6 Canning Safety Rules You Must Follow


* This article may contain affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Canning season is in full swing, but before you get started stuffing food into jars, here are six important canning safety rules you must always follow to ensure a safe finished product. #canningsafety #homecanning #howtocanfood #preservingfoodWell friends, summer’s finally here, and that means canning season is upon us. This also means it’s time for a little refresher course on canning safety, because while this might not be the most exciting aspect of canning and preserving food, it’s definitely the most important.

Canning is a science, not an art.

You can’t just “get creative” with your home canning recipes the way you can with cooking. There are a number of safety rules you absolutely must follow to ensure a safe finished product for you and your family. Because why bother canning up your own food at home if it’s not even safe to eat, amiright?

I always find it a little shocking that there are people who push back against the recommendations that one should always follow proper, updated canning procedures when canning food at home, or who pride themselves on being “canning rebels.”

Often the protests sound something like “my grandma did it that way for years and never killed anyone, so I’m going to keep doing it that way,” or “I’ll take my chances [even though I’m well aware of the risks involved].”

Just, why?

Why risk your health or even your life? Or your family’s lives?

While home canning is a very safe and easy way to preserve food and enjoy the summer and fall bounty all year long, there are some very serious potential risks if you choose to play fast and loose with the following very basic and sensible canning rules.

So don’t be a rebel, mmkay? This is one aspect of homesteading (and life) where following the rules is cool. Because, as my dorky yet loveable husband would say “it’s cool to be safe!”

(I may make fun of him, but he’s not wrong).

Here are six canning rules you absolutely MUST follow to ensure your home-canned food is 100% safe to eat.

 

6 Canning Safety Rules You Must Always Follow… No Matter What!

 

 

 

1. Always use a canner to can food at home

I know, this one seems pretty obvious, right? Well, apparently not to some people who still think it’s safe to can food in the oven, or using the open kettle method or the inversion method where you just put the hot food in the jars and let the lid seal, either right-side-up (open kettle) or upside down (inversion).

Sure, you might get your jars to seal this way, but none of these methods work to kill all of the harmful bacteria that you’ve now sealed up nice and tight inside your canning jars.

You absolutely must use either a water bath canner or a pressure canner when canning food at home

In fact, if you’re water bath canning you don’t even technically need to use a water bath canner, you can just use a large stockpot with a rack in the bottom. But you must either process your jars in a boiling water bath or in a pressure canner, depending on what you’re canning.

Learn more about how to get started water bath canning, or how to pressure can foods safely

Which brings me to my next safety tip rule…

 

2. Low acid foods must be canned using a pressure canner

This is pretty much the rule to end all rules when it comes to canning safety, it’s that important.

While high acid foods like fruits, jams, jellies, pickles, pie fillings, etc. can all be water-bath canned, all low acid foods MUST be canned using a pressure canner.

Pressure Canning | Canning Safety | Weighted Gauge Pressure Canner

Low acid foods include things like meat, vegetables, fish, soups, stocks, combination meals, etc.

While a boiling water bath canner reaches temperatures high enough to kill off most harmful bacteria in food, only a pressure canner can reach temperatures high enough to kill off botulism spores, which can produce a toxin under the right conditions if they’re not killed or rendered inactive by the high heat inside a pressure canner.

While there are botulism spored on everything (and I mean EVERYTHING, from fruits and veggies to soil and water, they’re everywhere…), in most cases these botulism spores are inactive and therefore, completely harmless.

However, given the right conditions and the right environment, these spores produce a powerful neurotoxin that can seriously harm or even kill you. Wanna take a guess what those conditions are??

Botulism thrives in a moist, low-acid, anaerobic (low or no oxygen), room temperature environment. Yup, the exact conditions inside a jar of home-canned food.

It’s imperative that all low-acid foods be pressure canned in order to kill the botulism spores off before they have a chance to turn deadly, so this rule is a really important one.

You can learn more about botulism and how to stay safe canning low-acid foods here.

 

3. Some foods should never be canned

There are some foods that should never be canned, even with a pressure canner. These foods are:

  • Dairy (milk, eggs, cheese, butter, etc.)
  • Pumpkin purée (puréed pumpkin or winter squash, ie. acorn, butternut squash, etc.)
  • Flour, pasta, rice, cornstarch, arrowroot powder, etc. (more of a quality issue than a safety issue)

Dairy is a big no-no when it comes to home canning. If you ever see a recipe for how to can milk or butter at home, RUN the other way!!

