Canning your Goods: Tips for Home Food Preservation

Canning jar, tomato, onion, green pepper

It’s that time of year again…your garden is overflowing and you can’t seem to eat fast enough! The zucchini and basil are multiplying faster than you can pick them and soon the tomatoes will start turning red right before your eyes.  It is time to do something about it. A great way to make good use of your surplus is to preserve your own food. If you have never preserved your own food, don’t fret, it’s easier than you think!

Why Preserve your Food?

Preserving food from your garden can save you time and money in the long run. You will waste less food from your garden and waste less packaging material since you can reuse your canning jars.  If you have never canned before, try it out with a friend. Always make sure you follow recipes that are tested and approved. Canning food requires specific amounts of certain ingredients (acid, sugar, etc.) to preserve food properly and safely. My favorite recipe/instruction book can be found here.

What Tools do you Need to Can?

To can food safely, you need the following items:

  • a canner (large pot than can fit a canning rack)
  • a canning rack (metal rack that fits canning jars)
  • canning jars and lids
  • a jar lifter (made especially to lift hot jars from boiling water)
  • a lid lifter (to lift lids from boiling water)
  • a wide mouthed funnel (to fill jars)

All of these products usually come packaged together in canning starter kits.  The kits, and individual tools, can be purchased at your local grocer or hardware store.  Go here to find more information about products.

Tips to Remember

  • Always follow approved recipes and instructions. Many are found near the canning tools in the store or on the websites given above.
  • Use only ripe fruits and vegetables. Sort out rotten or damaged produce as it could ruin the whole batch of food.
  • Wash your food first!
  • Remember to label all your jars with the date you processed it. Most fruits and vegetables are good for 12 months on your shelf.

Please leave any comments or questions. Happy canning!

Image Credit: Photo by Rachel Fox

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About the Author

Rachel is a Registered Dietitian and food and nutrition enthusiast from southeast Michigan. She has her Bachelor's in Dietetics from Central Michigan University and completed her dietetic internship at Michigan State University. Rachel aspires to get a Master's of Public Health in the near future. Her passions include cooking, baking, and even grocery shopping. She supports local food, slow food, and good food! Rachel's spare time is devoted to attending local concerts and festivals, reading and playing tennis.
  • Jackie

    What a great blog & how timely!!!!!
    My husband is the original renaissance man, and taught me how to can! We've been canning for years….in the beginning for frugality, now for flavor!!! Even if you don't grow your own, the farmers market will sell you a half bushel of tomatoes……or whatever you love and miss in the winter! Nothing like cracking open a can of FRESH tomatoes in January rather than buying canned at the store. We've branched into jalapeños, pickles…….congrats on the great blog! How about a section on freezing? your new fan, Jackie

    • Rachel

      I will definitely get on that post about freezing. I will even throw in a bit about drying your own food. Thanks for your interest and input!

  • Kathy

    I love to can and freeze my garden veggies and fruits. Making jars of pasta sauce and pizza sauce, jellies and jams, and my sons favorite: applesauce. They make the perfect special gifts for the upcoming holidays. That is, when I had the lawn area available to grow. For the last 10 years I've been either in an apartment or condo which basically limits my growing ability to balcony or small patio. Do you have any ideas for those of us who are "lawn limited"? Thanks for the post Rachel! Kathy -Michigan

    • Rachel

      If you are lawn limited, my best recommendation is to support your local farmers! Attend farmers markets or join a CSA to obtain the freshest fruits and veggies from your area. You will still get that fresh taste when you open the can and you will be helping your neighbor out.

  • Melinda

    Thanks for the tips Rachel! My dad used to can all the time when we were growing up and I never thought it was something that I could take on, but you have inspired me. Next year, my family will be starting a garden and I think with the tight budget we are on canning will be a nice way to eat healthy and save some money.
    Melinda

    • Rachel

      Thanks for the comment. I can't wait to make my blueberry jam this Saturday. Good luck with your canning endeavors next year.

  • Laurie

    This post could not have come at a better time! We are going on a family blueberry picking outing this weekend and then planning on a canning party to make jam for the holidays…thanks for the great tips, they will come in handy!

    Laurie – Michigan

  • Dorothy Wilkie

    Rachael, thanks for that great tip on dating all your canned foods.

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  • Laurie

    This post could not have come at a better time! We are going on a family blueberry picking outing this weekend and then planning on a canning party to make jam for the holidays…thanks for the great tips, they will come in handy!

  • I absolutely love our home canned goods! We've been canning for about 3 years now, and although it can be a pain, it is so worth the efforts you put into it.

    By the way, anyone interested in jam recipes? I was thinking, with all the summer fruits coming on, you may want to check out a few of my favorite jam recipes:
    http://www.canningbasics.com/homemade-jam-recipe….

  • Hey Rachel, I just started working at my first entry level job and I am actually planning on canning some of my moms vegetables to bring in and pass around to people of importance i.e. my boss. Nothing says brown noser quite like fresh canned veggies but I actually had a question: Is there a difference when canning veggies and fruits?

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