Step-by-Step Canning Guide

Achieve perfectly preserved fruits and vegetables with this easy-to-follow step-by-step canning guide.

  • Sterilize Jars and Prepare Lids
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    Sterilize Jars & Prepare Lids

    Step 1: Place clean canning jars on a rack in the bottom of the canning pot, add water to fill the jars and cover them by two inches. Cover the pot, and bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat. Boil for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer. Maintain at a simmer until you are ready to fill the jars. Place lids in a stoneware baking dish or heatproof bowl. Fan them out to ensure they're not clumped together.

  • Prepare the Lids to Seal
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    Prepare the Lids to Seal

    Step 2: Remove jars from the simmering water using a jar lifter, and carefully pour the water in the jars back into the pot. Place the jars upright on a clean towel or large wooden cutting board. Ladle enough simmering water over the lids to cover them. This warms the gasket on the underside of the lid and helps them seal. Cover the pot, and maintain at a simmer.

  • Fill the Jars
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    Fill the Jars

    Step 3: Pack any recipe-specified solid ingredients (such as herbs or cut vegetables for a pickle) into the hot jars. Ladle or pour hot mixture or brine into the jars, using a widemouthed funnel to help keep the jar rims clean.

  • Measure the Proper Space
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    Measure the Proper Space

    Step 4: Leave the recipe-specified amount of headspace, the space from the very top of the jar to the surface of the liquid or food inside. Repeat with remaining jars, working quickly to ensure that hot mixtures go into hot jars.

  • Settle the Contents
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    Settle the Contents

    Step 5: Tap the jars lightly to help the contents settle, and stir gently with a chopstick or thin plastic or wooden utensil to free any trapped air bubbles. Add more hot mixture or brine as needed to reach the correct headspace. Wipe the rims clean of any spilled food using a paper towel dipped in hot water.

  • Seal the Jar
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    Seal the Jar

    Step 6: Pour the water from the stoneware dish with the lids into the canning pot, and use tongs or a magnetic lid wand to quickly place a lid, white side down, on top of each jar. Place a band onto each jar; screw just until fingertip-tight. Do not overtighten.

  • Return the Jars to Water
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    Return the Jars to Water

    Step 7: Carefully lower the filled jars into the pot of simmering water using the jar lifter to keep them upright. Tipping can cause food to get between the jar and the lid and interfere with the seal. Add more water if needed to bring the water level to two inches above the jar tops.

  • Set a Timer
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    Set a Timer

    Step 8: Cover the pot, increase the heat, and return the water to a full rolling boil. After the water reaches a boil, set a timer, and boil for the amount of time specified in the recipe, adjusting if needed for your altitude. Turn off the heat, uncover the pot, and wait until the boiling has subsided (about 5 minutes). Remove jars using the jar lifter, being careful to keep them upright.

  • Let the Jars Rest
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    Let the Jars Rest

    Step 9: Transfer jars to a towel-lined or wooden surface where they can rest undisturbed 12 to 24 hours. Do not tighten or adjust bands. Lids may make a popping noise as the jars cool. Not to worry. That's one sign of an airtight seal–and the sound of canning success.

  • Inspect the Lids
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    Inspect the Lids

    Step 10: When the jars have cooled 12 to 24 hours, remove the bands and inspect the lids. Each lid should be sucked down a little in the middle and firmly attached at the edges. Press down on the center of each lid with your finger. If the lid doesn't move, the jar is sealed and can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year (or as specified by the recipe). If the lid center depresses and pops up again, the jar isn't sealed and should be refrigerated immediately and its contents used within a few days.

  • Label and Store Jars
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    Label and Store Jars

    Step 11: Label and store properly sealed jars without the bands. This allows you to better spot oozing, surface mold, rusting, and other signs of spoilage around the lid and frees up the bands for another canning batch. Refrigerate jars after opening.

  • What to do with Partial Jars
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    What to do with Partial Jars

    Step 12: Depending on how fast you simmered, skimmed off when removing foam, how much you tasted along the way, and the quality of your produce, you may have a few tablespoons more or less than you need for the proper headspace. Tempting though it may be, don't overfill the jars, and don't process jars that are only partially full. Headspace is critical to achieving an airtight seal and proper processing.

  • Little Jars Big Flavors
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    Little Jars Big Flavors

    Test your canning and preserving skills by trying these new recipes for small-batch jams, jellies, pickles, and preserves from the South's most trusted kitchen.

    Click here to order Southern Living Little Jars Big Flavors

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