You can freeze dairy. You can even ferment and dehydrate some forms of dairy. But you can never can it. Since dairy is low-acid and high in fat (which can protect spores from being destroyed by heat), there’s just no safe tested method for canning dairy products at home.

* You may come across jam recipes calling for tablespoon or so of butter. This is okay and is meant to help with the foam on the top of jam. But as far as canning a stick of butter, just don’t.

Pumpkin purée is another thing that should not be canned because the purée is too thick for even the heat of a pressure canner to penetrate and kill all of the harmful bacteria.

You can can cubed pumpkin or winter squash in a pressure canner, then when you’re ready to use it you can drain it and purée it. But if you want to purée it ahead of time the only safe way to preserve it is by freezing.

Flour, pasta, rice, cornstarch and arrowroot powder are also things that should not be canned. This is more of a quality issue than a safety issue, but it can cause your food to be essentially inedible, so you’ll want to heed this rule too.

This is because flour and starch products break down over time and become mushy and gross. So for example, if you want to pressure can up some chicken soup, you can totally do that, just don’t add the noodles. Cook the noodles fresh when you’re ready to serve the soup. Dried pasta noodles can be stored pretty much indefinitely, so there’s really no need to can them with combination meals. Same with rice.

Likewise, adding flour, cornstarch and arrowroot powder to recipes as thickeners might work fine when you’re cooking them fresh, but not for canning. One obvious example of this is home-canned pie fillings.

While you might add one of these thickeners to your pie filling to thicken it when you’re baking it fresh, adding it to your home-canned pie filling can result in a lumpy, runny mess that you really don’t want to eat.

For pie fillings, the only approved thickener for canning is Clear Jel. It’s a modified cornstarch (non-GMO, so don’t worry) that can withstand the high temperatures of canning and keeps your home-canned pie filling thick and delicious for a long time.

I’ve had pie filling on my shelf for two years before and when I opened it it was as good as when I packed it in the jar. That’s thanks to Clear Jel!

You can see how I use Clear Jel in my recipes for home-canned blueberry pie filling and home-canned cherry pie filling.

 

4. Use Mason jars for canning

This one might seem like another obvious one, but I’m always astounded at how many people think it’s safe to can food in old jars from the grocery store (including some people in my own family, *ahem*).

You can’t guarantee a good seal when you reuse old grocery store jars and lids and this can mean food spoilage in the end.

And because they’re all different sizes they don’t always fit the Mason jar lids, which are the only lids approved for home canning.

You can reuse Mason jars and bands though, and you can usually even find old ones really cheap at thrift stores and garage sales. That’s totally fine, as long as they’re actually Mason jars and they’re not super old.

(Some really old Mason jars don’t fit today’s lids, and they’re more likely to crack and break due to age. These vintage jars are better as a collector’s item than an actual canning jar).

Otherwise you can reuse jars over and over again so they’re really economical (and environmentally friendly!). So even if you have to purchase them new up front, you’ll get your money back over time.

Canning season is in full swing, but before you get started stuffing food into jars, here are six important canning safety rules you must always follow to ensure a safe finished product. #canningsafety #homecanning #howtocanfood #preservingfood

 

5. Always use new lids when canning

While you can totally reuse Mason jars and bands, you can’t reuse the lids. This is because canning lids are made to seal only once. Once they’ve been sealed on a jar, their seal is compromised and they can’t be guaranteed to seal again.

Even if they do seal again, the seal might not be strong enough and it might break and cause your food to spoil.

Again, for the price of purchasing new lids every canning season, it’s not worth it to try to save a few pennies by reusing them.

Plus, you can still reuse old canning lids for all sorts of other things. I keep mine and use them or storing dried goods in my pantry, for making (and labelling) homemade products like candles, body butters and bath salts, etc., or for storing food in the fridge in Mason jars (ie. extra food from a canning project, homemade mayo, yogurt parfait or overnight oats for my daughter to take to school, etc.

If you want lids you can reuse, you can invest in some Tattler lids. They’re a little more costly up front but can be reused over and over again.

 

6. Always follow a safe and tested recipe

There are a lot of unsafe canning recipes and advice floating around the Internet. Likewise, there are a lot of unsafe and outdated canning recipes and practices that have been passed down through generations. And while some people make the argument that they’ve used these recipes and methods before and are still here to tell the tale, I don’t really think that’s the most reassuring piece of evidence to support a safe canning recipe, do you?

The fact is, a lot of research has been done on food safety and what scientifically makes home-canned food safe (or unsafe) to eat. Back in our grandparents’ day, a lot of this research hadn’t been done yet and this information didn’t exist. But just like with every other scientific advancement in history, we’ve evolved since then and our understanding of bacteria and food safety has come a long way.

