How to Preserve Food in Jars


You can preserve many foods by placing them in glass jars and vacuum-sealing them. Some common preserved foods include pickles, sauces, soups, jams and jellies. Canned goods can last for several years, although they are best if used by the time they are a year old. You can preserve your own food at home by purchasing a few canning materials online or at your local restaurant-supply or kitchen store.

Things You'll Need

  • Canning jars
  • Food for canning
  • Boiling-water or pressure canner
  • Funnel
  • Tongs
  • Paper towel
  • Wash and dry a canning jar. Your jar should come with a two-part lid and a clear glass base. Most jars come in half-pint, pint or quart sizes.

  • Thoroughly cook the food if you are making soups, jellies, jams or other food where cooking is required. If you are making pickled vegetables, like cucumbers, you need to cook only the brine, not the cucumbers. Refer to your specific canning recipe for more cooking information.

  • Determine whether you will need a boiling-water canner or a pressure canner. Get a boiling-water canner for foods that have a pH of 4.5 or less, like berries, jellies, apples, pears, apricots, sauerkraut, jams, peaches, pickles and tomatoes. Get a pressure canner for foods with high pH levels, such as beans, carrots, asparagus, beets, corn, mushrooms, potatoes, spinach, peas, pumpkin, squash and meat. Pressure canners can be used for any foods, although they are more expensive. If you are not sure about the pH level of your food, use a pressure canner.

  • Using a funnel, if necessary, place your ingredients into the jar. Allow an inch of room in your jar to allow for expansion. Use a paper towel to wipe off the seal on the jar to make sure it is clean and dry. Then screw both pieces of the lid on straight and as tightly as possible.

  • Place the jar in the boiling-water or pressure canner and wait the required time for the food you are cooking (see Resources). Depending on the ingredients in the jar, sterilization can take anywhere from 5 to 90 minutes. When the time is up, use the tongs to remove the jar and allow to cool. The jar can now be placed in a cool, dry place and does not need to be refrigerated.

Tips & Warnings

  • Food that is canned can be sent in the mail and makes great holiday presents.
  • Canning can cause botulism in the food if done improperly--use a pressure canner if you are not sure of the pH level of your food.

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