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.
3. Canning Lids. You'll need these in both regular mouth and wide mouth to match your jars.
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. Produce Basket/Colander. This type of colander doesn't seem to have an official name (I even saw it listed 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.
6. Canning Jars. You'll need both regular mouth and wide mouth jars in all sizes.
I use pint jars (salsa, pickled beans) and half-pints (tomato chutney, apple butter) the most, though quarts are great for tomato sauce.
7. Round Cooling Rack. Having at least one of these sized to fit a regular stockpot you have turns it into a small batch canner perfect for honey rhubarb ginger jam or roasted peppers in white wine.
8. Food Processor. If you want an easy time of prepping food for canning, this is an essential item.
It makes salsa and tomato chutney a breeze - you can completely skip the peeling skins step that I had done for years! It saves SO much time - I will never go back to preserving without a processor.
TIP: You'll also use it for preserving basil as freezer pesto and a thousand other things, too!
->Get the Cuisinart brand I use HERE.
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).
->Get a long-handled canning ladle or a cheaper regular stainless ladle like I use.
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.
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.
->Buy organic lemon juice HERE
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.)
6. Pickling Spice. I like this mixture (the kind I've linked to with smaller bay leaves and dried red peppers) for easy refrigerator pickles and pickled green beans.
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.
->Buy both regular and wide-mouth storage lids HERE
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. 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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Wow! This list and your video are incredibly helpful. I have been pickling for several years, keeping jars in the frig. It's time now to start canning.... or buy a second frig LOL
Thanks for providing the links to your specific recommended products. That made sourcing everything so easy
So glad this was helpful, Linda!
Brigitte Wypych says
Hello, So I was canning tomato sauce in a water bath. It was a Ball recipe and I forgot to add the lemon to the jars at the end.🙁Are the jars ruined now? Also, I prepared an earlier set of sauce which I added the lemon earlier during the cooking process and now am concerned that it cooked off! Aww. So frustrating! I hope I don't have to throw it all out. It's about 8 quarts!😫Thanks for your help. Brigitte Wypych
I have forgotten to add it, too, Brigitte - so frustrating, I know. You don't have to throw it out, but it should be stored in the refrigerator. It will still be good for a year, just like on the shelf. If you don't have room, you can re-can it, heating the sauce to boiling again, adding the lemon or citric, and can as usual. Since it's a sauce (as compared to a chunky salsa or something) the product shouldn't be affected by canning again. Freezing is another option, but I'd remove some of the sauce in the jars - you need a good 1-1/2 to 2 inch headspace for freezer expansion.
Jami, the link you've given for the produce basket/colander (#5) links us to pint jars. I'd really like the link for the basket. Will you help me please?
Oh, gosh sorry Jane! That's what you get when you've got a whole list of links to keep straight. 🙂
It's fixed now - thanks for the heads-up.
Ack! I don't see the link to your unboxing and review of the sauce maker. ("Here" isn't a link.)
Love this post! We hope to start canning soon. Do you can meat?
Yikes - there were so many links in this one, I was bound to forget one. 🙂 It's fixed now - but here it is, too:
https://anoregoncottage.com/easy-canned-chipotle-bbq-sauce-recipe/ (scroll through until you see the video)
I'm so glad this was helpful to you! No, I don't can meat. You need a pressure canner for that and really well-tested recipes. It's always freaked me out a bit because the few botulism poisonings I've read about have been the result of things like meat and stews (and green beans that were water-bath canned…). That said, I know quite a few people who can meat very successfully. I just don't really like the texture of canned meat or stews (and soup is so easy to make fresh), that I haven't been interested. 🙂