Preserving the Harvest Part 1: Canning



I am not a fan of canning. I usually prefer to freeze most of the veggies we harvest from the garden. But due to lack of freezer space and my kid’s preference for canned veggies (yeah, I know right?) I have come to terms with the whole process of canning.  I can’t say I love it, I at most tolerant. I live in Georgia, even with air conditioning canning is hot work. Okay, enough of my whining…let’s talk about canning.

My mother-in-law taught me how to can. She’s been doing it for years. She solely uses the “Water Bath” method. This method is ideal for high acid foods like pickles, tomato sauce, jams and jellies, etc. It’s the method I currently use mainly because I do not own a pressure canner. Many gardeners prefer the water bath method because it’s easy and employs low cost tools. A pressure canner can easily run you between $75-$100. As with most things there are pros and cons for both methods.

With both canning methods there are a few guidelines you MUST follow for safety reasons. To process via a pressure canner or boiling-water canner to control botulinum bacteria depends on the acidity of the food. High acid foods are safe to process using the water bath method; for low acid foods it’s safer to use a pressure canner. This difference between the two methods is the ability of the canners to get the jars to the correct temperature to kill harmful bacteria.  A pressure canner can get the internal temperature of the jars to  240°to 250°F to kill the bacteria. This is why it it VERY important to understand the difference of the two types of canning methods.


For either method this is what you’ll need:

  1. A reliable tested preserving recipe-Make sure the recipe you use is coming from a reputable source. There are specific guidelines for processing times to help ensure any bacteria, like botulism, is eliminated. This is something you can not guesstimate. For more information on processing time, check out Ball’s Online Recipe List or the USDA Canning Guide.
  2. A Boiling water bath canner (this is the exact one I own) or a large, deep saucepot with a lid, and a rack (for the Water Bath method) or a Pressure Canner ( I am thinking about buying this one).
  3. Glass preserving jars, lids and bands (mason jars)-You can recycle canning jars and bands, but not the lids!
  4. Wooden spoon, ladle and funnel.

Both the USDA and Ball website are VERY thorough about the whole canning method. If you have never tried it before, do not get overwhelmed or freaked out by all the information on the web. Remember gardeners have been preserving their harvest for decades without incident. Just follow the canning guidelines and you’ll do great! If I can do it, anyone can!

One of my favorite resources for canning recipes is The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest by Carol Costenbader. I have been using the recipes in this book for years. A family favorite recipe is the Bread and Butter Pickles on page 254. This book has 150 recipes and the information you need on all methods of food preservation. It’s my go to manual.


So far this year I have canned Pungent Green Beans, Bread and Butter Pickles, and Pickled Jalapenos. The first two recipes came from The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest. My Pickled Jalapenos recipe is adapted from a recipe by the USDA. We grew two jalapeno plants this year and they have been VERY generous (mental note, only plant one next  year). These bad boys are HOT. Since we can not possible eat that many jalapenos, I decided to pickle them to enjoy later in the year and/or give them away as gifts.

Are you ready to start preserving you harvest? Stay tuned for next week’s installment: Freezing. Happy gardening!



Author Debbie

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Hi Debbie, I’m with you! Canning sure can heat up a kitchen but I feel so immensely proud of myself when I count the jars of preserved food at the end of the day, don’t you? I canned tomatoes today and I downloaded your recipe for the pickled jalapenos. We have 5 plants and you can only stuff so many! 🙂

    • Debbie says:

      Yes Jane…I love looking at a full pantry of my canned goods! 5 jalapeno plants?! Wow! Stay tuned. I have another recipe for those spicy peppers up my sleeve!

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