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Friday, November 5, 2010

Water Bath Canning With No Equipment

Canned beets, grapefruit marmalade, and pickled cauliflower.
Food preservation is definitely my "thing", because it helps me buy foods cheaply when they're in season and then make them last a while in my stockpile so I can benefit from them when the prices are higher.
 Once upon a time I thought most food preservation methods were not possible for me to do; only freezing foods seemed doable. I didn't own a dehydrator, nor did I have the money to lay out to purchase one. Pickling seemed too iffy and difficult. Canning? Absolutely no extra money to spend on equipment, not to ention the recurrent expense of jars.
Eventually I got past my fear of pickling, built my own dehydrator with which to dehydrate my vegetables, but put off any hopes of canning. I didn't have the money to lay out for it. Canning was an expensive endeavor unlikely to ever happen around  here.
Then along comes blog reader Beanna83 and proved me wrong. On her say so, I discovered that I can can for free! No money needs to be laid out for canning equipment. You can preserve foods in glass jars without any bought canning equipment.


Water Bath Canning For Free

Equipment Needed
A large pot that is both wide and deep. If your pot isn't very deep, you'll only be able to can smaller jars. The height of the pot needs to be at least 3-4 inches taller than the height of your canning jars.
A second large pot that will fit your glass jars inside, even sideways or a dishwasher or even a large container that can hold your jars and can withstand heat.
Recycled commercial jars with pop top covers. Even though this isn't "recommended", as long as you make sure there is a seal (see below), you'll be fine. If you don't buy anything in jars, you can ask others who do to save their jars for you. (I've began offering an incentive that if you give me at least 4 jars, I'll give you back one filled with homemade jam.)
Hot mitts.
A ladle.
A funnel, preferably with a wide mouth.
A spoon.
A few towels.

Instructions:
1. Prepare food with a recipe that is suitable for canning in a water bath. Use google to find recipes for canning. These will usually be acidic. Most fruits are acidic enough, as are tomatoes. Other foods need to be canned with vinegar if you're using the water bath method (this method). This is one such example of a site with plenty of canning recipes and instructions.
2. Wash your jars and covers very well, inspecting the covers and the jars to make sure that none have any chinks or cracks or disfiguration.
3. Heat the jars. If you have a dishwasher, put your jars through a cycle and keep them warm in the dishwasher. If you don't have a dishwasher, put the jars in a pot of water and bring to a boil. You want your jars to remain hot, because if you let them cool down and then add hot food/liquid or add to a hot water bath, the jar will crack. Glass needs gradual temperature changes. Alternatively, you can put jars in a basin with warm water for a few minutes, pour off the water and add warmer water, etc... until you have a basin filled with hot water and jars.
4. Boil the jar covers in water.
5. In the meantime, lay a towel across the bottom of your giant pot, fill it with water part way, and bring to a boil.
6. Take your jars out of the hot water or dishwasher and put them on a towel. Use a ladle to remove some of the hot water and use hot mitts if necessary.
7. Fill the jars with the food with the help of a wide mouth funnel and a spoon in the method recommended in the canning recipe you're using.
8. Remove the covers from the boiling water, and with the assistance of hot mitts, place on the jar and tighten as well as you can.
9. Carefully, gently place the filled and closed jars in the giant pot of boiling water, taking care that they are standing upright on the towel and not touching each other or the sides of the pot.
10. Cover the jars with boiling water by at least 2 inches. You don't want to pour any water directly on the jars- pour the water in between the jars when adding.
11. Bring the pot of water to a rolling boil and boil for the length of time specified in the recipe.
12. Turn off the fire and ladle water out into another container. You want to ladle enough water out so you're able to grab the upper part of the jar without getting your hot mitt wet.
13. Grab the upper part of the jar with your hot mitt, remove from the pot, and place on a towel. Do the same for all the jars.
14. Leave the jars undisturbed for a few hours or overnight.
15. Check for a seal. If you're using commercial jars, most covers come with a pop top that says "Button pops up when original seal is broken" or something like that. You do not want that button popped up. If it is down, that means that your cans are sealed properly. If the cover never popped down, the seal didn't hold and you should put that jar in the refrigerator to be eaten.
16. Put the jars away in a cool, dark place.

