Canning 101

There was a lot of interest in my canned broth.  I’ll explain in another post exactly how I do that.  It’s nothing special . . probably many of you already do it or know how to do it but for those of you who are new to canning, I’ll give the basics as I see it here.  Then in another post, I’ll explain about making broth.

I use a 23 quart Presto Pressure Canner.  Yes, I use it on my smooth top.  Yes, I’ve used it on my two previous smooth tops.  No, I haven’t had a problem but if your manual recommends not using a big canner, use at your own risk!

In the large canner, I can process 7 quarts or 24 pints at one time.  Presto also makes a 16 quart that will process 7 quarts and 10 pints at one time.  The 16 quart canner cannot be used as a water bath canner for quart jars . . it isn’t tall enough.   There isn’t that much difference in price in the two sizes.  I’d only go with the smaller one if you’re worried about your stove top or don’t have the room for the larger canner.  If you have a microwave/vent over your stove, you may want to measure the space above your stove top before getting the 23 quart canner.  I’ve always had enough room but it was real close at one location and there isn’t a whole lot of room to spare here.

Unfortunately, pressure canning isn’t recommended for the half gallon jars.  Wish it was!

If you’re looking for a canner, and if you’re watching garage sales, be careful about the older models.  Your county extension office may check it for you.  It is a good idea to have all canners checked every now and then.  You need to be sure the gasket is good and be especially sure your pressure gauge is accurate.

The Presto 23 quart model is probably going to run about $100 to $130.  Quart jars are $10.99 per dozen at Ace Hardware and they’ll ship free to your store if your local store doesn’t have them in stock.  Our grocery store, which is usually on the high side, has them for a bit less.  When you first buy them, they come with rings and lid.  The rings are reusable but the lids are not.  You can buy extra rings and lids separately.

Price the canner, price the jars, then make a decision on whether it’s something that will justify the expense for your family.

If you live in a small town, you may want to get all the rings, lids and jars that you think you’ll need before canning season actually gets into high gear.  I had to search to find more jars late in the season last year.

This is my stash of jars for canning.  I save the cardboard boxes and sometimes store the jars in those.  They’re really handy when moving the jars around from one spot to another.  I would apologize for the mess in my garage if it really bothered me but it doesn’t.  I’ve decided that we will never get the boxes unpacked.  We’ve only been here 2 years, 3 months but darn it . . there just hasn’t been time to unpack the boxes.  The real truth is that whatever is in there . . there’s probably no room inside the house for it so if we haven’t needed it in 2 years, 3 months, we probably can live the rest of our lives without it, right?

There’s probably 30 or more empty jars on these shelves and I’ll have probably another 70 or so jars empty before canning season really gets going.  The jars on the third shelf down, and a couple on the middle shelf, are the half gallon jars and I don’t can in those.

You’ll also need some storage space if you’re going to do lots of canning.  We bought these heavy duty wonderful shelving units at Sam’s Club.

The canner comes with a great manual, which is also online if you lose yours.

The other things I use are a funnel and a jar lifter.

Once you buy the canner, a supply of jars, the funnel and lifter, you’re set.  The jars may crack or chip with age and once they have a chip or a crack, you should no longer use them.  Crazy as it sounds, I’ve been using some of my jars for years . . like 6 or 8 years, and have not had a chipped or cracked jar yet . . even after going through a move.

I’m not preaching to you and I know finances are tough for many but if you’re wanting to do some canning and if you truly feel you will do it, you’ll save money in the long run.  When at the store earlier today, I checked the prices of broth.  Swanson Beef Broth (15 oz.) was a bit over $1.00/can.  I weighed up a couple of my jars and the average in each jar is 26 ounces.  I figure I put up 351 ounces of beef broth last week.  Based on a can being $1 in the store (actually, I think it was $1.06), that’s about $23 worth of broth I canned.  Not counting the cost of the canner, the jars, the cost of energy (bring the pressure to 11 pounds and keep it there for 25 minutes . . I have no idea how much power that takes), it wouldn’t take long to make the cost of the canner worth while.  The only other costs involved were 1 onion, a couple of bay leaves, some celery (I used the end with the leaves that I usually cut off and toss), some black pepper and whatever else you toss in.

