Water Bath Method: Easy way to start your canning adventure

Water Bath CanningHome canning is a popular way to preserve foods. Whether you’re making homemade jams or canning fresh fruit and vegetables for the off season, you have a couple of choices how to do it.

While commonly referred to as canning, it’s a misnomer. There are no cans involved. Cans are usually only used in factories. Home canning uses glass jars with metal lids. Now that we have that straight, there are two main ways that the canning process can be done at home.

Home Canning Methods

Pressure canning is required for low-acidic foods like meats and vegetables as it’s the only method that can raise the temperature high enough to kill off the harmful bacteria. Pressure canning requires the use of a special device to heat the jars and preserve the food.

Water bath canning is an easier alternative for canning fruits and other acidic foods. No fancy devices needed; just a large pot of boiling water. You only need a temperature of 140 degrees for cold-packed food and 180 degrees for hot-packed. As a pot of boiling water can easily reach 212 degrees, there’s plenty of heat for your canning.

Using a Water Bath for Canning

The water-bath method is a simple process. Heat a pot of water, insert jars filled with the food to be preserved, cook, remove jars and let them cool. Sound simple? It is. Here’s how you actually do it:

Begin by placing a large pot of water on your stove. Fill the pot to a point at which the jars will be covered by one to two inches of water. Remember, the water level will rise significantly once you place the jars in the pot. Once you have your jars filled and the lids secured, heat the water slowly until the water temperature is the same as the jars. This will help to avoid breaking the jars when you place them in the water.

Once the jars have been put in the pot, double check to make sure they’re covered by a couple of inches of water. Add more if necessary. Continue heating the water until you reach the temperature specified in your recipe. Use a thermometer to make sure your water is perfect. You may have to adjust the heat to keep the water temperature constant.

Watch the Water Level

Make sure there is at least one to two inches of water covering the top of the jar. Keep an eye on the water level as you let the jars cook for the length of time specified by the recipe. A significant amount of water is likely to boil off during longer cooking times. If the water level drops too low, add more.

If you add too much water, or if the jars lower the temperature of the water enough so the temperature drops, turn the heat back up until the water heats up and start the timer over again. You need to completely start the clock over. If your recipe calls for fifteen minutes of cook time and the water temperature drops ten minutes in, you need to heat up the water and restart the clock at fifteen minutes.

Remove the Jars and Check the Seals

Once the boiling time has passed, turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the pot for at least five minutes. Carefully remove the jars from the water and place them on a wire rack to cool. Keep the jars upright at all times. Leave the jars for at least twelve hours to cool and do not try to tighten the lids while the jars are hot. This may result in the lids becoming jammed as the jars cool or even cause the jars to shatter from the pressure.

Once the jars have cooled, check the lids for a proper seal. The center of the metal lid should be slightly indented and will not flex when you push on it with your finger. If you find any jars that are not sealed correctly, the food inside will still be ok, but without a good seal the food will not be preserved. Refrigerate the unsealed jars immediately and use them first.

Enjoy Your Preserves

While not suitable for all types of foods, water bath canning is still a very popular and easy way to make homemade preserves. It doesn’t require any special equipment for canning. If you can boil a pot of water, you can bottle foods in a water bath. You’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor well past the growing season.

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