P.S. For those who say that this isn't safe because you can't properly reseal commercial jars, you should have been here when I tried getting 3 grown men to open a jar of pickled cauliflower that had sealed too tightly. In the end, no one was able to get it open and I needed to poke a hole in the cover to release the vacuum.

Have you ever canned? Do you use purchased equipment or do it equipmentless like I do?
If you haven't canned yet, do you think you will ever try?


Linking up with Frugal Friday, Friday Foods, Fight Back Friday, Pennywise Platter Thursday, Vegetarian Foodie Friday, and Foodie Friday

46 comments:

  1. Hi,

    Just wondering if you still use this method and if you've ever had any problems or failures? Love you blog and find you inspirational!

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    Replies
    1. Yes I still use it, and I haven't had any failures! :-D

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  2. How do I know which 'store bought' jars are best to use for 're/sealing' and which ones are more likely to crack or shatter?

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    1. Best to use tomato sauce jars for uniform heating. They tend to be most durable for using again.

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    2. I find that the ragu spaghetti jars are best to can in

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  3. what you are writing is dangerous. Reusing store bought jars is a BAD idea.
    The jars are not the problem but reusing the lids is. You will be canning bactirum into your jars if you do not have a proper seal.
    Please dont do it. Lids are CHEAP

    And if you don't put in for those few pennies you are taking the risk of that food you have managed to pull together being wasted or killing you (or worse your kids)

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    1. You can tell if there is a good seal or not. If it doesn't suck in the pop top lid, you have to either use it immediately or throw it out. If its sealed, its safe.

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    2. To anonymous, people have a choice to do this or not. I grew up with a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who lived during some tough times, like the depression or in coal mining towns. There was no such thing as canning baths to purchase. It is wonderful that someone is still teaching the basics. Canning baths are a luxury of the modern world but certainly not the only way to preserve food as generations can attest. My grandmother didn't even have a make shift canning bath. She cooked all food until boiling hot then filled her scalded, bleached still hot jars with the boiling food, put the lid on, rinsed the jar with scalding water, wiped it off and she always turned hers upside down on a clean towel where they stayed till the next morning to cool and to seal. The next morning she would turn them over and check for a seal meaning the top was sunken in by a vacuum. Then we would all help to carry them to the basement. and place them on the shelves. I always loved the image of her jars cooling on the white kitchen towels with the red line around the edge and all the pretty colors on the shelves in the cellar. It's common sense and if you don't have that you shouldn't be canning anyhow. By the way, My great grandmother raised 13 children and my grandmother raised 8. All survived and none ever even had to go to the hospital, good thing since there wasn't one nearby and no money to pay for it if there was. Thank you Penniless Parenting for teaching this to those that live in the REAL world and may not be lucky enough to have a grandparent teach them the basic survival skills. Ignore the haters.

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    3. I commercially can and my family has canned all my life. I agree long term storage is not advisable with lids. They are cheap. If you do reuse lids, I would advise consuming with in 6 months.

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    4. We have been reusing jars for canning for a long time and storing them for up to 2 years. Here in the UK canning jars and equipment are very exspencive

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  4. Thank you! I want to give canning a try but don't want to buy a bunch of tools and gadgets to clutter my house and be used once a year. Love the sensible approach and the reusable materials.

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  5. This was very helpful and I can't wait to try it. I have decided to purchase new lids as opposed to reusing old ones and I was wondering if I can skip boiling them and just put them on at room temperature (seeing as they are already sterile)?
    Thanks so much for your help. :)

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    Replies
    1. NOOOOO! first of all they are NOT sterile. They have been handled by hands to put into the packaging by hands that were doing heaven knows what before they touched your lid!!!! I wouldn't drink a glass of water out of glass I just brought home from the store without washing it first!!!???? What are you thinking honey?!!!! Second, Everything here is about clean, clean clean when you are canning. My grandmother washed all of her counters and the entire kitchen in bleach water before and after canning. then she had clean white cotten dishtowels that she laundered separately and used for nothing but cooking and canning. Also boiling not only sterilizes the lids and kills any old bactering that may be linger in the a crevice but it gradually warms the metal and glass and prepares it for the heat you will be adding to it with the hot food. Temperature changes done too quickly one way or the other will cause your jars to crack or even worse burst open which can be dangerous. Do not try to skip steps especially if you are new to canning. There is a reason they tell you to do each step. If you are too lazy to boil the lids for ten minutes you probably aren't really up to the task of canning.

