Canning Food 101

Food Preservation has played a big role in my growing up, I remember picking vegetable in the garden and helping my parents preserve the produce. Living in a small rural community my family preserved most of our food from our large garden, cattle and swine we raised. I grew up in the 4-H program and yes, Food Preservation was one of my projects along with breads, food and nutrition, swine, public speaking and leadership.

Beverly McNew, my Family and Consumer Science Agent, Home Economist at the time, encouraged me to do workshops in food preservation and would include me in county workshop she conducted. I often think about a comment Mrs. McNew would tell me relating to canning food and saving money. She would say, “If you know how to cook and preserve food along with saving for a rainy day you will always be able to provide for your family. It may not be what you want to eat but you will have food on the table and money to buy the things you need!” I always knew this was true but during COVID-19 I truly understand the real meaning and importance of this comment!

If you have garden produce or can buy produce from a local farmer put your food preservation skills to work persevering food for you and your family. Follow these basic canning guidelines and enjoy your delicious home canned goodies.

Fresh local vegetables

The canning method that is approved for a food depends on the type of food. Foods are divided into two main categories: Acid and Low Acid.

1. Acid Foods: pH less than or equal to 4.6

  • Generally all fruits
  • Tomatoes and figs are borderline (specific amounts of citric acid or lemon juice must be added before cannin to acidify)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Foods to which large amounts of acid are added (pickles)

2. Low Acid Foods: pH greater than 4.6

  • Generally all vegetables
  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Soups
  • Mixtures of acid and low acid foods (spaghetti sauce – meat, vegetables and tomatoes
Canning Jars…Use Only:
Standard Canning Jars
  • Standard Mason-type canning jars
  • Two-piece metal rings (lids)
    Use only regular and wide-mouth Mason-type, threaded, home-canning jars with self-sealing lids are the best choice. They are available in ½ pint, pint, 1½ pint, quart, and ½ gallon sizes. The standard jar mouth opening is about 2-3/8 inches. Wide-mouth jars have openings of about 3 inches, making them more easily filled and emptied. Some individuals ask if they can use commercial pint and quart mayonnaise or salad dressing jars for canning. The answer is NO they are not recommended to use for canning due to excessive jar breakage. These jars have a narrower sealing surface and are tempered less than Mason jars.

    Follow Guidelines Packing Jars:
    • Choose fresh, high-quality foods.
    • Prepare jars and flat lids as in directions.
    • Clean, peel, cut and cook food as in directions.
    • Fill clean jars quickly, leaving headspace.
    • Release trapped air bubbles.
    • Wipe jar rim and threads clean.
    • Place flat lid on jar; screw band down evenly and firmly just until resistance is felt.
    Headspace is Critical in Both Canning Methods
    Headspace for canning
    ¼ inch for jellied fruit products
    ½ inch for fruits, tomatoes and pickles
    1 inch for low acid foods
    • ¼ inch for jellied fruit products
    • ½ inch for fruits, tomatoes and pickles
    • 1 inch for low acid foods
    Canning Utensils Needed:
    • Jar lifter: essential for easy removal of hot jars.
    • Jar funnel: helps in pouring and packing of liquid and small food items into canning jars.
    • Lid wand: magnetized wand for removing treated jar lids from hot water.
    • Clean cloths: handy to have for wiping jar rims, spills and general cleanup.
    • Knives: for preparing food.
    • Narrow, flat rubber spatula: for removing trapped air bubbles before sealing jars.
    • Timer or clock: for accurate food processing time.
    • Hot pads

      Water bath canner and accessories
    • Cutting board
    Boiling Water Canning (212 °F)
    • Fruits & fruit juices
    • Tomatoes
    • Pickles
    • Jams & jellies
    • Any other acid food or mixture
    Pressure Canning (240 °F)
    Pressure Canner
    • Vegetables
    • Meats
    • Poultry
    • Seafood
    • Any other low-acid food or mixture
    Follow Canning Guidelines:
    • Place filled jars into canner quickly.
    • Pressure canning, start with 2 to 3 inches of water in the canner.
    • Start counting process time only after pressure canner has been vented 10 minutes and then brought to desired pressure.
    • Boiling water canning, cover jars with 1 to 2 inches water. Start counting process time only after boils
    • Water must boil or pressure canner must be at stated pressure, for the entire process time.
    Storing Sealed Jars Right
    • Remove metal screw bands on jars after they seal.

      Store jars with metal screw bands removed.
    • Wash off any food or juices on jar.
    • Rinse and dry jars.
    • Label jars with content and date.
    • Keep jars in clean, cook, dry, dark place.
    • Best storage temperature is 50 to 70°F.
    • Before using check for loss of seals or signs of spoilage.
    • Use food within 1 year

    For more information on canning contact you local UF/IFAS Extension Office


    The National Center for Home Food Preservation:

    UF/IFAS Extension EDIS Canning Foods:

    So Easy to Preserve Book orderform:



Posted: April 9, 2020

Category: 4-H & Youth, Agriculture, Curriculum, Food Safety, Fruits & Vegetables, Health & Nutrition, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Farmers Markes, Food Preservation, Food Safety, Food Temperature, Fruits And Vegetables, Gardening, Health And Wellness, Healthy Eating, Pressure Canning, Processed Food, Safe Food, UF/IFAS Extension, Vegetable Gardening, Water Bath Canning

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