6 Canning Safety Rules You Must Follow


* This article contains 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 to Ensure Safe Home-Canned Food

 

 

 

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:

  • Eggs and Dairy (milk, cheese, butter, etc. and eggs, including pickled eggs)
  • Pumpkin purée (puréed pumpkin or winter squash, ie. acorn, butternut squash, etc. are too thick, even for the high heat of a pressure canner to permeate. Pumpkin and squash must be cubed and pressure canned..)
  • Flour, pasta, rice, cornstarch, arrowroot powder, etc. (more of a quality issue than a safety issue as they will get mushy and clumpy)
  • Oil (olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, etc. A little bit of oil in a tested canning recipe is okay, but oil based foods like pesto or sun-dried tomatoes in oil should never be canned)
  • Nut butters (ie. peanut butter, almond butter, sun butter, etc.)

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.

I also compiled 30 of my favourite canning recipes (all adapted from trusted sources such as those mentioned above) in my Home Canning Handbook (eBook), which you can grab right here. And of course you can also check out all of my free canning and preserving recipes right here. 

 

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, my Yes, You CAN! complete home canning course will walk you through everything you need to know to get started canning food SAFELY at home.

Over the course of 12 easy-to-follow lessons, we cover both water bath canning and pressure canning, and I show you step-by-step 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:

  • Printable checklists and cheatsheets to help you stay safe and never miss a step while canning food at home
  • My bonus Jam and Jelly Making Mini-Course to help you make and can your own jams and jellies with store-bought pectin, no pectin and even low-sugar
  • A copy of my Home Canning Handbook, complete with 30 of my favourite home canning recipes for canning everything from fruits and vegetables to jams and jellies to sauces and salsa to stocks, soups, meats, combination meals and more!

But the best part is that, I’m currently offering my Yes, You CAN! home canning course for 25% off the regular price, but only for a limited time! 

So if you’re ready to get started canning (or canning more food than ever before this year!) enroll now to take advantage of this special offer and get started stocking your pantry right away!

I hope to see you in class!

 

Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness 🙂

 

 

 

 


CATEGORIES
HOMESTEADING
REAL FOOD
NATURAL LIVING

5 Comments

  1. Joan Laufnick

    I have a corn allergy and can’t use clearjel. Are there any options for me in canning pie fillings, or do I just can the fruits with the seasonings for pie, and thicken it before putting it in the crust??

    Reply
    • Anna Sakawsky

      Yes that’s exactly what I’d do. Just omit the Clear Jel and add your flour thickener to your pie filling just before adding it to your pie:)

      Reply
      • Ellie Otway

        I have a harrisa recipe I make, I would like to can it, but it seems to be unclear. It contains alot of acid and I’ve checked the pH level which is 4.4 but it also contains alot of oil. Does this automatically make it unsafe to can despite the pH level? It’s also not cooked, but rather a fresh sauce. I’m really struggling to find the information I need, so any help would be appreciated. Many thanks

        Reply
        • Anna Sakawsky

          Hi Ellie,

          I definitely wouldn’t can it if it has a lot of oil in it. Also, as it’s not a tested recipe, it’s impossible to know the exact PH and how much acidity you would need to ensure it’s safe for waterbath canning.

          If you’re pressure canning you can start to make your own recipes with more ease as you simply process according to the ingredient with the longest processing time, but with waterbath canning it’s trickier.

          I would stick to freezing it to preserve it just to be safe.

          Reply
  2. 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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To read the full story, click the link in my bio @anna.sakawsky or go to modernhomesteadingmagazine.com to subscribe or log in and read the latest issue 🍁

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I consider myself an optimistic realist: I hope for the best and I live fully and freely in the moment, but I prepare for the future accordingly based on what I can see unfolding in our world. And honestly, I find this “sweet spot” to be incredibly empowering.

This is why I do what I do and why I share it with you on a regular basis; I WANT TO EMPOWER YOU TOO!

That’s why I created The Society of Self-Reliance: A private membership that connects you with the resources, support and community you need to reclaim your independence and become more self-reliant in every aspect of your life.

From growing and preserving your own food to crafting and using herbal medicine to life skills like how to manage it all and stay calm in stressful situations, how to prepare for emergency situations and much more, if you’re ready to learn invaluable skills that will help you take control of your family’s food security, health and wellbeing, time, finances, and ultimately over your own future, The Society of Self-Reliance was created for you!

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#trudeaumustgo

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What would you do if the grid went down?

Imagine not just the lights going out, but all power, all digital communication and information. Would you be prepared?

A lot of us THINK we’re prepared for a grid down situation, but unless you’re already living off grid, you might not realize how dependent on technology we really are!

In the fall issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, contributor Ashley Constance of @dirtypawshomestead and @alittleselfreliant shares her experience voluntarily going without power for the day, and what she and her husband, Shawn learned from their grid down experiment.

You might be surprised at the things they discovered and missed on their prep list, and it might prompt you to reevaluate whether you’re ready in case the grid goes down, or even just Google 😱

Check out the full story in the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine!

Link in bio @anna.sakawsky or visit www.modernhomesteadingmagazine.com

#modernhomesteadingmagazine #homesteadersofinstagram #homesteading #modernhomesteading #prepping #nationalpreparednessmonth
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The other day when I had a few minutes to spare, I was out in the garden doing a little work when my neighbour said hi over the fence.

I lamented to her about how busy we’ve been and how hard it’s been to keep on top of this year. Very sincerely, she replied “wait until you have another one,” referring to our baby on the way.

“You’ll be moving back to the suburbs so quick, mark my words,” she said.

Now, I don’t for a second think there was any ill intent behind her statement, but still, it took me aback.

“We’ll never move back to the city or the suburbs,” I replied with a laugh. “This may be hard work but we love it.”

She then repeated her statement and followed it up with “just you wait and see.”

I decided not to continue the back and forth. After all, I told myself, it doesn’t matter if she or anyone else knows what’s truly in your heart. It doesn’t matter if she understands that there’s no amount of difficulty that would make me run back to the suburbs and leave this life behind. In fact, our dream is to upgrade to a bigger property someday where we can grow an even bigger garden and add more livestock to our homestead!

Likewise, I visited the city last weekend for a family event and as always, I had at least a couple people ask me “so when are you moving back to the city?”

Seven years later, and still we have friends and family members who think this is just a phase we’re going through, and eventually we’ll come to our senses and move back.

I used to get offended by these questions because I felt unseen; I felt like nobody took this life that I’m so passionate about seriously, and thought it was “cute” that I was “playing farmer” for a bit, but eventually I had to grow up and become part of the “real world” once again.

Now I just smile and reply “never:)”

Can you relate? How do you (politely) respond when someone questions your lifestyle choices or implies that you’ll eventually come to your senses and come back to “reality”?

Let me know below 👇
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The fall issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine just dropped!

In this issue you’ll find:

• Preparedness tips, tricks and advice to help you be ready for anything on the homestead (and in life!)
•The ultimate guide to growing garlic at home and it as both food and medicine
• Drool-worthy recipes that feature garlic as the star!
• Expert advice from A Farmgirl in the Making’s Ann Accetta-Scott on what to look for (and look out for) when buying or selling a homestead property
• Advice on how to learn and grow from perceived homesteading “failures”

And more!!!

Go to modernhomesteadingmagazine.com or click the link in my bio @anna.sakawsky to subscribe or login to the library and read the latest issue if you’re already subscribed!
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