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    2. That is ridiculously excessive. Nobody in the UK cans like this and I've yet to witness anyone dripping dead!

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  6. This was very helpful and I can't wait to give it a try. I decided to purchase new lids instead of reused ones but I was wondering if I can skip boiling them and just put them on the heated jars at room temperature?
    Thanks for your help! :)

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    Replies
    1. Always, always, always boil the lids. This is as much of a safety thing as it is a practical thing. Boiling kills any germs that might be on the lids, it also helps set up the vacuum .

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    2. Actually, if you have Ball/Kerr lids that are BPA free, you should simmer them at most. Boiling can damage the sealing compound. Personally, I just wash them in hot soapy water and then use them as this is also recommended by the manufacturer. All of my jars have sealed since I stopped simmering mine. If you process at least 10min in a boiling water bath, sterilizing jars/lids is not necessary.

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  7. I went to a canning work shop today in my town, and they reused the lids (some over and over again). They said its not a problem because the heat sterilisers it enough to kill any harmful bacterial.
    The heat from the actual canning also aids in the safe preservation of the goods. As long as you keep out air in the process there should not be a problem, with it being completely safe.

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  8. i have wanted to try this ever since reading this entry several weeks ago and have been collecting jars from friends and family. finally today i was able to make a bunch of tomato sauce, which we use a lot, and your method worked like a dream. thanks for sharing. cant wait to try more things this way

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  9. I reuse jars as well and don't use equipment. For about a year my kids and I have experimented with canning and we found it works even in the most simple form. We wash our reused jars, pour the boiling food needing to be canned into them and then turn them upside down. They have always sealed themselves. No pots, water, boiling, etc. Like applesauce we boil our apples, then puree them and pour the hot apple sauce into a jar and turn it upside down. DONE!

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    1. Exactly what my grandmother taught me to do. The key is being clean and eliminating bacteria and then getting a good seal. She washed and wiped everything down in water with a couple tablespoons of bleach and always turned her jars over on a clean counter even lined it with a clean white cotton dishtowel. A great memory for me seeing the kitchen curtains blowing in the summer evening breeze with her beautiful, colorful jars lined upon that white kitchen towel. ;-)

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  10. I can jam without a hot water bath. Just sterilize the lids, clean the jars and get then really hot (putting them in a baking pan in about an inch of water in the oven works), then pour the hot jam in the jars and put the lids and rings on. Let them sit on the counter and you'll soon hear them "pop" - tada! They're sealed.

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    Replies
    1. Love it! Thank you! I think a lot people try to make this rocket science just to sell their products. People have been canning for generations without all of this fancy equipment.

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    2. I agree totally. Week before last I made a big batch of homemade bone broth chicken soup. I washed my jars, lids and rings in the dishwasher and poured the hot soup into the jars, lided and closed tightly, placed in fridge and forgot about them.

      Last night I was cleaning out the fridge and found them. I thought "oh no! They're gone bad now!" because I didn't actually can them in a water bath. Upon checking them this morning, I found that they are ALL sealed. Yay!

      How long will they keep?

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  11. I would strongly suggest that if you go out and buy just 1 piece of equipment, make it a jar lifter. It's <$10 (you can even find canning kits with a funnel and some other useful stuff for just around $10) and will help tremendously. Just 1 jar slipping out of your hot mitts can mean broken glass, steam burns, and boiling water burns. Well worth the couple dollars to be safer.

    Personally, I don't reuse lids (it's not worth the risk for me) but I don't have any problem with using a big pot instead of a canning pot, except that I would probably tie together some jar rings instead of putting a dish towel in the bottom.

