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!
Note: I do not recommend getting one of those canning supplies kits. 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).
You'll find the canning supplies split into two lists- one for essentials and one for nice-to-haves. This is also geared toward water-bath canning, though it's only the canner and racks that are specific to water-bath. 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 so much easier to me.
Essential Easy Canning Supplies
First up are 11 canning essentials (though number 11 is 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 enamel pot, 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 supposed to be safe for glass-top stoves!)
- The thick, encapsulated bottom for even heat (just like good-quality pots)
- The clear glass lid (finally see the state of the boil without lifting the lid!!!)
- It won't rust like my enamel one had 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 - it's less than $40 and worth every penny, promise.
2. Sturdy Stainless Canning Rack. See all those rings on the bottom of the rack? Those make even the smallest jars steady when raising and lowering. Plus, no dividers 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 2/3's regular mouth and 1/3 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 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.
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. (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 food. It's one of the reasons I don't recommend the canning kits - they only have plastic items.
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 most 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. Heck, 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 went on to use it more through the season and I love it.
UPDATED to ADD:
12. 12-quart Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Encapsulated Bottom. An essential pot you will need for canning salsa, tomato sauce, and large amounts of chutney that I totally forgot when I first wrote this. AND 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-qt size to be sufficent for most things, but a 16-qt. pot is also a good size if you find yourself canning larger amounts.
Food & Nice-to-Have Easy Canning Supplies
There are some 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. It'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. Now for recipes tested with lemon juice, I can thankfully use this.
2. Canning & Pickling Salt. You need to use this salt when canning because regular salt contains caking agents that may discolor or impair your food.
3. Bamboo Chopsticks. A chopstick is SO useful in the kitchen! 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 this set 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 CA instead of lemon juice because it doesn't add extra liquid or a strong lemon taste like lemon juice.
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.
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 (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.
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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