Wondering what's really needed for simple canning and preserving of the season's best fruit and vegetables? This list of essential and nice to have easy canning supplies will see you putting up food in no time.
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All forms of preserving food are near and dear to my heart. There's something empowering about taking ripe, whole foods and being able to save it for winter eating (like freezing green beans) or creating something new and wonderful (like Addictive Tomato Chutney).
I want everyone to know how easy it is - and that it doesn't have to take a ton of time!
As a resource for you, I've put together my favorite supplies needed for preserving food through canning. The canning supplies are split into two lists- one for essentials and one for nice-to-haves.
What Kind of Canning?
This resource guide is geared toward water-bath canning, though it's only the canner and racks that are specific to water-bath. Everything else could be used in pressure canning as well.
I don't personally own a pressure canner, though I have used them. I prefer to freeze food that can't be water-bath canned since it's not only easier, it's the way we like our food (we don't like canned vegetables, stews, or foods like that).
Do you like to freeze, too? Here's my list of the produce I freeze - and you'll see the easy (maybe rebellious?) way I do it!
Essential Easy Canning Supplies
NOTE: I do not recommend getting one of those all-in-one canning supplies kits you see around. They do not have quality tools and contain things you just really don't need anymore (lid holder, magnetic lid wand, etc.). They are also almost exclusively plastic, which I also don't recommend (see more on this below).
11 12 canning essentials (though number 11 is actually a "nice-to-have" item that snuck on the list!):
1. Stainless Steel Canner. How I wish I had known about this sooner! It's SO much better than the cheap black enamel pots, yet still big enough to do a full batch of quart jars (unlike regular large stockpots).
Why do I like this so much? Let me list the ways:
- The flat bottom- it doesn't rock on electric burners - and is safe for glass-top stoves!
- The thick, encapsulated bottom for even heat, just like good-quality pots.
- The clear glass lid - you can finally see the state of the boil without lifting the lid!!!
- It won't rust like the enamel ones do over the years.
- I can use it like a regular stock pot when I need a large amount - something I would never do with the flimsy enamel pot.
->Get it HERE - while it's more than the enamel pots, it's worth every extra penny, I promise.
2. Sturdy Stainless Canning Rack. The number of rings on the bottom of the rack (vs. the racks that come with the enamel pots) make even the smallest jars steady when raising and lowering.
Plus, there are no dividers, which means you can fit a lot more than 7 pint or smaller jars in a load.
Again, this is one thing I wish I had updated from the lousy rack that came with the enamel canner a lot sooner!
Also, you'll NEED it with the stainless canner, since it doesn't come with a rack of it's own.
You'll need new lids every year - they are not reusable, except as storage lids, after being used in a canner.
I always buy about two-thirds regular-mouth and one-third wide-mouth since most of my jars seem to be regular.
4. Jar Lifter. Yes, you need one of these.
I thought they were just an extra tool kind of like a lid wand and tried to use kitchen tongs. A broken jar and burned hand showed me that it was a bad idea.
5. Foldable Produce Strainer Basket. This type of colander doesn't seem to have just one name (I've seen it listed as a deep fry basket and even as "kitchen tool" which is super helpful, isn't it?), but it's great for stuffing full of tomatoes and peaches before plunging into boiling water to remove skins.
I don't use this as much anymore - mainly for canning diced tomatoes, making my knock-off Rotel, and peaches, but it's easier (and safer) than regular colanders.
I use pint jars (salsa, pickled beans) and half-pints (tomato chutney, apple butter) the most, though quarts are great for tomato sauce.
8. Food Processor. If you want an easy time of prepping food for canning, this is an essential item.
TIP: You'll also use it for preserving basil as freezer pesto and a thousand other things, too!
9. Stainless Steel Canning Funnel. I highly recommend using only stainless steel when dealing with boiling water and hot food.
It's one of the reasons I don't recommend the canning kits - they only have plastic items, which will not last and have the possibility of leaching microplastics every time you use them.
10. Stainless Steel Ladle. Same as the funnel - when you're working with hot foods I think it's just smartest to use stainless.
