Canning Tips

By on October 10, 2012

By Janelle Maiocco –

Unofficial Canning Tips

A little too frequently, I find myself standing mindlessly in front of my open cupboards and I am staring—perhaps even glaring—at my shelves. I glance suspiciously at the cans and condiments, boxes of dried beans and rice, jarred salsa and tomato paste, hot sauce and vinegar. Which one of you will go next? Who can I replace? What else can I officially add to my DIY, make-from-scratch list?

fall scents for your home

After spending countless hours this summer/early fall processing pounds and pounds of peaches and tomatoes, plums and jam, pickles and chutneys—I learned a few things:

–   Old jars sometimes break in the pot. All the little floaties look bad and yes you lost a jar but the other jars that are still processing are perfectly fine. Store as usual.

–   Think hot hot hot. You want hot product going into hot [clean] jars topped with hot [new] lids going into hot water: its as simple as that!

–   Clear off your counters! Trust me: you WILL need the space.

–   Have an extra pot of hot boiling water on the stove—you may think you won’t need it but you will. Extra boiling water is very useful to: pour over/heat the lids, heat your jars and/or add to your boiling water (to ensure the jars are always covered by at least 1 inch of hot boiling water while processing).

–   YES you need to add citric acid or bottled lemon juice to process tomatoes. This is because of the increasing number of tomato varieties; we no longer know the exact acidity of each kind (unless you send it off for testing!). I use citric acid b/c I only need 1/4 tsp per pint versus 1 Tablespoon of bottled lemon juice per pint.

–   Do you have a home canning kit? It would come complete with two tongs, a lid lifter and a jar funnel. You can skip it: I just use waterproof industrial rubber gloves from Home Depot. They cost me $4. With the gloves: I hold hot jars, twist lids, place and remove jars from hot water. Fancy tools not required.

–   Finger tight. What does that mean? You twist the rings on the jars and once they ‘stop’ you twist just a fingertip more. Don’t over-tighten or the air won’t be able to escape from the jar during processing (while under water). If it is too tight it may not seal properly ore worse: your jar will break while in the hot water bath. Almost funny, but not quite.

–   1 LB of tomatoes translates to [approximately] 1 pint processed tomatoes.

–   You don’t need an official canning pot. Any large, deep pot will do. I use my pasta pot quite often—the insert is perfect for holding the jars. Two notes: 1. it must be deep enough for jars to be covered by an inch of boiling water and 2. jars cannot rest on the bottom of your pot. Put in old jar rings tied with zip ties and/or whatever will suspend the jars just off the bottom of the pot.

This year I can happily say I replaced canned tomatoes with jars and jars of home-canned tomatoes. I replaced my salsa and make all my own jams and chutneys, I froze hoards of summer berries and pie filling, made DIY vanilla extract and brandied cherries. Already I am rubbing my hands together, scheming about which store-bought shelf items I will replace next year with homemade, garden fresh DIY food. Hopefully you will be inspired to grab some jars and a large pot, throw on some industrial gloves and start canning!



Janelle is a food/farm/frolics blogger (, a trained chef and has a master certificate in preservation. She lives in Seattle with her husband, two teenage sons and 7 chickens. She is known to wield knives, pitchforks and martinis.

About Janelle Maiocco


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Canning Tips