Let's Get Canning

Do not fear canning. The benefits are many and despite its reputation as something difficult and time consuming, sealing delicious food in a jar for later consumption is so easy that you’ll be doing it in no time flat with the help of this simple guide.


If you’ve never canned before, companies like Ball have you covered with pre-packaged “canning kits” that contain everything you’ll need to get canning, taking the guesswork out of what equipment to buy. These kits come with the basic canning supplies: 

A stock pot for water
A rack to hold the jars
A special tool for pulling hot jars from the water

There are also more complex kits that contain other tools like funnels for easier jar filling and spatulas for removing air from jars. These are nice but not necessary. Of course, you’ll also need jars. There is a large range of sizes, and most preparation recipes will specify what sort you need. So you have your tools and you have your jars: Let’s get started.

Getting Started

1. Make a thorough inspection of each jar and lid. Any jars that have nicks or other damage should be discarded because they can break or not seal. 

2. Check lids. They should be clean, free of bending and not scratched or damaged.

3. Test your bands by screwing the bands onto the jars to make sure they fit. 

4. Wash the jars thoroughly in hot, soapy water and rinse well. These jars are intended to sit around for some time, so they need to be as clean as possible. This initial inspection and cleaning is essential.

5. Use this initial inspection for both water bath canning and pressure canning.

Water Bath Canning
Now that your initial inspection is complete, you’re ready to can. At its core, this is a simple process of heat and water that does not have to take a lot of time or effort. Just follow our easy steps.

Water Bath Canning

Now that your initial inspection is complete, you’re ready to can. At its core, this is a simple process of heat and water that does not have to take a lot of time or effort. Just follow our easy steps.

Part One

Get the food in the jar

  • Place jars in a pot of hot (not boiling) water. The jars just need to be kept hot so that they will not break when hot food is put into them. Put some water inside the jars so that they will sink. Keep the jars hot until they are needed.
  • Place canning rack into the pot. Fill the canning pot halfway with water and bring it to a simmer, keeping pot covered. Don’t have a canning pot setup? Any large stockpot can be used, just be sure it can hold enough water for the size jars being used. Extra canning rings can be placed on the bottom of the pot for a makeshift rack.
  • Prepare your food for canning according to recipe—this is the fun part where you get to create exactly what goes in your jars! 
  • Lift each jar from the hot water for filling. Empty the jar of any water and fill with the food, leaving some headspace —generally 1/4–1/2 inch. 
  • Run a rubber spatula around the interior of the jar to remove any air bubbles, then clean the rim of any food that might be there. Place the lid on the jar and allow the seal to make good contact with the rim. Screw the band on and get ready to seal everything up!

Part Two

Seal it up for later

  • Load your canner rack with your filled jars, lower the rack into the water, which should cover the jars by 1-2 inches. Put your lid on the pot.
  • Increase the heat on the water until it comes to a full boil, and let the jars process for the time specified by the recipe being canned.
  • When your jars have been in the water according to the time specified by the recipe, turn the heat off, remove the canner lid off and let things calm down for 5-10 minutes. 
  • Check the seals to make sure everything is sealed up. You have done it!

Pressure Canning

Pressure canning is a more advanced process requiring a special pressure cooker, and is used for low acid foods like meat. Once the water bath method of canning has been mastered, buy yourself a pressure cooker and get to work!

The preparation of jars for pressure canning is exactly like part one of part one of water bath canning. The difference comes in when actually processing the jars of prepared food. 

  • Because of the difference in pressure cookers from different manufacturers, a careful reading of the instructions specific to the cooker being used is vital. There is no reason to fear the pressure cooker, but there is every reason to respect it.
  • The goal of using a pressure cooker is to expand 2-3 inches of boiling water into steam. Since steam takes up more volume than liquid water, it provides more pressure in the locked environment of the pressure cooker. There will be a recommended amount of steam pressure from the manufacturer, and each cooker comes with a vent pipe that allows for pressure regulation. 
  • Once the prepared food has been processed according to the recipe and cooker’s instructions, remove the pressure cooker from the heat. This will allow the remaining steam to condense back into liquid water, lowering the pressure. When the pressure gauge reaches zero, carefully unlock and remove the lid. Let the open pot sit for 10-15 minutes so that the jars start to cool.
  • Seal jars by placing lids on the jars and screwing on bands. Allow to sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Check seals and reprocess, refrigerate or use any product that has not sealed correctly. Store in a cool, dark place.

For More Canning Tips Visit These Websites:

Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service: uaex.edu, search for “canning”

Ball: freshpreserving.com

Pick Your Own: pickyourown.org

P. Allen Smith Garden Home: pallensmith.com, search “canning 101”


Find Arkansas Canned Goods At These Local Shops:

Eggshells Kitchen Co., Little Rock

Farmer’s Table Café, Fayetteville

Hillcrest Artisan Meats, Little Rock

Ozark Natural Foods, Fayetteville

The Savory Pantry, Hot Springs

The Fresh Market, Little Rock

Surfas Culinary District, Hot Springs

Whole Foods, Little Rock