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. 

 

Wanna learn how to can your own food?

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!

If you’re ready to get started canning (or canning more food than ever before this year!) enroll now and get started stocking your pantry!

*** Use code PREPARED2023 until the end of September 2023 to take 20% off the regular price and get lifetime access to the course and all bonuses! ***

I hope to see you in class:)

 

 

 

 


CATEGORIES
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NATURAL LIVING

7 Comments

  1. J

    This is my first time canning. I watched a few YouTube videos which seemed to be coming from authoritative sources, but I am not sure now because I did not realize until days after I had already processed 24 quarts of tomatoes from my garden (about 40% of my crop) that I wasn’t supposed to overtighten the lids before processing so that air can escape while in the boiling water bath canner. I tightened them as hard as I could. The canning set I purchased even came with a jar wrench which now seems pretty odd.
    So my question – do I need to toss all 24 quarts from a week or two ago. Is it too late to reprocess them (with new lids). I was thorough using the rubber spatula to release air bubbles before sealing, but still, there would have been a half inch of air at the top of the quart jar. I have a good sense of smell – will I be able to smell any spoiled jars when I open them?
    Thank you,

    Reply
    • Ashley Constance

      Hi there,

      The reason it’s recommended not to over-tighten jars is that it can prevent the air from escaping during processing, which won’t allow for a proper seal or can lead to the lids buckling.

      As long as you still got a proper seal and followed a safe and tested recipe, you should be ok, but in the future – only tighten the bands to “fingertip tight” 🙂

      Here is a great article for more information:

      https://www.clemson.edu/extension/food/canning/canning-tips/08tighten-lids.html

      Reply
  2. 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
  3. 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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We packed up and moved to Vancouver Island where we live now, started our first garden, and the rest is pretty much history.

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Over the past few years, our decision to follow a less conventional path that aims to break free (at least in some part) from “the system” has been affirmed over and over again. We all know for a fact now that our food system, healthcare system, financial system, transportation system and so much more are all really just a house of cards built on shaky ground. We’ve been lucky so far, but sooner or later it’s all liable to collapse.

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Yes, you read that right…

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If you’ve been watching events unfold over the past few years and you’re feeling called to start “cutting ties” with the system and begin reclaiming your independence, The Society of Self-Reliance was made for you!

When I first launched this online membership program last year, my goal was to create a one-stop resource where members could go to learn and practice every aspect of self-reliance, as well as a space to connect with other like-minded people pursuing the same goal. And that’s exactly what you’ll get when you join!

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn inside the Society:

🌱 Food Security and Self-Sufficiency: Learn the art of growing and preserving your own food, ensuring you and your loved ones have access to nutritious meals year-round.

🌿 Natural Living and Herbal Medicine Mastery: Discover the secrets to creating a low-tox home and and to growing, making and using herbal remedies to support your family’s health, naturally.

🔨 Essential Life Skills: Learn essential life skills like time management, effective goal setting and practical DIY skills to become more self-sufficient.

As a member, you’ll enjoy:

📚 Monthly Video Lessons: Gain access to our ever-growing library of video lessons, with fresh content added each month.

📞 Live Group Coaching Calls: Participate in our monthly live group coaching calls, where we deep dive into a different self-reliance topic every month, and do live demonstrations and Q&A’s.

🏡 Private Community: Join our private community forum where you can ask questions, share your progress, and connect with like-minded individuals.

I only open the doors to The Society once or twice each year, but right now, for one week only, you can become a member for just $20/month (or $200/year).

In today’s world, self-reliance is no longer a luxury, a “cute hobby,” it’s a necessity. Join us inside The Society of Self-Reliance and empower yourself with the skills you need to thrive in the new world!

Link in profile or visit thehouseandhomestead.com/society to learn more.

#selfreliance #selfreliant #selfsufficiency #selfsufficientliving #sustainableliving #modernhomesteading #homesteadingskills #preparedness
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Got out for an early morning harvest today. Been up since 3am, contemplating life, the future and the past, the order of things…

There is a rumbling right now, not just in North America, but around the world. Many of us can feel it, and know we are on the precipice of something big.

I’d been hearing about this new song that’s become an overnight viral sensation, written by an (until now) unknown singer named Oliver Anthony. His new song Rich Men North of Richmond has had 14 million views on YouTube in the past week alone, so I decided to check it out.

