Growing up, we never canned our own food even though we had a nice-sized garden. I was actually introduced to the idea of canning our food by my husband, Brian, almost 2 years ago. Growing up, his mom always canned food from their garden, so we decided it was something we wanted to do.
We started simple by making broth from chicken, turkey or beef bones and canning it. Then, we started canning the soups we make every fall and winter (we tend to have perpetual soups going in the colder months). After that, I started picking up extra produce when it’s on sale so I am able to can it. There’s nothing worse than having to drag myself to the grocery store when there’s a couple feet of snow on the ground!
The winter before we moved here, the town got 6+ feet of snow in just a couple days. All of the roads were shut down and the grocery stores ran out of food. That’s not a situation we want to be in. So, during winter especially, we like to have extra food on hand.
Canning is a great way to stock extra food in your pantry or emergency supplies. I especially love it because the food is canned in glass jars rather than BPA-lined cans. Standard canning lids do have BPA on them, but I’ll be sharing a reusable canning lid option that is BPA free.
In this first post, I’ll be sharing a list of the canning supplies we have for pressure canning (the only safe method at our altitude) as well as what you’ll need for the water bath method if you want to start there. I’ll be doing separate posts on how to pressure can as well as a review of reusable canning lids since I just started using them.
Pressure canning is the only method recommended as safe by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for canning vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood.
The first thing you’ll need is a good pressure canner. There are a lot of expensive ones out there, and I’m sure they’re great, but we’re very happy with our Presto pressure canners. They’re affordable, made well and they work great. We have 16 quart and 23 quart canners. You only need one, but we have found having 2 works well for us.
The instruction book that comes with these canners is outstanding. You can buy canning recipe books, but there are enough recipes and instructions in the instruction book to get you started.
Presto 16-Quart Canner
Holds 12 half-pints; 10 pints; 7 quarts.
Presto 23-Quart Canner
Holds 24 half-pints; 20 pints; 7 quarts.
You’ll also want a set of special utensils to help you safely and easily handle hot jars and lids, fill jars, measure headspace and remove air bubbles. There are a variety of sets out there, but we have the Ball Utensil Set and it has worked well for us (plus it’s affordable).
It includes a jar funnel, jar lifter, lid lifter and bubble remove/headspace tool. We didn’t have these tools the first time we canned, and we immediately went out and bought a set afterwards. It’s a must-have.
And of course, you’ll need canning jars and extra lids. The two most common brands are Ball and Kerr. I most often can with wide-mouth quart jars, but you can get regular mouth ones as well as pints, half pints and even gallons and half gallons.
While your jars will come with canning lids, those can’t be reused so you’ll need to buy extras to have on-hand (the rings can be reused). You can buy the standard canning lids or reusable canning lids (which are BPA free).
You’ll want something to label those jars with what’s in them and when they were canned. I had previously been using printer labels, but I just stumbled upon these dissolvable labels and they are now in my Amazon shopping cart for my next order. It says they easily wash away with water, but are durable for long-term storage. Sounds great to me!
Water Bath Canning
Water bath canning is a safe method for preserving things like fruits, jams, jellies, pickles and salsa (but not at certain altitudes like ours). You can actually water bath can with the Presto 23-Quart Canner as well, so that’s a great option if you want to be able to preserve foods through both methods.
If you wanted to water bath can with the pressure cooker, you still need all of the items listed above. However, if you only plan to can things that can be preserved in water bath, there are less expensive options. Ball offers a water bath canning kit that includes everything you need to get started (except for the jars and lids).
However, if you see yourself wanting to preserve vegetables, meats, poultry or seafood at any point, I suggest investing in the pressure cooker.
We typically just put the jars back into the boxes they came in, but I stumbled upon a really cool way to store your jars if you need a way to easily stack them to save space. MyPatriotSupply offers a really cool quart jar box. I’d love to have some of these!
At the very minimum, to get started, these are the items I recommend you get first:
- Presto 23-Quart Canner
- Ball Utensil Set
- Wide-mouth quart jars
I highly recommend canning your own food. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of stocking your pantry with foods you have preserved yourself.