made of three pieces: a glass jar, a flat metal lid, and a metal ring or band that holds the lid in place. When you buy jars new, they come with all three pieces. Once you empty a jar, you can reuse the glass jar and the ring, but not the lid because the seal is one-time use only. You can purchase the lids — make sure you double check whether you need wide- or regular-mouth — separately in packs of 12.

Silver Regular Mouth Lids & Bands
Blain Supply, Inc.

Bands

Price: $3 from Blain's Farm & Fleet
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The metal bands/rings are the part that actually screws onto the jar and keeps the lid in place while it seals. Once you open a jar, it also keeps the lid on tight in the fridge. They are reusable, but they eventually get rusty or dented, at which point it's time to throw them away because it can affect the seal of the jar. Most of the time they're sold by the dozen along with lids. If you do a lot of canning, this is one thing that will magically accumulate in your kitchen.

Ball Simple Jar Lifter
Walmart

Jar Lifter

Buy on Walmart  $3.34

Price: $3 from Walmart
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If you're using a canning rack in your pot that doesn't lift out, then you need a jar lifter. It will be the only way to put full jars in and take them out of your water bath canner. I've found that even with a removable rack, the lifter is extremely helpful to have around because sometimes jars will lean once they're in the pot, and this makes righting them simple.

Magnetic Lid Wand
Blain Supply, Inc.

Magnetic Lid Wand

Price: $2 from Blain's Farm & Fleet
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Jars and lids must be washed thoroughly before canning either in a heated dishwasher or with hot soapy water. You don't want to touch the underside of the lid that will be in contact with the food after it's clean, so a small magnet on a stick can be used to place the lids on the filled jars.

Canning Funnel
Williams-Sonoma Inc.

Canning Funnel

Price: $8 from Williams Sonoma
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A canning funnel has a wide mouth that fits just inside a regular-mouth jar opening. It's not essential, but extremely helpful if you plan on canning a lot of jam or jelly. The lip of the jar needs to stay clean in order for a good seal to form, and the funnel keeps the sticky drips (there will be lots of drips) off the lip. This particular funnel is great because it includes measurements for headspace, or the amount of space you leave between the food and the lid. That is an important thing to measure because it ensures a proper vacuum forms, and will vary by recipe.

Kitchen Timer
Walmart

Kitchen Timer

Buy on Walmart  $7.50

Price: Start at $5 from Walmart
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If you don't already have one, either standalone or on your smartphone, you're going to need a kitchen timer for canning. It doesn't have to be complicated, but it needs to be accurate, because your canned items need to process for a specific amount of time to ensure safety.

Canning Ladle
Blain Supply, Inc.

Ladle

Price: $5 from Blain's Farm & Fleet
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A ladle is essential if you're going to be canning jam. This one is great for canning for a number of reasons: It's got a long handle with a pot hook, large capacity scoop with dual pouring spouts, and it's made of heat-resistant nylon so the handle won't get hot like metal would in a pot of boiling jam.

Related: 16 Amazing Jam Recipes to Preserve Fresh Flavors Year-Round

Spatula
EricFerguson/istockphoto

Heatproof Spatula

Price: $9 from Oxo
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Most jams need to be stirred continuously once they come to a boil, and a heatproof, silicone spatula is the best tool for the job. This one has a nice long handle (spattering jam is hot on your hand!), a mostly flat bottom edge with a sharp corner for scraping the bottom of the pot, and no seams near the blade for easy cleaning.

Slotted Spoon
ra3rn/istockphoto

Slotted Spoon

Price: $9 from Ace Hardware
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If you plan to can any fruits like pears, you'll be hot packing them — that means heating the food in the liquid it'll be canned in and putting it into the jars hot. To do that you need a slotted serving spoon to transfer the food to the jar without the liquid at first. This nylon spoon is dishwasher safe and has relatively small holes for various sized foods.

Skewers
Amazon

Skewers

Buy on Target  $1.99

Price: $2 from Target
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Bubbles hiding in your canned goods are not your friend because all that air needs to escape to create a proper vacuum and prevent bacteria or mold from growing. In order to make sure there's no air pockets stuck under chunks of tomatoes or in pear halves, you use something long and thin to release them. A chopstick works, but I like using wooden skewers because they're thin and disturb the product less.

Kitchen Towels
Target

Kitchen Towels

Buy on Target  $3.99

Price: $4 from Target
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When your canned goods are done processing, they need to cool undisturbed for 24 hours. It's best to place them on simple kitchen towels because you want to set them down gently. Plus, the towel will absorb the water on the jars or pooled on the lid. Get white ones so you can bleach them if they get stained.

Heatproof Measuring Cup
Amazon

Heatproof Measuring Cup

Price: $6 from Pyrex
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Measuring precisely is important for canning because altering a recipe could alter the pH of the food, potentially making it unsafe. Pyrex makes a classic heatproof version that's easy to read and has a chunky handle for an easy grip. It's also great for pouring hot pickle brine into the jars once the food is packed. It's faster and easier than using a ladle for that job.

Colander
Amazon

Large Colander

Price: $12 from Amazon
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It might seem basic, but a couple huge plastic colanders are some of the most used items when I'm making pickles. I buy a lot of cucumbers, peppers, carrots, and other vegetables in bulk for pickling, and it's great to be able to dump them into one big colander to clean them in the sink. They're also great containers for holding your vegetables after you chop them. For an even cheaper option, check your local dollar store for colorful plastic colanders in a variety of sizes.

Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc.

Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving

Price: $14 from Bed, Bath & Beyond
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Canning needs to be done safely, or you could kill someone, literally. The Ball Blue Book is the gold standard for teaching beginners the basics step by step. It's in its 37th edition so you know it's got up-to-date information.

'The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving'
Walmart

'The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving'

Price: Starting at $11 from Amazon
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Once you get the basics of the canning process down, you might want some more interesting recipes. "The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving" has more modern recipes, and over 350 of them, for everything from jelly to salsa. It also includes recipes on how to use your canned goods, too.

Canning Tools Kit
Walmart

Canning Tools Kit

Buy on Walmart  $12.90

Price: $30 from Walmart
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If you'd rather not have to think about everything, you can just buy a canning kit. This one includes a jar lifter, funnel, digital timer, combined magnetic lid lifter and bubble remover, tongs and a jar wrench. You'll still need a pot and rack, but this is a fast, inexpensive way to start.

Pressure Canner
Walmart

Pressure Canner

Buy on Walmart  $79.95

Price: $89 from Walmart
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Once you have some water-bath canning experience, you may want to branch out into pressure canning. It's the only way you can safely can low-acid foods like non-pickled vegetables, meats, and broths. Pressure canners are not cheap though, so do your research to ensure you'll use it often.