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Water Bath Canning Do’s And Don’ts: What You Need To Know Before Getting Started

Water bath canning is a great way to start preserving your own food. It’s easy, quick, and doesn’t require any special equipment or expertise. All that you need is a large pot or stockpot, a rack that fits inside it to keep the jars off the bottom, and of course your jars, lids, and bands.

What’s more, water bath canning is one of the simplest methods there is for canning fruits and vegetables.

Canning Jars

What is Water Bath Canning

Water bath canning is a process in which food is heated in a water bath and sealed in airtight jars or cans. The heat kills the bacteria that causes food to spoil. This method is safe for high acid foods such as fruits, vegetables, jams, jellies, pickles, relishes, and sauces.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Water Bath Canning

While preserving food in a water bath is simple and a great way to start canning at home, not all foods can be preserved with this method.

The Do’s

  • Preheat your water: Make sure that your pot or stockpot is filled with enough hot water before you start filling your jars. This will help ensure that the jars heat up quickly and evenly. The water should cover your jars (when you add them) by at least by 1 inch.
  • Make sure to clean your jars very well and preheat those also. Preheating your jars helps reduce the risk of them breaking when they are transferred into the water bath.
  • Use a rack: To keep the jars off the bottom of your pot and ensure even heating, use a rack that fits inside your pot.
  • Choose the right fruits and vegetables: Not all fruits and vegetables are suited for water bath canning. Be picky and do your research to ensure you are working with items that are safe for a this canning method.
  • Make sure the water is hot enough: Before you start filling your jars with food, make sure that the water in your pot is hot enough. If it’s not, the food could spoil or your jars may not seal properly during the cooling process.
  • Have a towel ready to set the jars on for when they come out of the pot. This is where they will sit until completely cool (about 12-24 hours).

The Don’ts

There are a few things you should avoid.

  • Don’t use old or cracked jars: Jars that are cracked or have chips in them may not seal properly and could lead to food spoilage.
  • Don’t overfill your jars: Leave about 1/2-inch of headspace at the top of your jars. Overfilling can cause your jars to break or spill during the canning process.
  • Don’t use food that is low in acid: Low-acid foods can not be safely preserved with a water bath canning method and may cause botulism poisoning.
  • Don’t reuse your lids: Lids should only be used once and then thrown away. Reusing lids could lead to your jars not sealing properly.
  • Not all items can be preserved in a water bath. Some include meat, fish, and poultry. These items should be preserved using a pressure canner.

The reason you can’t can meat, fish, and poultry using a water bath canning is because they contain bacteria that can cause food poisoning. These items need to be preserved at a temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit or higher in order to kill the bacteria. A water bath canner only reaches a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to get started

Now that you know the do’s and don’ts of water bath canning, it’s time to get started! Here are a few simple steps to help you get started.

Gather your supplies: Before you start, make sure you have everything you need. This includes a large pot or stockpot, a rack that fits inside it, some clean jars, and new lids.

Prepare your food: Wash your food and cut it into the desired size. Be sure to remove any seeds or pits from fruit.

Pack your jars: Pack your jars with food, making sure to leave about 1/2-inch of headspace at the top.

Seal your jars: Put the lids on your jars and screw screw the rings on finger-tight. Over tightening the rings could cause a false seal later.

Process your jars: Place your jars in the pot and make sure they are covered with water by at least 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil and process for the desired amount of time (check your recipe for specific times base on what you are preserving).

Remove your jars: Remove your jars from the pot and place them on a towel. Let them cool completely (about 12-24 hours).

Check your seals: After your jars have cooled, check the seals by gently pushing down on the center of each lid. If it doesn’t move, the seal is good. If it pops up and down, the jar wasn’t properly sealed and should be refrigerated.

The benefits of water bath canning

There are a few benefits to water bath canning that you should know about.

It’s safe: Water bath canning is a safe way to preserve your food. It follows a process that has been tested and proven to kill harmful bacteria when done properly and with the appropriate food items.

It’s easy: This is a very simple process that doesn’t require a lot of equipment or ingredients.

It’s affordable: Jars and rings can be reused which makes this a cost effective way to preserve your food.

It tastes great: The food that you preserve with a water bath canner will taste great. You’ll be able to enjoy your home-preserved food all year long!

FAQ’s about water bath canning

Q: What type of pot should I use for water bath canning?

A: You can use a large pot or stockpot for water bath canning. The pot should be deep enough so that the jars are covered with water by at least 1 inch.

Q: How long do I need to process my jars?

A: The processing time will vary depending on what you are preserving. Check your recipe for specific times.

Q: How do I know if my jars sealed properly?

A: After your jars have cooled, check the seals by gently pushing down on the center of each lid. If it doesn’t move, the seal is good. If it pops up and down, the jar wasn’t properly sealed.

Q: Can I reuse my jars and lids?

A: Yes! Jars and rings can be reused. Just make sure they are clean and in good condition before using them again. However, the lid itself should be replaced each time. These can be purchased on their own so you don’t have to buy more rings or jars if you don’t need them.

Q: What should I do if my jars don’t seal properly?

A: If your jars don’t seal properly, you can refrigerate them. The food inside the jar will still be safe to eat.


Water bath canning is a great way to preserve your food. By following the do’s and don’ts listed in this article, you can ensure a safe and successful water bath canning session. Remember to enjoy the delicious food that you preserved and to try new recipes often! While preserving your own food is a healthy and cost-effective alternative to store bought items, but it’s also a fun way to try new things.