Canning Safety Tips
Follow these instructions to safely can your summer harvest at home.
- Use only clean, perfect glass canning jars (no nicks or cracks). You may reuse jars, but always use new seals (lids) and screw rings.
- Start with cold water when it’s time to sterilize the jars, seals, and rings by boiling. Use a rack or trivet to keep jars off the bottom of the kettle. Heat the water to the boiling point; then lower to a gentle boil for at least five minutes.
- Use tongs to remove jars and place them on a clean dish towel. Discard the water. Use a canning funnel (to avoid spills) as you fill jars with produce. General rule of thumb: Leave ¼-inch headspace for jams, jellies, pickles, and relishes; ½ inch for acidic foods such as tomatoes and fruits; or 1 inch for low-acid foods such as meats and vegetables. Run a hot, sterilized knife around the inside of each jar to release air pockets.
- Don’t touch the seals; use tongs to remove seals from the hot water and place them on jars. Repeat with the rings. Screw rings down quickly and tightly. If you’re going to process these jars in a boiling-water bath (see individual recipe instructions), put them back into the kettle with clean, cold water for additional sterilization (or, if you’re using a pressure canner, see the manufacturer’s instructions).
- Leave jars in place until they’re cool. Don’t move any jar until you hear the “pop” of the seal contracting, creating a vacuum inside the jar as it cools. Label and date each jar. Store in a cool, dark place. Jars processed this way will keep at least a year.
For COMPLETE instructions, see the USDA Guide to Home Canning at these two sites: