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Monday, October 15, 2012

Guide to Hot Water Canning

This guide is for the Hot Water method of canning, as used in a number of our recipes for jams, chutneys, and other preserves. The standard size of the mason jars used in our recipes is 250 mL, but the boiling times are the same regardless of jar size.

We recommend for optimal safety to use new lids, and even jar rings, each time when re-using sterilized mason jars from previous batches. Improperly cleaned canning jars can harbour bacteria and other nasties that can lead to food poisoning and other food-borne illnesses.

Fruits must be canned using the hot water method below because of the high levels of sugar and/or acid they contain. Vegetables, meat, and some other foods should never be canned using this method; they must be treated using a pressure cooker. Canned foods that have sealed will last for about a year or a little more -- if they aren't eaten before that!

The instructions below are provided kindly on the behalf of Alice Macpherson.

Hot Water Canning

Things You Need

Large pot, with sides higher than the mason jars
Glass mason canning jars, warmed or hot
Sterilized jar rings and lids
Canner rack


1. Jars, rings, and lids must be very clean and washed in hot water or put through the dishwasher in a hot cycle and then dried thoroughly. Lids should be put in hot water before using so that the seal is soft and ready to use.

2. Fill the pot halfway with water and heat it until it just starts to boil.

3. The food being canned should be ready at this point, as indicated by the recipe. While the food is hot, put it into your clean, warm jars. Fill the jars to the 0.75 mL line, about 1/4-inch from the rim.

4. Rinse the lids and rings in hot water again before you put them on the jars. Ensure that the sealing material on the lids is soft. Put the lids on the jars and then tighten the rings around them. If the rings are too loose, liquid may leak out, but if they are too tight, trapped air inside the jars cannot get out.

5. Load the filled jars onto the canner rack and use the handles to lower the rack into the water. If you don't have a specialized canner rack, you can use a metal steamer tray or any other heat-proof rack that fits in the bottom of your pot and keeps the jars up off the bottom of the pot.

6. Add more boiling water, if needed, so that the water level in the pot is an inch above the tops of the jars, and then put the lid on.

7. Turn the heat to high and boil vigorously.

8. Let the jars boil for the time indicated in the recipe. As needed, add more boiling water to ensure the jars are always covered with water.

9. When done, lift the jars out and put them on a rack or a towel, with 1 inch between them to allow for cooling.

10. When the jars cool, you will hear the lid click. This means that the jar is properly sealed. Check again in 24 hours to make sure the lids and rings are still tight. If a jar does not seal, put it in the fridge and use the food right away, within 24 hours or less.

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