Canning in 4 Steps
When you are ready to embark on a canning project, I encourage you to refer to any of the resources I list on the Enlighten page – they all go into the process in detail, providing step-by-step instructions. Rent a book from the library or go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation‘s page on boiling water canning.
Wash jars and lids. Place the jars in a pot, placing a canning rack, jar rings, or something to keep the jars above the bottom of the pot so that the water can circulate. Boil the jars in a large pot of water for ten minutes to sterilize them.
Prepare the food according to recipe, which can take anywhere from minutes to hours. Be sure to read the recipe thoroughly in advance so you know what you’re getting into and can time everything accordingly (e.g. your jars aren’t boiling for hours while your jam cooks).
Place the lids in a saucepan and cover with hot water from the canning pot (you want them to be hot to activate the sealing agent, but don’t want them to boil for a long time). Fill the hot jars, leaving headspace (space between the food and the top of the jar) according to the recipe, generally 1/4″ for jam and 1/2″ for other goods. Wipe the rim with a cloth dipped in boiling water. Add the lids and screw on the band until finger tight. I fill my jars one at a time, others do an assembly line.
Put the jars back in the pot and bring back to a boil. Start your timer once the water returns to a strong boil and process for the number of minutes indicated in the recipe. When the timer goes off, take the lid off the canning pot and let the jars sit for 5 minutes, then remove to a cloth on a counter to rest.
You should start to hear that magic pinging sound.
After an hour, check all the jars for seals (they should be indented slightly and not pop back when you push down). Remove the bands, and wipe down. Double-check the seals by lifting up the jars by the lid slightly. Store without the bands for up to 1 year, or as specified in the recipe.