I almost always make chicken broth after cooking a whole chicken so my guess is . . with just the broth alone, each year I save more than the cost of the canner.  And, my broth has only ingredients I want it to have . . none of that strange stuff you find on the label of store bought broth.

Home grown and canned tomatoes taste NOTHING like store bought!  If ever you can your own tomatoes, you’ll never want to use store bought canned tomatoes again.

Canning is one of those things that many want to do but are just scared to do it.  Take each step, one at a time and you’ll be totally surprised how easy it is.  In the next day or so, I’ll do a post on making chicken broth (simply because we just had smoked chicken), which is very similar to making beef broth.  Then I’ll do a post including all the steps of getting the broth into the jars and sealed.


  1. 1


    I don’t have the room here in this house (no basement or garage) to do this, but you surely did a wonderful job of explaining this to those who are able to do it. Wish I could…*sigh*

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    I need to pick up one of those storage racks… I’m not overly keen on keeping canned food in the garage due to the temperature fluctuation, but it would be okay for short term storage. My cabinets are full!

    I have a 21 quart All American canner, and a 15 1/2 quart All American. I actually prefer the smaller one most of the time (old age?) as I tend to only can in small batches, and it’s easier for me to lift and move.

    I can’t spend a day canning in the kitchen. I find it utterly overwhelming (and hot)! So I usually just can a single batch at a time, and find the process much more enjoyable that way.

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    I love canning. I guess it looking at the counter at the end of the day and seeing all the processed jars and of course,,,,,, hearing the “pop”. That’s success. I would love to see more of your canning recipes, like your apple pie filling. I also am really interested in your smoking. What do you use? It must be easy by the way you write about it and doesn’t take much time either. Thanks Judy, I find you blog so interesting.

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    Oh I love seeing your supply! WHat all do you keep in your half gallon jars? I sauced 4 bushels of paste tomatoes last year for sauce – and it is all gone. Guess I need a bigger garden this year:)

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    I had not canned for years and last fall I canned every evening for over a month and loved it! Something about the recession and our economy made me want to can. We have enjoyed the results all winter and I will can even more this year.

    You are so right about the jars, I hunted for jars in 4 counties. There was a real shortage and I started canning in late summer after all the jars were gone. To bad I had sold all my jars years ago at a yard sale…..said I’d never can again! After my grandmother died all the joy of canning left my sole, she was my canning and gardening teacher, my inspiration. She gave me her garden to harvest and can. The garden died with her, so the home canned goods were gone. Last year I purchase my fruits and veggies at the farmers market and canned them….I still came out ahead on cost over the grocery store’s price of canned goods and the taste is “oh so much better” and like you said, no ingredients that you can’t pronounce the name, are in my canned goods.

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    Hazel says

    Thank you for all of the information! It is greatly appreciated! I have canned for years. We just ate the last jar of apple pie filling last week in a crisp. Last year was my first year for making the filling and I could kick myself for not finding it before when my kids were little and at home. It is such a time saver and soooooo easy!
    I can’t wait to can my own broth! It also will be a time saver being I won’t have to dig through the freezer to find it!

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    I also can all summer long or until we run out of jars. My DH and I have decided to only pick as many vegetables in the morning that we can process by early evening. No more facing bushels of green beans, now it is only one bushel at a time. I can only pressure can 8 pints or 7 quarts at a time. Then there is the time to wait for the pressure to go down before starting another batch. I have even canned pork to use in casseroles and sandwiches. One thing about your idea of the cost comparison. Broth would be by liquid ounces not by weight. One quart would 32 ounces, so you may actually be saving a bit more then you thought. Your jars are not completely filled, so broth weight and fluid ounces may be very close to the same amount.