Still, not everyone has caught up with the times or chooses to believe in the science behind food safety, and anyone can post anything on the Internet, so beware that recipe for canning milk that you might see on Pinterest or the recipe for water bath canning green beans (non-pickled ones) that your meemaw passed down to you.

Always follow safe, tested and up-to-date canning recipes and practices to ensure a safe finished product.

Some good sources include the National Center For Home Food Preservation (the authority on home canning in North America), anything published by Ball/Bernardin (Ball is the maker of most Mason jars you’ll find on store shelves in the US and Bernardin is the Canadian version)  and of course, my collection of canning recipes right here on this site (all of my recipes are taken or adapted from one of the aforementioned sources).

You can check out the National Center For Home Food Preservation site here for pretty much anything you want to know about canning and preserving food at home, as well as many recipes.

I also recommend getting yourself a solid canning book full of safe, tested recipes. My favourite is the Ball/Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving.

You can also check out all of my free canning and preserving recipes here. (And you know I’m a stickler for canning safety!)

 

Ready to take your canning game to the next level?

Whether you’ve never canned anything before or you’ve done a little canning and you’re ready to take the next step, I’m currently offering my first ever complete home canning course that will walk you through everything you need to know to get started canning food at home.

We’ll cover both water bath canning and pressure canning, and I’ll show you how to can your own jams, jellies, pickles, pie fillings, fruits, vegetables, tomato sauce and chicken stock at home. And of course we’ll go over canning safety, equipment and over all best practices in more depth so that you always feel confident both during the canning process and while enjoying your home-canned food afterwards.

You’ll also get a collection of bonuses including checklists and charts to help you stay safe and never miss a step while canning food at home, plus my bonus jam and jelly video training series to help you make and can your own jams and jellies with store-bought pectin, no pectin and even low-sugar.

Plus, you’ll gain access to our private Facebook group where you can ask questions and get answers in real time as well as share your canning projects with others in the group as we go through the canning season together!

But the best part is that, since this is the first time I’m launching this course and I’m still adding a few videos as we go through the growing and canning season, I’m offering a massive, one-time-only discount of 50% off the regular price to my first group of students.

So if you’re ready to get started canning (or canning more food than ever before this year!) then enroll now for just $49 and get started stocking your pantry right away!

Doors for the Yes, You CAN! Home Canning Course are now open for a limited time only. Enroll now and start preserving the harvest today!

 

Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness 🙂

 

 

 

 

 


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1 Comment

  1. Anna

    This was VERY informative and helpful. Thank you!!

    Reply

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ABOUT ANNA
Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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In fact, I’m all about everything fall: the colours, the coziness, the sweater weather, and yes, pumpkins and pumpkin spice. There’s just something comforting and nostalgic about it; Like grandma’s kitchen or the warm scent of pumpkin pie that wafts from the table at holiday dinners with family and friends.

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Sometimes I question why I do what I do. Why do I take on so much? Why do I bother making everything from scratch and growing a garden and preserving food when I could just as well buy it from the store and save myself a ton of time and effort?⁣⁣⁣
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Why am I working hard to build a business out of my passion when I could just as easily go to work for a pay check and just enjoy homesteading as a hobby on the side?⁣⁣⁣
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Why do I choose to do everything the hard way and see against the grain? Why not just go with the flow and hope for the best?⁣⁣⁣
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I can’t say for sure that I would have chosen to follow all the same paths that I’ve gone down over the past few years had I not become a mother, but what I 𝘥𝘰 know for sure is that my beautiful daughter is worth every ounce of hard work; every dollar I’ve invested in our future goals and dreams; every late night work fest and canning session; every seed planted and loaf of bread baked.⁣

She’s worth it because I want to give her the best I can in life. I want her to eat good food and live a long and healthy life. I want to teach her how to be self-sufficient so that she has the skills she needs no matter what kind of world awaits her in the future. And I want to show her that anything is possible and any dream is worth pursuing, even if the work that it takes to achieve it is harder than following the herd and taking the road of least resistance.⁣⁣⁣
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This little human right here: this is my why. This girl and her goofy smile make everything worthwhile ❤️⁣⁣⁣
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What (or who?) is your why?
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This growing season has seriously been the strangest I’ve experienced so far. Summer came so late we thought it wasn’t gonna come at all. Our greens and peas and spring crops produced for weeks longer then they normally do as we waited FOREVER for our tomatoes and peppers and summer crops to grow and ripen.

