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The ability to preserve and store your own food is a great skill set for the prepper, homesteader or anyone else who wants more control over what they eat. Canning can save you money, too, as you build a pantry that will be the envy of your self-sufficient friends. The easiest way to accomplish this is with water bath canning, since it doesn’t require much specialized gear–just a big pot, a rack that fits in the bottom of the pot, canning jars with lids, and acidic food.

This canning method involves boiling the jars of high-acid food in an open pot or a pot with a standard lid. No pressure canner is required. Tomatoes are a great choice for this method, and you can also water-bath can most fruits, jams, jellies, pickles, and juices.

Here are a few tips that can help you.

Sanitize your jars and lids: Eliminating bacteria and fungi are key parts of the preservation equation. Boil your canning jars and lids for 10 minutes, and let them cool before filling them with food. Boiling the rings that hold down the lids is not necessary.
Make sure the jar mouth is clean:** Use a funnel to fill the jar and wipe any food from the jar rim after filling. Food particles can break the seal if they get stuck between the jar mouth and the lid.

Boil the filled jars: Set the filled and capped jars on a canner rack inside a large pot half-filled with hot water. Once all jars are in place and covered by 1 to 2 inches of water, bring the pot to a boil for the processing time recommended for that food (usually 20 to 25 minutes). Add or subtract water from the pot, if necessary.
Cool the jars carefully:** This is done by lifting the jars out of the hot water with canning jar tongs or some other creative way that doesn’t jostle them. Set the jars on a towel on your countertop to cool naturally.

Check the seal: Once the jars are at room temperature (usually after several hours), check the lids to make sure they have “sucked down” and formed a vacuum. You’ll typically hear each jar pop as they cool and seal. After sealing, the lids should be solid and unable to flex or “pop.” If any of the jars don’t seal after cooling, discard the contents and the lid and check the jar mouth for nicks, cracks, or other damage. If the jar is defective, don’t use it.

Store your canned jars of food in a cool, dry, dark place and, for best results, try to use them up within one year. Don’t use a water bath for “mixed” foods, leftovers, seafood, veggies, meats, or other low-acid foods. Those must be processed in a pressure canner.

Consult a canning book for more details, recipes, and tips. The Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving has been a canning classic for generations. You can also find out more at

Does your family can any foods at home? Please share your favorites in the comments.