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  12. As a certified Master food preserver most of you are lucky you haven't killed your family yet. Truly this is a bad idea and open kettle canning has not been a safe method of preserving since the 1950's( filling with hot product and turning over). If taking a chance at killing your children doesn't bother you by all means keep this up! BTW just because a lid is still sealed does not mean what is inside is safe to eat.Botulism is undetectable and is a neurotoxin meaning if you don't die you will live the rest of your life most likely in a nursing home. Is this worth saving a $100 on not buying the proper equipment? Just because no one has got sick or dec yet does not mean the possibility is;t there with every new jar opened.You are giving very dangerous information here that you could very likely be sued for if someone gets sick!

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    1. Ok, you're simply wrong. Sorry. Botulism is a problem in non acidic canned foods- which is why water bath canning is only safe for acidic things, like fruit, tomato based things, or pickles. It is not safe for things like meat, beans, etc... Those things need pressure canning to be safe. But if you're doing acidic things, it's not a problem to can this way, with reused jars and covers instead of with store bought jars. It's the same technique, same results. Botulism isnt an issue with acidic things.

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    2. "Master Food Preserver", clearly the acidity was discussed, and is perfectly safe. I am surprised that as a master you would not know this information. So long as the directions above are followed, and basic common sense is used this is fine. Foods like jams and tomato sauces can be safely preserved and consumed, not only saving money but not filling your family full of preservatives, pesticides and a world of awful things that can be found in commercial foods. FYI this is "Penniless Parenting", as in not everyone has an extra $100+ laying around.

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  13. Sealing is the easy part; killing any microbes that might be in the jars themselves is the purpose of waterbath canning. If you have empty jars in your car on a hot day, you will hear the lids sealing and unsealing from heat/pressure changes. You won't poison yourself by NOT waterbath canning high acid goods, but you run the risk of spoilage from yeasts or molds that are sealed in the jar. Also, water bath canning removes the air from the headspace, which a) prevents microbial growth from those microbes that need oxygen to grow, and b) makes for a stronger seal. You run the risk of losing all your hard work and expensive ingredients to spoilage by skipping what is a very simple, relatively quick step.

    All this fuss and muss about ladling out the hot water in and out of the pot can easily be solved by simply using a jar lifter, which can be purchased for a few dollars at any hardware store or stores like walmart or target. The more you deviate from safe, tested methods, the more you risk injury. Not to mention the time you waste.

    As far as reusing lids and commercial jars--many people do it, and many people get away with it. Just make sure when you are inspecting jars, you look through the jar in light for small scratches that can cause fracturing when heated. Most commercial jars are made with a different process than reusable canning jars and they are intended for single use canning. The plastic coating inside the lids needs to be inspected as well for scratches that can cause rust of the metal and imperfect seals. If you have jars that are unsealing (common with reusing lids) , either you had a bad seal to begin with, or you have microbial growth that is causing gas to build up and causing pressure.

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    1. This is water bath canning. Canning this way kills the microbes the same way that using bought jars does.

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  14. Also, here is the best link for the most current, up to date and safe canning information. The NCHFP is a joint venture between the Universty of Georgia through the land grant university program, Cooperative Extension Agencies, and the USDA. http://nchfp.uga.edu/ In particular, read through this document if you are interested in canning so you understand the basics of the microbiology and chemistry that underpins safe canning. http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html This website as as well as the "bible" of canning, the Ball Blue Book or the Ball Complete Book of Home Food Preservation (2009/2011 editions are the most current) have lots of basic recipes that will allow you to assess the safety of recipes that are not officially tested as safe.

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  15. My mom, my aunts, and everyone I know has been canning this same way for years and no one has ever gotten sick from it. I think the companies that make the canning products have more input into the safety warnings than people know, so they can make more money. This way is safe it done right. And like you said, just use common sense when you got to open it and you will know if it's bad or not.
    Thank you for posting this! People need to know that you don't have to go out and buy all new products from these companies to start canning!

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  16. I found this blog very helpful, written with clear instructions on when this method can be safely used and how to do it. Thank you, Penny, keep up the good work. Just because some readers have questionable methods or opinions does not make you wrong. I think Anonymous Master Food Preserver needs their own blog.

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  17. I do appreciate the blog and I have found it useful and I am using 90% of your method - I am just buying the jars - I am making baby food I have to be safe.

