The pantry shelf in my basement is noticeably more empty.
Which only means one thing…
It’s time to fill it back up!
I’m ready, y’all.
Like so many of you, I’m feeling the pull to stock up and squirrel away food, even more than I usually do. There’s so much I can’t control about this crazy world right now, but I CAN control how I’m feeding my family.
And oddly enough, that does indeed makes me feel better.
I’m seeing a surge of interest in food preservation right now (jars are sold out everywhere!), which I think is fabulous.
If you are a canning newbie, I just revamped my Canning Made Easy course and it’s ready for YOU! I’ll walk you through each step of the process (safety is my #1 priority!), so you can finally learn to can confidently, without the stress. CLICK HERE to have a look at the course and ALL the bonuses that come with it.
For those of you who are ready to dip your toe into the water of home-canned food, but are feeling a wee bit apprehensive about investing a bunch of cash in canning equipment, I have some good news for you:
You already have almost everything you need to start canning in your kitchen right now.
There is a preconceived notion that in order to start canning, you have to have an entire closet full of special canning equipment.
And while that is certainly the case if you are planning to pressure can, if you’re planning on water bath canning, you can absolutely get away without having special equipment or tools for water-bath canning.
With these tips, you can start your journey into the world of preservation and canning without buying tons of equipment.
How to Start Canning with ZERO Special Equipment
1. The Canning Pot
Odds are, you likely remember those old graniteware or enamel canning pots from your grandma’s kitchen. While they are designed to be big enough for a bunch of jars and tall enough to hold enough water for water-bath canning, you do NOT have to have a special canning pot in order to water-bath can.
A normal large stock pot and lid from your kitchen can totally work for canning purposes. The only kicker is that it must be deep enough to cover the canning jars with at least two inches of water.
Simply fill your mason jars as directed by whatever repine you’re using, put the lids and rings on, and place the jars into the stock pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover your jars by at least 2 inches. As long as your stock pot is deep enough for that, you are ready to can.
A word of warning: I am a stickler for canning safety (read more about canning safety here) because botulism ain’t no joke, friends. Please follow a safe recipe for water-bath canning. You can find high-quality, safe water-bath canning recipes here on my website, in my Canning Made Easy System, the National Center for Home Food Preservation, and other FDA-approved websites and books.
REMEMBER: If you are canning low-acid foods such as vegetables, broth, and meats, you WILL need a pressure canner.
However, if you are canning high acid foods like jams and jellies, fruits (like canning peaches), applesauce, pickles, etc., you can use safely and confidently water-bath canning.
In fact, if you are a beginner to the canning world, high-acid foods (especially jams and jellies) are some of the best introductory canning foods anyway, so they are a perfect place to start.
2. The Canning Rack
Because you are putting glass jars on the bottom of a pot with a strong heat source underneath, a rack is a crucial piece of equipment in your canning toolkit. Otherwise, you’ll be dealing with broken jars and a major mess. A rack will elevate the jars off the bottom of the pot just enough to prevent breakage and to allow the water to circulate properly.
If you get a waterbath canning equipment set, it usually comes with a rack. However, if you’re using my stock pot tip, you can make an alternative rack by taking extra canning jar rings and wiring them together so they fit like a rack under the jars in the pot. You can use any type of wire or string to hold them together as long as it won’t melt in the heat or dissolve in the water. Easy peasy, right?
3. Canning Tongs
You’ll learn quickly that canning tongs (aka jar lifters) are one tool that you don’t want to be without, as it’s not exactly easy to lift a boiling-hot, wet, slippery jar from a pot of water with your bare hands. However, if you don’t have a jar lifter yet, you can improvise with a regular pair of tongs from your kitchen.
By themselves, kitchen tongs are too slippery to grip the canning jars in the water, so we’ll make a quick modification. Simply grab 6-8 rubber bands and wrap them around each of the grabbing ends of the tongs. This will provide just enough grip for the tongs to grab the slippery jars, and you won’t have to worry about burnt fingers.
4. Canning Funnel
Canning funnels are designed to fit snugly into the mouth of both wide and regular jars to prevent spills. They come in plastic or stainless steel and aren’t expensive– however, what if you are ready to tackle your first canning project and don’t have one?
No prob- you can use a red solo cup instead.
Grab a standard-sized red solo cup (if you use a cheaper knock-off version, make sure it can handle hot food without melting).
Hold the red solo cup up to a mason jar and see where the tapering of the cup hits the mouth of the jar. Use a sharp knife to cut off the bottom of the red solo cup and it will fit right into the jar and act like a funnel.
Not all canning recipes need a funnel, but sloppy foods like salsas, jams, and applesauce often make a huge mess without the help of a funnel. (Ask me how I know.)
One Thing You Should NEVER Improvise:
Once you have these four items, you are set up to start canning high-acid foods at home. The only other items you need are canning jars and lids.
And this is one time where it’s wise to NOT improvise: You can NOT safely can with old spaghetti sauce jars or random glass jars from your cupboard.
They aren’t rated for heat like a mason jar is, nor do their lids fit in a way that will allow for a strong, safe seal on the finished food.
Fortunately, it’s pretty darn easy to find mason jars at almost every store these days (although they might be in short supply during these current times).
Hunt for on mason jars at garage sales, thrift stores, and online local selling websites. (I recently snagged an incredible deal on MANY jars on my local Facebook listings.)
If you can’t find good prices for mason jars locally, you can purchase them online.
Also keep in mind that while you can definitely refuse mason jars and their rings over and over again, you will need to purchase new lids each time you are canning. If you really become a canning extraordinaire, you can purchase lids in bulk.
You cannot use the lids repeatedly because there is a sealing compound on the lid that helps create a strong seal. After one use, that sealing compound loses its integrity and will no longer be dependable for future canning recipes. Therefore, use a lid one time only and then purchase extra lids for future canning adventures.
(You can absolutely reuse your spent canning lids for other purposes though– I draw an X on them with a sharpie so I know they are used, and then use them for pantry storage, etc. And speaking of pantry storage, if you want to make your mason jars even more functional, I’m using reCAP lids like crazy right now for ALL THE THINGS and I love ’em.)
And of course, once you catch the canning bug, you’ll very likely want to upgrade your improvised canning equipment with some official canning supplies. However, in the mean time, don’t let a lack of “proper” equipment stop you. Dive in, my friend. You’ll be glad you did.
More Canning Tips:
- My Learn How to Can ebook and videos will make canning quick and easy.
- Ultimate Guide to Canning Safety
- Canning Apple Slices
- How to Safely Can Tomatoes At Home
- Canning Cherries with Honey
Check out my homestead mercantile for a full list of my favorite homesteading supplies.
Prefer to listen in? Listen to episode #134 of the Old Fashioned On Purpose Podcast: