Simple Canning Food Guide for Beginners

  • 52
  • 7

Hidden Springs Homestead may earn a commission for purchases made after clicking links on this page. Learn More.

Canning food is a process that stops the growth, sterilizing and sealing foods in airtight containers to preserve them for long-term food storage.  You lose no nutrients or quality of your fruit, vegetable or meat when canned at their peak of freshness.

Simple Canning Food Guide for Beginners

This is a process that needs to be followed closely in order to store food for long-term without spoiling.

Canning shelves loaded. Canning Guide for Beginners. Hidden Springs Homestead


Recommended Canning Sources

Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving 

The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving

Ball Complete Guide of Home Preserving

The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest

A few simple supplies will help you to get started.

What Supplies Do I Need?

  • Mason Canning Jars
  • Metal Lids and Bands
  • Canning Utensils
  • Canner

Mason Jars

Using the right type jar is critical.  Make sure your jars have the word MASON printed somewhere on them.  Ball, Kerr, Golden Harvest are all the same company that makes MASON canning jars.

Mason canning jars sitting on a wood surface
Varying styles of Mason Jars

Years ago, people would often re-use commercial grade glass jars such as mayonnaise, peanut-butter, pickle jars.    Unfortunately, these jars are not designed for canning and not safe to be used.

Proper canning jars have gone through a “heat process” in order to be safe for long-term storage and against breaking. The rim on a canning jar is also thicker to provide a good seal area.  Commercial jars rims are thin don’t allow enough room for lids to seal properly.

I know what you’re thinking, your grandma used commercial jars so why can’t you?  My granny did too.

I’ll be honest, when I first started canning and preserving food, I thought the same way.  After attending classes and getting an education on canning and food safety, I’ve changed my mind.  You can learn various reasons for proper safety here on this site.

Make Sure You are Using a True Canning Jar

In recent years, Mason jars for “decorative purposes”  have begun to show on the market.  These jars are not safe for canning food either.

Another good tip is to run your finger around the rim of the jar, if you feel a chip or irregular area in the rim, it is better not to use the jar.  Air can escape this crack and cause your canned food to spoil.

Why Can’t I Use One-Part Canning Lids?

Lids can be purchased in a couple different versions.  One-piece and two-piece.  Only the two-piece has been approved for canning.

I often get the question Q).  “Can I use one piece canning lids for canning?”  A) No.  Once piece lids are not designed nor approved for canning food or long-term food storage.  They are more specifically for hot-fill-hold purposes in a very well controlled situation.

One-piece lids don’t allow for air to escape when the jar is under pressure which allows the lid to seal.  This can result in the jar not sealing or busting under pressure because air has not been allowed to escape.

Two-part lids with a screw-band and a flat metal lid that contains a sealing compound made into the lid itself.  When applying the lid, simply tighten to fingertip tightness so the band fits comfortably on the canning jar.

The only purpose of the band is to hold the lid in placing during the canning process.  They may be removed for storage.  If the bands are maintained they can be reused, but the flat lid is for a one time use only.

Several two-piece canning lids laying in a pile on a stone counter top
Canning Jar Lids

When the screwband is tightened down on the flat lid, it leaves enough “give” for air to escape when in the canning process.  After it is removed from the canner, it will seal itself.

Don’t tighten the screw-band when you remove it from the canner, though it’s tempting, this will break the partial seal that began inside the canner. Just allow it to remain loose and the flat lid will “pop” to a good seal.

What Canning Utensils Do I Need?

Canning utensils are extremely helpful in the canning process.  There are 3 tools specifically designed for canning food:

These items can be purchased individually or a set.

Jar Funnel – Wide mouth funnel that allows you to easily pour in sugars, liquids, foods, etc into jars with spilling.

Jar Lifter – Handheld lifter with rubber grip to safely grasp and lift hot jars from canner

Bubble Remover/Headspace Tool – Can be used to remove air bubbles from the jar before placing on lid. Also has notches for measuring the amount of space between the food and the lid.  This space is important to allow for air pressure to build to cook the food.

What Type of Canner Should I Use?

Actually there are only 2 proven methods for preserving food for long-term storage.  They are the Boiling-Water Method and the Pressure Method.  The type of canner you should use depends on the pH level in the food you are processing.  This is my go to chart when looking up pH in foods.

Waterbath Canner 

Water Bath Canners can be purchased pretty much anywhere on the market.  This is the one I use.   Whichever you choose, it needs to be deep enough to hold your jars and allow 3-4 inches of water above jar tops.

This canner has 3 parts:  The base, rack and lid

Base – Needs to be deep enough to allow for 1 inch of water over the lid and then an additional 2 inches for air space. This will help to prevent boil-over.

Rack – Holds  jars up off the bottom and side of the canner, as well as keeps them in an upright position when boiling.

Lid – Keeps the water boiling during the whole process.