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    Replies
    1. If you are making baby food also consider freezing. I bought organic fruits and vegetables washed and prepared then added to ice cube trays then stored the frozen cubes in freezer containers. I removed only one serving at a time and heated. It was great and saved tones of money, much cheaper than buy
      ing processed baby foods and I know healthier. Good luck!

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  18. I have been using this method for years and have seen the locals doing this on my travel trips. I often doubted myself but never once got sick from a jar of preserved fruit/vegetables. But the Internet definitely makes you think you need all this pricey equipment. Glad to see I'm not the only one doing this and will keep using this method.... Except now without any doubts. Thanks for your post

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  19. My mother and my boyfriend's mother used to buy Ball jars and reuse pickle, jam jars and Ball lids, etc. Never a problem. If they were both alive, they'd be in their early 80s. Of course it was pickles, tomatoes, jellies and jams. I do the same thing! I also water-bath in a stainless steel pot with lid but no rack. Jars rest on the bottom of the pot and never have had a broken one. Just earlier today, I had 3 pint-sized jars in the water bath. The boiling water came up through the center of where the jars were positioned like a coffee percolator. I'm at high altitude so 20 minutes was required. After removing the jars, the contents were boiling inside, with bubbles moving from bottom to top. Then they all sealed properly! Like I said, never had a problem.

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  20. I've never really done any serious canning, but one time I got two starter jars and I followed some simple instructions from someone who has done simple canning before. I didn't have any canning equipment and all I did was experimented with a little bit of black coffee. This was my first project but only as an experiment that was actually very successful when I followed the simple instructions exactly as they were given. All I had to do was pour the hot coffee into the mason jar as soon as it was done. I put the cap on and wrapped it in a nice thick towel and set it aside overnight. It worked because it sealed. I then waited several months before opening the jar to try the coffee, and it was still as fresh as when I brewed it. I didn't put anything into the coffee, just left it black. This simple method was the only method my friend ever used for successful canning. As long as you follow instructions no matter how you do it, you will succeed

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  21. I never purchase enough jarred foods from the grocery store to even think about reusing them. I've always stocked my kitchen with canning jars instead of plastic tuperware crap that goes bad relatively quickly. I've never had a problem picking up pint or quart jars for 50 cents at thrift stores around town. I bought over 2 dozen jars from some one at the flea market for $5. Lids and ring replacements are real cheap by the dozen. Canning with canning products doesn't seem all that more expensive than reusing jars from store bought stuff. But then again, trying to stock pile on glass jars when I only buy jarred sauce a couple times a year seems rather tedious to me. I also get my fresh produce in exchange for canning or preparing special foods with the stuff they give me. I don't have to buy tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce, pumpkin, beets, celery, strawberries, green beans, fresh herbs, and so much more. I did splurge on a canning funnel at walmart and I'm thinking it's time to splurge on some tongs to remove the jars (too many close calls with hot water). Its easy to be cheap, frugal, and stay within newer guidelines.

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  22. I'm confused about one thing: why the towel in the giant pot of boiling water that you process the filled jars in? I didn't see any mention of it in later steps, and clean kitchen towels are a scarce commodity for me.

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  23. Beets (as shown in your photo)and many other low acid foods must be processed in a pressure canner. Yep I know what your going to say "I have been canning Beets this way for years, no problem. "Well like many things you can often get away with a few times, but one day your luck will run out and unfortunately for you and your u lucky dinner guest, botulism can not be smelled, tasted, or seen, but is still deadly. Please if any of you are thinking this is a great idea it is not! Please do it the right way, it is not that expensive especially after you have your proper jars and equipment. Not only that, it is way easier with the right tools. Good luck, I hope your luck continues, but do me a favor, never invite me to dinner, I don't like to be rude, but I would be.... Russian Roulette is a game you can survive, but will you play it? Can like this and that is EXACTLY what your doing.

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    Replies
    1. The beets were canned in vinegar, they were pickled. Yes, I know things need to be acidic to can them in a water bath, thats why I only canned pickled beets.

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  24. I feel it was a great introduction to canning. I read the comments about the lids and I swore I read in this article about boiling the jars AND lids... but I was wrong. But common sense dictates... clean and boil your lids... is that to hard to read between the lines? Haha

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