    Another source for jars is some spaghetti sauces are canned in “real” canning jars. Be careful to see a jar brand name like Ball or Kerr on each jar. Glass mayonaise jars can not be used in the pressure cooker.

    Keep encouraging everyone to can and hopefully garden.

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    Bon says

    Judy, you are good. You almost got me talked into trying canning and then I remembered the times I used to help my mother. Yes, the food does taste better than store-bought canned goods, especially tomatoes. But I am lazy at heart. I have done grape juice before and it was delicious. Did peaches once too. Much better than store-bought. hmmm I think Mom got rid of her canner.

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    I started doing Jellies 2 years ago. I had a blast. I figured if Paula Deen could do it on a 30 minute show how hard could it be! This past summer I tried Salsa, it was the best! I have used the jelly and salsa as Christmas gifts. Everyone looks forward to getting it and it is inexpensive for me to make.

    I would suggest that if you are going to give your canning away as gifts you may want to ask for the jars back. My friends and family start asking in the winter what I am making for the following year and gladly hand over jars.


  10. 13

    Bobbie says

    I can every year and have my own garden but there are some things I buy at the farmers maket that I use but don’t have enough garden space for everything. Most important is tomatoes-we do use lots of them. And me and my DIL are the only lovers of pickled beets, so they do get a place in the garden. I use all my half gallon jars every year for Dill pickles-I have the Best recepie for them-a friends Mothers old recepie and they are so good and crisp-make them just plain dill, or a little hot or a lot hot. I also have a blue prize winner sweet pickle recepie.-those don’t need 1/2 gallon jars. A friend a long time ago asked me for my sweet pickle recepie and every since then she has entered them in the fair and won blue ribbons always .-kinda ticks me off because she tells evreyone it is a recepie she made herself-that it took her a while to get it just right and sorry she doesn’t share it with anyone. I don’t enter any canning or food stuff in the fair-but do enter a quilt or two. If anyone wants any recepie I have mentioned, I will be happy to post it here with Judys permission. Hugs, Bobbie

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    dawn says

    I too love to can but I only do water bath. The difference is some foods do not have enough acid and those need to be pressure canned.
    I make jellies and relishes and stewed tomatoes. I have also done the grape juice and such but we loved it so much we drank it till it was gone. didnt save any “over the winter”.LOL
    my garlic jelly, pepper jelly and hot pepper relish recipes are always requested as gifts.
    I used to can with my mom and I too thought after she died it would die too. But once I canned again, I felt like mom was there with me again telling me to add more onion to the relish or more sugar to the jelly etc. It warms my heart and reminds me of happy memories with her.
    Dawn in MA

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    Susan ~ Patchkat in TX says

    Love your shelving! I have their twins…but they’re full of fabric. Really sturdy and not bad looking. I can when the garden is good. We like home canned salsa and of course, tomatoes. I make my own broth, but I freeze it. If the power goes out, we have a generator. If we’re not home, then losing the broth would be the least of my worries. I tried canning squash…NASTY. However…I made a zuchinni relish that turned out (and canned) wonderfully!

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    Question: Is there any reason why one could not use a pressure canner for all canning and do away with the water bath all together? I’m thinking in terms of storage space here. If I buy a pressure canner, can I get rid of my water bath setup?

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    You know, after the initial start-up cost, it is cost-effective (I think) to can. Fortunately, I inherited my mother’s canning supplies when she went into the nursing home. I can jam, tomato juice, tomatoes. I also freeze a lot of vegetables. By gardening time in the spring, I am usually out of everything.

    Also, I don’t want to hone in on your advice, because it is wonderful, but I do not use a pressure cooker for canning. I have one standard pot I use for all my canning, then also my jar kettle. I have a few friends that only use pressure cookers for all their canning, but I do without and have good results.

    I HATED my mom and grandma when they forced me to help with the canning every year. Now, I am so ever thankful they did. Nothing tastes better than having your own food stored by yourself!

    Also, I would love to have Bobbie’s recipe for pickles. I can never get the seasonings quite right with mine.