Foods having very little natural acid, a 4.6 pH level or low can be processed using a water-boiling method.  This category contains the following:

  •  Fruits
  • Soft Spreads
  • Tomatoes
  • Pickled Foods
Black waterbath canner sitting on a white stove
Waterbath Canner

Pressure Canner

Many people fear the pressure canner and they should.  It is a powerful tool that is being used to build high “pressure” inside to completely cook the food it contains and to kill off any bacteria that may be on the food.  Always follow the manufactures guidelines when using a pressure canner. This is the pressure canner I use.

Pressure canners are safe as long as you follow manufactures guidelines as well as the guidelines/recipe in your recommended canning book.

If you are not comfortable with using a pressure canner, you can check with you local extension office to see if your area may have a public cannery. If so, you can take your food there for canning and trained volunteers are available to help.

The pressure canner has 4 parts to it:

Lid – locks in place or clamps securely onto the base and is fitted with a rubber gasket, safety valve, and vent pipe.

Gauge – This measures the pressure inside the canner.  There are 3 types of gauges: 3-piece, 1-piece or dial.  It will come with your canner

Base– Holds the jars for processing and is deep enough not to obstruct the lid

Rack – Keeps the jars off the bottom of the base to allow steam to circulate all the way around the jars.

Metal pressure canner sitting on a white range
Pressure Canner

What Foods Need to be Pressure Canned?

A pressure canner is used for foods that are higher in pH and require a temperature higher than 240 degrees to fully cook.

Such foods are:

  • vegetables (seed detailed list below)
  • meats
  • poultry
  • seafood
  • Or any recipe that contains these foods such as stews and meat sauces.

The National Center for Home Preservation recommends the following foods be pressured canned:

  • Asparagus, Spears or Pieces
  • Beans or Peas – Shelled, Dried, All Varieties
  • Beans, Baked
  • Beans, Dry, With Tomato or Molasses
  • Beans, Fresh Lima – Shelled
  • Beans, Snap and Italian – Pieces, Green and WAx
  • Beets – Whole, Cubed, or Sliced
  • Carrots – Sliced or Diced
  • Corn – Cream Style
  • Corn – Whole Kernel
  • Mixed Vegetables
  • Mushrooms 0 Whole or Sliced
  • Okra
  • Peas, Green or English – Shelled
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes, Sweet – Pieces or whole
  • Potatoes, White – Cubed or Whole
  • Pumpkins and Winter Squash – Cubed
  • Soups
  • Spinach and Other Greens
  • Succotash
  • Tomatillos
  • Winter Squash and Pumpkins – Cubed

Pressure Canning Packing Methods

Raw Pack:

Fill jars with raw food and cover with boiling hot syrup, juice or water.  Fruits and vegetables need to be packed tightly into the jar, because they will “shrink” during processing.

Hot Pack:

A process of heating food in syrup, juice or water before placing into jars.  Keep your food near boiling when filling and pack fairly loose into the jar.

How does Altitude Affect My Canning?

Higher altitudes have a lower barometric pressure affecting the temperature at which water boils.  What this means is both Water Bath Canning and Pressure Canning must be adjusted in order to get the right temperature.  This Altitude Chart will help you to find your altitude.

Depending on your altitude, boiling-water and pressure processing methods need to be adjusted accordingly in order to insure safe canning measures.  Additional time or increase in temperature may be necessary.

Canning food and food preservation are a great way to become more self-sufficient.  Not only does it save on the grocery bill, it is also more nutritious for your family.

Do you do food canning at your house?  If so, what do you store?


You Might Also Be Interest In

34 thoughts on “Simple Canning Food Guide for Beginners

  • January 19, 2019 at 10:03 am

    This article just inspired me to start with the canning as soon as possible. It doesn’t seem to hard…

    • January 19, 2019 at 10:10 am


      I get excited when I hear that someone is willing to try canning. I’m glad this inspired you and you are right – It is not hard! It just takes time and be patient. If I can help in anyway, please feel free to reach out and ask. I’m glad to help.


  • January 16, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks for the great canning resource! Canning foods can definitely be intimidating, especially in the beginning. I made pickles a few years ago, but haven’t done any canning beyond that. I would really like to invest in a pressure cooker. I also had no idea that a ‘public cannery’ is a thing, but I will definitely be checking into it!

    • January 17, 2019 at 7:03 am

      Emily, I’m so glad you found it helpful. I remember when I began, it was fearful. I also like to hear that you are considering a pressure canner. It’s a small investment but it will last for years. I do hope your area has a cannery and if I can help in any way please feel free to reach out.

      Happy Canning,

  • January 16, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Glad to have found this post in my research for starting to can guide. I really want to start as it will save me time in the long term but always found it a bit daunting. This will help me a lot ! I will let you know how my first trials go 🙂

    • January 16, 2019 at 1:17 pm

      I’m so glad you found it helpful. And yes, I’d love to know how it goes when you try it. Of course, know that you can reach out to me if you have any questions, I’d be very glad to help.

