You’ve decided you want to start canning & preserving food at home–hurray! But if you don’t know anyone who wants to pass down their used canning equipment, the start up costs can add up. What do you absolutely need for canning? What can you live without? And what equipment is worth the money?
Don’t want to hear about my thought process behind the choices? Scroll to the end and see my list.
How do you start canning food at home?
If you’re brand new to canning, I recommend starting with jams, pickles, and tomato sauce. These three items all need only water bath canning, are high acidic foods, and are easy to have success with.
Stay away from beans, corn, carrots, or any food that requires a pressure cooker. Relishes, juices, and jellies are a nice intermediate-level project.
If the thought of canning is too overwhelming or you don’t have as much time as you thought you did, there’s nothing wrong with preparing your fruits and vegetables, then freezing them in freezer safe bags.
If money allows, you can vacuum seal for even longer life in the freezer.
- Start with easy canning projects like jam, pickles & tomato sauce
- Freeze fruits and vegetables instead if you’re short on time
What Equipment do I really Need for Canning?
The easiest way to get started with water bath canning is to invest in a canning kit and a few boxes of jars with lids in different sizes. I personally don’t like the canners that most of these kits come with, because they’re not tall enough for canning quart jars. This one I’ve linked is tall enough.
You’ll also want a few freezer bags for when there’s more of your recipe than can be properly canned in the jars you have. I sometimes also freeze my canning that doesn’t seal properly. I’m usually too annoyed that it didn’t seal properly the first time to go back and re-can it!
Related: The Beginners Guide to Home Canning
If you’re farther along into your canning & preserving journey, you might also want to invest in a steamer juicer and dehydrator. You can juice without a juicer (and I go into the pros and cons here), but the steamer juicer makes the nicest juice both in texture and colour.
We don’t dehydrate a lot in the fall, but we’ve used our dehydrator for making camp food for canoe trips on the river, and we like the results.
- A canning kit and jar kit are a must-have
- Save the steamer juicer and dehydrator for when you feel like an intermediate canner
Canning & Freezing When You’re Short on Time
It seems like every fall I have the best of intentions to can everything under the sun, but then school starts and my work commitments ramp up and I find myself unable to do as much as I hoped. In this case, the slow cooker is my friend. I can cut up that days veggies in the morning or evening, let them simmer in the slow cooker, and process them later in the day.
Or, I can just blend them up with my immersion blender and immediately put them into freezer bags.
I go into more detail about how I process tomatoes when I’m short on time here.
- No time? The slow cooker, stick blender, and freezer bags are your friend!
Can I Use My Instant Pot for Canning?
Have you joined the Instant Pot craze yet? We got one last Christmas and I’m still getting used to it. I was very excited at the possibility of using it for canning, but as of 2019, it is not recommended to use for home canning.
Technically, it can be used for water bath canning, but because it hasn’t been tested officially yet, the official guideline is not to use it. However, you can use it to cook your tomato sauce, pumpkin puree, apple sauce or whatever you’re canning. Just use the regular canning, pressure canning, or freezing methods after your fruits or vegetables cook in the Instant Pot.
- You can cook the fruits or vegetables in the Instant Pot, but as of 2019 it’s not safe to process them.
What are the Best Recipe Books for Canning?
I love canning and have developed a few favourite recipes over the years. Here are the ones on my site that I personally make and love.
- Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
- Easy Peach Jam
- Tomato Hamburger Relish
- Maple Spiced Crab Apple Butter
- Crab Apple Juice
If you’d rather buy a whole recipe book on canning, here are a couple of options I like:
You can’t go wrong with the gold standard of canning recipes.
I like small batch recipes, as I garden in the city and often don’t have enough produce for canning on a large scale.
This canning guide is an older version, but I love anything that Better Homes and Gardens puts out. They always cover the basics in an easy to follow, step by step manner.
I’m also currently reading through the Home Grown Pantry by Barbara Pleasant, and it’s a wealth of basic freezing, canning, drying, and other preservation techniques. She also has some good guidelines of how much to plant so that you have enough to freeze.
Here’s a quick list of my favourite canning essentials:
Nice to have:
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Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots. She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden. She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.