I also saw a clip of him playing a Farmers Market last week, and anything that has to do with Farmers Markets always has my attention;)

I can’t tell you how many tears I’ve already cried listening to that song. If you’ve heard it already, you probably know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, I highly recommend giving it a listen. All I can say is it’s been a while since a song resonated so deeply with me, and in this strange new world, I know I’m not the only one.

One of the lines in Anthony’s song is “Livin’ in the new world, with an old soul,” and that’s something I think so many of us in the homesteading community can relate to.

Trying to cling to better days; To a simpler time; To the old ways, all while doing our best to get by in the new world.

The world has changed drastically in the last few years especially, and it’s set to change in immense ways over the next few years. Today I’m feeling thankful for people like @oliver_anthony_music_ who give a voice to what so many are feeling right now.

Know that if you’re feeling it too, you’re far from alone. And while the future may feel uncertain and even a little scary, remember that if we stand united, we the people are a force to be reckoned with.

(Continued in comments…)
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Another garlic harvest in the books!

Garlic is easily one of my favourite crops to grow. It’s pretty much a “set if and forget it” crop. We plant in the fall and leave it to overwinter, fertilize a couple times in the spring, start watering only once the ground starts to dry out, and then harvest in the summer. We can even plant a fall succession crop after our garlic if we want so it really makes great use of garden space all year round.

Over the years we’ve managed to become completely self-sufficient with garlic. We now grow enough to eat all year (and then some!), plus we save our own seed garlic and usually have extra to sell or give away. And around here fresh, organic garlic ain’t cheap, so it’s a good cash crop for anyone who’s serious about selling it.

It took me a few years to really get the hang of garlic, but it’s one crop I’m now very confident with (knock on wood, because it’s always when we make statements like this that next year’s crop fails! Lol.)

A while back I compiled a comprehensive guide to growing, harvesting and using garlic both as an edible and medicinal crop. This is usually only available as part of a paid bundle (or in the fall 2022 issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine if you’re a subscriber;), but for a limited time I’m offering it for free, no strings attached!

Plus you’ll also get access to my step-by-step video lesson on planting garlic so you can set yourself up for success with your garlic crop this year.

Comment “Garlic” below or head to thehouseandhomestead.com/garlic-guide to get your free copy!
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#garlic #garlicharvest #homesteading #selfsufficient #selfsufficiency #selfsufficientliving #selfreliance #homegrown #groworganic #growfoodnotlawns #gardenersofinstagram #homesteadersofinstagram
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Going through photos and videos from our trip to the @modernhomesteadingconference and the vast majority are of our daughter having the time of her life!

Even if I personally got nothing else out of this gathering (which I most certainly did), watching her discover her own love of this lifestyle outside of what we do at home made my heart grow three sizes!

Homesteading is about so much more than homegrown food and self-reliance. It’s about passing on invaluable skills and an understanding of and respect for our connection to the land that provides for us to the next generation.

Being around so many other kids and families who are also pursuing a homesteading lifestyle helped show our little one that this is a movement that is so much bigger and greater than what our own family does on our little plot of land. This is a lifestyle worth pursuing, with a community unlike any other.

Glad to be back home and more excited than ever to involve my kids in everything we’re doing. But also, I think I speak for my whole family when I say we can’t wait to go back someday!
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#homesteading #modernhomesteading #raisinglittles
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If you’re simply looking for ways to save a little extra cash this summer and live well for less, here are 12 tried and tested frugal living tips for summer that you can use to save money this season without sacrificing a thing.
Head over using the link in my bio!
https://thehouseandhomestead.com/12-frugal-living-tips-summer/
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#houseandhomestead
#momentsofcalm
#pursuejoy
#simplepleasuresoflife
#thatauthenticfeeling
#findhappiness
#artofslowliving
#simplelifepleasures
#lifesimplepleasure
#simplepleasuresinlife
#thatauthenticlife
#authenticlifestyle
#liveanauthenticlife
#livinginspired
#savouringhappiness
#livemoment
#localgoodness
#simplelive
#lifeouthere
#enjoywhatyouhave
#frugallifestyle
#homesteadingmama
#offgridhomestead
#modernfarmhousekitchen
#crunchymama
#rusticfarmhouse
#farmhouseinspo
#farmhouselife
#modernhomesteading
#backyardfarmer
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