Homestead, Hot Water Bath Canning

Hot Water Bath Canning: It’s easy if you have the Right Equipment!


Canning was invented as a means for Napoleon to feed his soldiers.  He issued a challenge for someone to develop a way to preserve food for long periods of time.  Nicolas Appert, a French chef, submitted his idea and received 12,000 francs for his efforts.  Appert had worked for 15 years to perfect this process.  Appert originally placed food in a jar, covered it with wax, wrapped the jars in canvas and boiled them.

Nicolas Appert

Canning preserves food by heating the product that kills bacteria and removes air from the jar.  Air exits the jar during processing, the lid “pops” once the jar is removed from the boiling water.  This pop indicates that the jar is sealed.   

Today, people enjoy canning for a number of reasons.  Canning is cost effective, it’s a means to preserve items from a garden to enjoy year-round and a way to ensure the quality of the food they are consuming.

I made grape jelly for our wedding favors many years ago!  Each guest received homemade jelly with a customized label to commemorate our day!


What can be canned with this method?

In addition to jelly, items that can be hot water bath canned are foods high in acidic content:  Jams, chutneys, relishes, fruit butter, marmalades, and preserves are good options.  Foods with a pH below 4.6 can safely be preserved with the use of hot water bath.  

Fruits with low pH are apples, peaches, pears, apricots, berries, plums, cherries, rhubarb, cranberry.  Pickled products and sauerkraut can be preserved with this method.  Tomatoes with added acidity and tomato juice can be canned with the boiling water bath method.  Applesauce is also a safe candidate.

What Equipment do I need?  

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Water Bath Canner

The most obvious piece is the canner.  For water bath canning, any pot that can contain the jar of food and hold enough water to cover that jar with at least an inch of water will work.  Stock pots and large kettles will work for small batches of product with small jars.  The best option, however, is to use a pot specifically designed for hot water bath canning.  These are relatively inexpensive and typically include a canning rack which is very helpful for loading and unloading the canner.  In theory, you can also use a pressure canner for water bath canning, eliminating the need for two large canners.



Use jars specifically designed for canning.  They have universally sized “mouths” that fit canning lids and bands.  Jars have either “regular” mouths or “wide” mouths and are just like they sound.  The regular mouth has a smaller opening and wide has a large opening.  The size of the opening you choose is a personal choice.  Generally, people prefer regular mouths for jams, jellies, chutneys, etc. and wide mouth jars for canning larger food items, such as pickles, etc.   Jars come in many variations from 4 oz to gallon size jars.  Jars can usually be found at estate sales, garage sales, Goodwill and other second-hand places.  You might even find them on free sites by for the asking.  Jars last for years but take care to check the jars for cracks in the body and for any chips on the rim.  If you find any defect in the jar, throw it out or use it as a centerpiece, but not for canning.  The heating and cooling may cause a jar with a crack to break, and chips on the rim may cause problems with the jar sealing.


Purchase lids specifically for the size mouth jar you will be using.  Lids can only be used once so you will need to be sure to have enough on hand for your canning projects.  The lids have a rubber sealant that maintains the vacuum created when the air is forced out of the jar.  While I like to keep supplies on hand, I typically like to keep only enough lids for the current year of canning, though in reality, lids will last for several years.  If the rubber sealant becomes dried out and hard, the lids are not safe for use as they will not create a tight seal.


Bands and lids usually are provided when purchasing jars.  If you are buying jars from a second-hand location, bands and lids can be purchased separately.  Bands can be reused as often as needed.  Bands should be cared for after each use.  Once your product is cooled, the bands should be removed, washed in hot, soapy water and dried.  I like to place the towel dried band on a stove burner turned on low to ensure the band is entirely dry to prevent rust.  A light coat of vegetable oil can also be rubbed on the band to prevent rusting while storing your bands, especially if your storage area is a garage or basement.

Jar Funnel

I love my jar funnels and have two of them.  I use them exclusively for canning, but they could be useful for many things.  They are shaped so you can easily get the product into the regular or wide mouth jars.  I also find them very useful in keeping the rim of the jar clean.  I also use the funnel depth to gauge the amount of headspace there is in a jar.  This piece of equipment is inexpensive but a definite must-have.

Jar Lifter

This is also an inexpensive tool.  Honestly, I find myself not using it as much as I should, but it saves a lot of headaches when a jar slips out of your grasp when using tongs or some other makeshift item.  Just last week I thought I’d “just be quick” and grab some of my jelly out of the canner with a set of tongs because they were handy and there was a lot of slipping and dancing in the kitchen to get the jars to my cooling rack safely.  It worked out that time, but I was lucky.  I need to keep this tool closer to my jar funnels!.

Small Saucepan

The saucepan is used to warm the sealant on the lids to ensure a solid seal.  Place lids and several inches of water in a small saucepan and place pan on a small burner on a simmer.  Make sure that you do not evaporate all water out of the pan.  When ready to use the lids, use a fork to remove each lid as needed.

Are there any other Considerations?

Determine how you will heat your water bath canner. Most people use kitchen stoves.  These can be electric or propane.  Some people use the propane side burners on grills, and yet others use turkey cooker style burners.  

Propane provides a very even, well-controlled flame and heat source.  In my opinion, this is the preferred source of heat for those reasons.  Having the ability to closely monitor and fine-tune the heat source is more critical in pressure canning but is helpful in hot water bath as well. If using a grill burner or a turkey cooker burner, ensure you have enough propane in your tank to complete the canning process.  Complete your canning in an area protected from the wind to maintain a steady heat.  Also, be sure to have your burner and connections regularly inspected for leaks which can be dangerous.  

If using an electric stove, it is important to keep a few things in mind.  A glass top/flat top stove may be used for canning but be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding canning before using your stove.  Certain smooth top stoves monitor heat and shut down the burner if it is too hot to protect the surface of the stove.  Some stoves do not get hot enough to maintain a boil.  There may be weight limitations which could result in breaking the surface of the stove.  If a canner is too large in diameter, the heat may damage the non-burner area.  If your stove is approved for canning.  Additional precautions should be taken.  Try not to slide a full canner on the stove’s surface to prevent scratching the surface of the stove.  Be sure to utilize a canner with a smooth bottom and a rack.  The smooth bottom (vs. one with ridges, ripples, or a concave bottom) will enable more even heating and allow the temperature to increase appropriately.

An electric stove with coil burners can generally be used without issue.  The primary item to keep in mind is that the canner should not extend beyond 2 inches from the edge of the electric coil/burner.  This will ensure even heating and correct processing.

Works Cited

Canning Basics For Preserving Food. Web. 08 July 2017.

“Burning Issue: Canning on Smooth Cooktops.” National Center for Home Food Preservation | NCHFP Publications. Web. 09 July 2017.

“General Canning Information.” National Center for Home Food Preservation | How Do I? Can. Web. 09 July 2017.

“How Canning Was Invented, and How It Changed the Way We Eat.” Kitchen. Web. 06 July 2017.

“How Do I? …Can.” National Center for Home Food Preservation | How Do I? Can. Web. 06 July 2017.

McClellan, Marisa. “A Beginner’s Guide to Canning.” Serious Eats. 29 Feb. 2012. Web. 06 July 2017.

Jelly Image by:

Massa Sovada (Portuguese Sweet Bread)

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