Three Common Home Canning Methods Explained

Canning can be a misleading term as the preserving of foods by the method seems to imply that “cans” are somehow involved. But actually jars are used to can fruits, pickles and vegetables.

Canning is an excellent way to take advantage of the bounty of fruits and vegetables that are available in the spring and summer. You’ll be grateful to have tasty local fruits and vegetables in the middle of January when the closest fresh beet or peach is a hemisphere away.

There are several methods to properly can foods, such as hot filling, hot water bathing or pressure canning. Deciding which method is best for you depends on your recipe, the acidity level in your food, and other individual requirements.

Note: Several pages could be dedicated to the individual requirements that correspond to the broad array of different canned foods, but to keep things simple, we just want to focus on the canning of preserved and pickled fruits and vegetables here today:

While the methods are all different, they have one thing in common: jars and lids. The jars and lids should be sterilized and kept hot at the moment before they are filled and processed by doing the following:

  • Running the jars through a hot dishwasher (180 – 200 degrees)
  • Submerging them in simmering or boiling water (180-200 degrees)
  • Using a combination of the above methods

You can find all your glass bottles, canning jars and lids at

Hot Fill Canning Method

Hot filling involves filling sterilized jars with a boiling or simmering liquid up to a quarter of an inch from the top of the jar, sealing the jar with a sterilized one piece lid and inverting the jar (the heat from the hot liquid sterilizes the inner surface of the jar and the bottom of the lid). A vacuum is created as the jars cool off. The hot fill method is probably the easiest and most common canning method.

Hot Water Bath Canning Method

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Two pots – One for boiling water and one that is deep enough to hold the jars and to allow a comfortable two to three inches of space above the jar lids (the boiling water must be able to circulate at least an inch above the lids of the jars).
  • Thick kitchen towel to line the bottom of the pot (this will keep the jars from being in direct contact with the bottom of the pot and the heat of the stove burner.
  • Tight fitting lid.
  • Reliable pair of tongs to remove the jars from the boiling water when they have finished processing.


  1. While you prepare your preserve or pickle recipe, bring one pot of water to a boil.
  2. When you finish the recipe, sterilize your jars and lids.
  3. Fill and seal the sterilized jars.
  4. Line the bottom of the canning pot with the kitchen towel.
  5. Place the filled and sealed jars on the towel (Allow an inch of space between each jar).
  6. Add the boiling water to at least one inch above the lids of the jars.
  7. Cover the pot with the tight fitting lid and maintain a brisk boil for the recommended recipe processing time.
  8. Remove the jars with the tongs.

The hot water method is appropriate for canning:

  • Spiced fruits
  • Fruit preserves jams and jellies
  • Vegetable and fruit pickles
  • Tomatoes

Pressure Canning

A pressure canner is a heavy, thick pot that is fitted with a steam venting lid. Jars are placed in the vessel with a couple of inches of water, the lid is screwed tight over the top of pot and the jars are processed in the pressure cooker to temperatures of 240 degrees and higher. This method is typically used for processing meats, poultry and seafood. Pressure cooking is not ideal for processing preserves and pickles and can be dangerous because of the high temperatures and the steam that is generated.

Leave a comment below to share you home canning experiences with our audience.


Wednesday, Jul 07, 2012

5 Responses to Three Common Home Canning Methods Explained

  1. Thanks a bunch for sharing this with everyone. You really know what you’re talking about! Bookmarked.

  2. Hi! This post is very well written and includes a lot of good information. I’d like to see more posts like this.

  3. I have read lots of good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking to revisit. Great effort, informative site.

    • Linh says:

      We’re doing the same as you – lots of canning! Haven’t done apples yet, but hope to in the next week or two. I skipped apple pie filling last year, and I missed it so much. Definitely on the to-do list for this year. :-)

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