      Happy Canning,

  • January 16, 2019 at 7:42 am

    Great information. I can remember as a kid, my mom would can strawberry preserves. I’m fairly sure she used the water bath method. Strawberry preserves have me dreaming of spring .

    • January 16, 2019 at 8:01 am

      Heather, you are so right for dreaming of spring, I am too. And you do remember well – strawberry jam is made with a water bath. Thanks for reading

  • January 15, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    What a comprehensive guide! Any newbie to canning has everything they need right here to get started. Thanks for sharing!

  • January 15, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    This is so helpful! I have been wanting to start canning for about a decade but am always so intimidated by the process. You’ve made it all seem very easy and doable! Thanks so much for the information!

    • January 15, 2019 at 2:20 pm

      Well thanks Raina! I”m so glad it was helpful. Please, when you try it, feel free to reach out, I’d help in any way I can. Happy Canning, Dianne

    • January 15, 2019 at 2:19 pm

      Kaylee, If you decide to give it a try, please feel free to reach out. I’d be glad to help. It sounds more complicated that it really is. It is just better to ere on side of caution so you keep your family well. Thanks for reading.

    • January 4, 2019 at 10:41 am

      Stephanie, Thanks! I grew up on a farm where my mother canned everything we eat and raised all our meat. I just chose to leave that life for many years. So when I got the bug in 2016, I wasn’t going in blindly, I just had never experienced it myself. It is a passion now and I love teaching others.

      Thanks for reading.

  • January 2, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    This is a very comprehensive, useful guide for new canners! Such good advice!

    • January 3, 2019 at 12:56 pm

      Bethany, aw thank you. I hope it makes sense. I have a tendency to get lost in the details which is the way my mind works and lose the big picture. I hope it helped.

  • January 1, 2019 at 11:15 am

    This is not only a great article for beginners, but serves as a reminder for seasoned canning vets. It was through these posts that I learned I can remove the rings after my jars have cooled, which saves the wear, tear and rust on them. I’m going to bookmark this one!

    • January 1, 2019 at 12:13 pm

      Oh Julie, thank you! I’m so glad it was helpful. And removing the rings is great, I agree about the rust. It makes them no good after so long too. It has saved us money since I no longer buy the rings often.

  • December 31, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    This was a great article for me, as I am a beginner to canning. Your points about jar safety were well taken, as I first learned from my dad—and we just re-used jars too. I’m so glad I read this!

    • January 3, 2019 at 12:52 pm

      Heidi, I’m so glad to know that you are interested in canning. And also, so glad to hear that your dad taught you well. Thanks for reading.

  • December 31, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    Your post is very detailed and I know it will be helpful to new canners. Thank you for pointing out the new “decorative Mason jars” that aren’t safe for canning. I wasn’t aware of those.

  • December 30, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    Great post! It is so perfect for beginners! I always follow the Ball Blue Book Guidelines because they are truly safe. I love the information in this post and am going to share it so others can learn.

    • December 30, 2018 at 6:52 pm

      Oh wow! Thank you Sheri for sharing it. Yes, we do need to be safe. Sadly, not everyone is and it gives canning a bad name sometimes. Thanks for reading.

  • December 30, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    Great tutorial on canning, I grew up with a mom that canned and have enjoyed passing that information along to my grown daughters!

    • December 30, 2018 at 6:50 pm

      Nancy, that is wonderful you have passed it along to your daughter. I have done the same thing. I will be honest though, when my mom was canning as we were growing up, I wasn’t at all interested. I’m not 53 years old and just started canning 2015. I wish I had been interested in it when mom was doing it. It is fond memories though.

  • December 29, 2018 at 8:07 am

    Great info! Thank you for teaching the safe way to can, also. So many on the internet aren’t!

    • December 29, 2018 at 8:51 am

      Awww! Thank you Kristi. Canning is a wonderful thing, but you are so right…when it’s not done properly, it gets a really bad reputation. Thanks for reading….

  • December 28, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Thank you for this great primer into canning! I’m very intimidated by canning, but will do it this coming year!

    • December 29, 2018 at 8:48 am

      Shawna you will love home canned food. It’s taste is totally different. If you have never canned before, I would recommend starting out with water bath canning. I’d be glad to answer any questions you may have. Contact me here, or send me a message on FB. Either way, I’ll be glad to help.

  • December 28, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    Thank goodness my mother taught us to can when I was growing up. I love to teach canning classes and share and pass on my knowledge to others.

    • December 29, 2018 at 8:45 am

      I too grew up with a mom that canned everything. We had no idea what a grocery store was. I can remember the first time in my life when I saw a real gallon of milk. The cow had gone dry and my parents had to buy milk for a while. I had no idea it came in plastic jugs. The flavor was horrible. Same thing with canning homegrown food. It just tastes wonderful and so much better for us.

  • December 28, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Good list of instructions for beginners! It is very important to follow the newest methods approved for canning. I agree with you, just because our grandmothers did it doesn’t mean it is safe. There have been people who died using those methods!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *