When we moved into our 1950s cape cod home, I was delighted to find a canning closet in the basement. I was even more delighted when I purchased canning supplies and began my home canning adventure.
I set out to try home canning as one of my efforts to do more homesteading. Plus, canning brings back memories of canned goods in my grandmother’s pantry. My first project was canning homemade strawberry jam after picking fresh strawberries at a local field.
What is Home Canning?
Home canning is a way to preserve foods at home. After being canned many foods can be stored and enjoyed for many months. Canning is also affordable, the supplies are not very expensive.
It allows to to control what goes into your food. Home canning recipes contain few preservatives, compared to many goods that are purchased in the store. Canning your own food is fun, and also a practice in sustainability.
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• The Time I Accidentally Made Swiss Chard Pie
I wish I had learned home canning directly from my grandmother but I was not able to. When I decided to learn how to do home canning I taught myself. In this post I share the exact supplies and tools I use.
Beginner Canning Tools
Ball Canning Home Discovery Kit
If you are just starting out canning the idea of doing water bath canning may be intimidating. Personally I have found it isn’t as intimidating as I first thought. The Home Canning Discovery Kit helps make water bath canning on top of your stove very easy. I have an electric stove, which I also feared would not work well with canning – but it’s worked just fine!
The canning kit contains a list of all of the canning supplies you need to get started with water bath canning. It contains three jars, along with lids and bands. It also contains a light green plastic mesh jar holder to use for water bath canning. My kit also came with a handy recipe booklet.
Ball Canning Utensil Set
While the Home Canning Discovery Kit will get you started I also recommend the Ball Canning Utensil Set. These two kids, in conjunction, have provided all of the basic canning supplies I need.
The Ball Canning Utensil set comes in blue or green. I purchased green to match my home discovery kit. The utensil set comes with several items, all of which are essential canning tools.
Large Pot for Canning
If you are doing water bath canning, as I do, you will need at least one large pot. You can purchase a special canning pot or you can use what you already have. I use a pot that came with our stainless steel kitchen pots set. This size allows me to comfortably fit five large jars or if I am using the smaller 4 oz kind, I can fit 10 jars at a time when I do water bath canning.
Ball Canning Jars
Of course no home canning project is possible without the Ball Canning Jars. When you purchase a set of canning jars they come with 1 band and 1 lid per jar. Jars and bands are reusable, but lids are not. For making gifts I really like the small 4 oz canning jars, which are compact and have a cute quilted pattern on them as well.
For my own jam I prefer the 8 oz canning jars which are close to the same size of jam jar I would purchase at the store. I have purchased the 16 oz jars as well but for jams they were a little too large unless you are wanting to use them for Mason Jar Glasses. In that case the 16 oz jars are perfect for Mason Jar Glasses.
If you want to home can whole vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes, or peaches or pears – you will probably prefer the Mason Jar Glasses. Also of note, canning jars come in wide mouth and regular mouth size.
I made the mistake early on of just buying whatever I saw, not realizing there is a difference. I prefer wide mouth for all of my canning because I can easily remove all contents from the jar.
Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
I also purchased the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, which I had read was the standard today for learning canning techniques and canning recipes. For beginners I highly recommend this book. Not only is this book budget-friendly, it contains an incredible amount of information about canning and canning supplies.
If any of the canning recipes in this book make more canned goods than you would like, you can easily cut a recipe in half. I have done this before when I didn’t have quite enough fruit or I didn’t want 16 jars of jam.
Ball Low-Sugar Pectin
Another concern I had when I first tried canning was sugar content. So far all of my home canning has been jams and jellies. I prefer low or no-sugar jams. I was happy to find Ball makes a Low-Sugar Pectin which allows you to use a fraction of the amount of sugar normally required to do canning.
Sugar is integral to canning homemade jams and jellies. It acts as a preservative. Without enough sugar (or pectin) your jam will not keep for very long. Depending on the type of fruit you are canning, it also may not “firm up” or thinking properly without enough sugar or pectin. I like using the Ball Low-Sugar Pectin also because fruit is usually already sweet enough on its own.
Ball Canning Jar Labels
Of course no home canning project is complete without canning jar labels to mark what you just created. Ball Dissolvable labels are particularly helpful in presentation if you are gifting your canned goods to family or friends. I used these labels when I made homemade peach jam to offer guests at my baby shower.
The canning jar labels come in a pack of 60. I have also used the Ball Dissolvable labels on my own personal canned goods so that I remember what I canned. Raspberry and strawberry jams can look eerily similar once in the jar. One issue I have had with these canning jar labels is while the paper easily comes off, the sticker residue does not.
I have had to scrape at the residue or use Goo Gone to remove it. The other fix I’ve found is to simply reuse the jar and cover the glue spot with a new label. This hasn’t been a deal breaker for me, and I still think the canning jar labels are cute so I continue to use them.
Ball Canning Lids
Depending on how many jars you plan to can, you may need to purchase extra Ball Canning Lids. As luck has it I always run out of lids when I’m ready for a new canning project. I have been trying to keep at least one box of lids on hand at all times.
The Ball Canning Lids come with 12 in each box. I need to replenish my supply of canning lids most often as this is one component you cannot reuse when you can foods. You can reuse the jars and the rims, but not the lids. Stocking up on lids is a good idea when buying your canning gear.
Home Canner Supplies
Outside of the canning supplies I listed above, all you will need is a little time, patience and the fruit or vegetable of your choice. You can can anytime of the year. Right now is a great time to try home canning.
Canning can help you eat healthier and save money. It’s also a great past time, and allows you to have more control over what is in your food. Additionally you can enjoy foods many months after harvested.
What questions do you have about home canning?
*This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated and republished for accuracy and comprehensiveness.