The bonus is they last a lot longer than plastic and they look better (I got rid of almost all of my plastic utensils).
11. FreshTech Electric Sauce Maker. This is a nice-to-have item - it's not essential to canning sauces.
You can use a basic food mill or a table-top hand-crank mill like I did for years. Or you can even remove skins and whir up in a blender in smaller batches.
But oh.my.goodness. If you make a lot of sauces, this thing is SO WONDERFUL. You can see my unboxing and review in this article. I now use it every season, mainly for tomato sauces and applesauce and I love it.
UPDATED to ADD:
12. 12-quart Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Encapsulated Bottom. This is an essential pot you will need for canning salsa, tomato sauce, and large amounts of chutney - I can't believe I forgot to add this to the original list.
PRO TIP: I want to emphasize that you should absolutely spend more for pots with an encapsulated bottom. Many of these recipes call for long-cooking to thicken the product and you will fight to keep them from burning with thin, cheaper pots. #lessonlearned
I have found the 12-quart size to be sufficient for most things, but a 16-quart pot is also a good size if you find yourself canning larger amounts.
Food & Nice-to-Have Easy Canning Supplies
Here are the specific food items you need for canning, as well as some things I use a lot that make canning easier.
1. Organic Bottled Lemon Juice. If you are going to use lemon juice in tomato products to help bring up the acidity to a safe level, it's always recommended to use bottled lemon juice, not fresh. That's because fresh can vary and bottled as an even amount of acidity (usually 5%).
BUT have you looked at bottled lemon juice ingredients? Yikes! I actually started using citric acid more for this reason but was happy to find that organic bottled lemon juice contains only lemon juice. For recipes tested with lemon juice as an acidifier, I can safely use this.
2. Canning & Pickling Salt. It's recommended that you use this salt when canning because regular table salt contains caking agents that may discolor or impair your food.
However you can also use pure sea salt that doesn't have any added ingredients - it's your choice.
3. Bamboo Chopsticks. A chopstick is SO useful in the kitchen - whether stirring jars, turning donuts, getting ketchup and mustard from their jars, and grabbing olives or pickles, I use them all the time. (Bonus: I also use them for starting seeds indoors!)
For canning, though, it's a perfect tool for releasing bubbles before processing in a canner. Really - give it a try.
4. Colander set. Regular colanders are used all the time in the kitchen, of course, but a lot in preserving foods.
I love the set linked since it covers all the bases, doesn't rust, and is easy to store.
5. Citric Acid. This is essential (or lemon juice) for recipes that are on the edge of safety for water-bath canning.
I like using citric acid instead of lemon juice because in certain recipes because it doesn't add extra liquid or a strong flavor like lemon juice.
->Buy citric acid HERE. (Note: I now use this cheaper alternative to Ball brand.)
7. Plastic Storage Lids. These are great for storing your mason jars after opening. Sometimes the two-piece lids aren't great for travel and these are easier to use. I use these a lot more than I thought I would.
8. Dissolvable Labels for mason jars. How many of you have worked to get old labels off of gifted jars?
Ugh, those things are amazing - you'd think boiling for 15 minutes in a canner would finally get them off, but no. It's either still the paper or sticky residue.
I stopped using them until I found these dissolvable labels. No more stuck-on paper, yay!
9. Expandable Over-Sink Cutting Board: Wood (Note: this link is to a better-reviewed wood board option than the one pictured here.) I love, love the convenience of an over-the-sink cutting board!
Set a bowl underneath and start cutting away, scraping either the good or compostable parts through the opening into the bowl. Any juices that accumulate simply run off into the sink instead of all over the counter.
Genius. I don't preserve anything without this - really. For me it's an essential.
There are also plastic versions: See the best reviewed plastic cutting board HERE.
That's it for the things I use for easy canning of seasonal produce - what about you? What would you not want to can without?
If you'd like to see many of these items in action (though sadly not the stainless canner - I used the flimsy enamel for far too long!), check out this water-bath canning tutorial:
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