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Can you imagine how bland and boring our food (and life) would be without spices??⁣

Seriously! We take them for granted nowadays because they’re so readily available in our pantries and on grocery store shelves. But for thousands of years throughout history, spices were coveted, revered and hard to get. For around 1,500 years, spices travelled overland on camelback and horseback on the Silk Road from China to the west. And then, just over 500 years ago, explorers set out into the unknown to find a maritime trading route, and one of those explorers just so happened to stumble on the Americas along the way, essentially shaping history and the modern world as we know it. ⁣

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So if you’re already subscribed, be sure to check your inbox for the latest issue (it came out yesterday). And if you’re NOT yet subscribed, then head on over and click the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead to subscribe for FREE, and get the latest issue delivered straight to your inbox!⁣

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I just love Ginny’s approach to homeschooling and if you’re anything like me, I think you will too. You can check out her full post by clicking the link in my bio or go to https://thehouseandhomestead.com/homeschooling-on-the-homestead/

It’s also Ginny's first time guest posting so be sure to leave a comment while you’re there and let us know what school looks like for your family this year.⁣

Link in bio @thehouseandhomestead
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I’ve been feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders lately. Between balancing work and the garden and all of the canning and preserving tasks this time of year, I’ve already got enough on my plate. Add a string of social commitments, back-to-school and extracurricular activities, and I’m definitely feeling the pressure, as I usually do this time of year.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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But lump on a pandemic, worsening political tensions, division and civil unrest, intensifying environmental disasters (we’re currently socked in with smoke from the California wildfires), and it all just becomes too much to bear some days.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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I know I’m far from the only one who’s feeling this way. And yet, we all have to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep going even when we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed and burnt out. Even when the present is frightening and the future is uncertain.⁣

I’ve developed some strategies over the past few years that have helped me keep moving forward and get things done even when I’m feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, and I want to share them with others who need help coping with stress and overwhelm right now too.⁣⁣
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You can check out my list of 10 tips for managing stress and overwhelm on the homestead (and in life!) by clicking the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead and then clicking the link to the full blog post at the top.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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You can also grab my free time management planner by clicking the link in my bio and then clicking on “Free Resource Library,” (find it under “Homesteading & Self-Sufficiency Resources” in the library).⁣⁣⁣
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No matter what you’re struggling with right now, I hope some of these tips help keep you navigate these extra stressful times and stay focused and moving forward with your to-do list, as well as with your big goals and dreams. But most of all, I hope it reminds you that if you are struggling and feeling overwhelmed right now, you’re not alone.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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Link in bio @thehouseandhomestead to read more.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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I don’t think I have a jar big enough for this pickling cucumber 🥒 ⁣

What do you do with the huge pickling cukes that inevitably get missed in the garden??⁣

Please leave suggestions below! I’ve got two of ‘em! 😂
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Late summer is truly the time of abundance (and by far the busiest time of year for us).⁣⁣⁣
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We’ve got so much food that’s ripe for the picking in our own garden, plus baskets full of produce that we purchase locally when it’s in season and preserve for the winter.⁣⁣⁣
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Between harvesting and preserving (and trying my best to document it all for you along the way), there’s little time for much else in August.⁣⁣⁣
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We’re busy sweating in the garden and the kitchen, working around the clock to preserve all of the fruits (and vegetables) of summer so that come winter we hunker down and relax knowing we’ve got a pantry full of food to sustain us.⁣⁣⁣
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While there have been more times than I like to admit when I’ve asked myself why we do this when we could be at the beach or floating down the river like everyone else, come winter I am ALWAYS grateful for the time and energy we invested in the spring, summer and fall to grow and preserve all of the food that lines our pantry shelves.⁣⁣⁣
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With everything that 2020 has brought so far (and more uncertainty to come), this year I’m feeling grateful even in the thick of it; Even while I’m sweating and pulling late night canning sessions and constantly scraping dirt out from under my nails. This year it’s more apparent than ever how much growing and preserving our own food is worth the time and effort that it takes.⁣⁣⁣
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If you feel the same way and you’re looking to get even better at gardening, preserving and homesteading in general, or maybe you’re finally ready to start living a more sustainable lifestyle where YOU have control over your food supply, I highly encourage you to check out the Gardening & Sustainable Living Bundle (link in bio @thehouseandhomestead). It’s packed with almost $600 worth of resources designed to help you take control of your food security and live a more self-sufficient life, and it’s on sale today only for just $19.99!⁣

If you ask me, we would all be wise to invest in our own food security as we head into fall and winter 2020, so click the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead to grab your bundle now. The sale ends tonight at midnight so don’t wait!!
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