Basics You Need to Know for Home Canning

​Prepare now for food preservation by securing needed supplies. UT Extension specialist says proper equipment is a step you can't afford to skip. Image courtesy UTIA.


Now is the time to start planning and preparing if you want to preserve food this summer. University of Tennessee Extension professor and nutrition specialist Janie Burney says proper equipment in good condition is needed for safe, high-quality, home-canned food.

According to Burney, there are two types of canning systems to consider: boiling water canners and pressure canners. Boiling water canners are used for canning acid or acidified foods. These would include most fruits, most pickles, jams and jellies. Boiling water canners can cost anywhere between $30 to $100, or can be assembled yourself with a large stock pot, secure lid and a rack to keep jars off the bottom of the pot.

Foods that are low in acid, such as vegetables, meats, fish and poultry, should be canned in a pressure canner. These foods require high temperatures, 240 degrees Fahrenheit and above, to be sure toxin-producing spores of the bacteria Clostridium botulinum are killed. If not killed, these spores can grow and produce a deadly toxin when the jars cool and are stored at room temperature. Water-bath canners reach to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not hot enough to kill the spores.

There are two types of pressure canners available to consumers: a dial gauge canner or a weighted gauge canner. While most steps in managing pressure canning processes are the same between the two, each has a different type of gauge to indicate the pressure inside the canner. Burney says, “Expect to spend between $100 and $150 or more on a pressure canner.”

If you use a dial gauge canner, it’s important to have the gauge tested for accuracy before each canning season or if you drop or damage your gauge. Contact your local county Extension office to find out where you can get your dial gauge tested. If your dial or weighted gauge canner has a rubber gasket, be sure it is flexible and soft. If it is brittle, sticky, or cracked, Burney says to replace it with a new gasket. Also check that any openings, like vent ports, are clean and open.

You’ll also need jars and lids for canning. New jars are a worthwhile investment (versus purchasing used jars from a yard sale or flea market) because very old jars may break under pressure and heat. Extension recommends Mason-type jars of standard sizes (e.g., half-pint, pint and quart). Make sure those jars are manufactured and sold for canning purposes; not all glass and Mason-style jars are tempered to prevent breakage with the extreme heat and temperature changes during canning. Two-piece canning lids with flat lids and ring bands are recommended. Never reuse flat lids, but you can reuse ring bands provided they are not rusted or bent. Follow manufacturers’ advice for preparing your jars and lids.

It is not too early to begin gathering your other equipment and supplies for canning. A jar funnel for filling jars, a magnetic wand to handle flat lids and a plastic debubbler (or rubber spatula) are useful utensils and can be found where canning supplies are sold.

Finally, reliable, up-to-date canning and other food preservation instructions are “must haves” among your supplies. Burney says “There are very serious food safety risks with canning if you follow unsound recommendations.” Reliable, up-to-date canning instructions are available from your local Extension agent or online from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (
http://nchfp.uga.edu/). Canning classes are also offered by Extension agents in counties across Tennessee.

For additional help, contact the UT Extension family and consumer sciences agent at your local county Extension office. You can also visit the UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences website at
fcs.tennessee.edu

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Contact:​

Dr. Janie Burney, UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences, 865-974-7402, jburney@utk.edu