Canning Tips and Tricks for Beginning and Intermediate Canners

Are you new to canning? Even if you aren't, I bet some of these canning tips and how to's are new to you, just like they were to me.

This post was updated in July 2021

Years ago I attended a canning class hosted by our county extension office. Our instructor was Dr. Barbara Brown, Oklahoma State Food Specialist and featured presenter on OKLAHOMA GARDENING (OETA's popular Gardening television program).

I'd been canning for several years, but just boiling water bath canning (BWB). I'd just purchased a new Presto pressure canner, and I wanted to try pressure canning first under Dr. Brown's watchful eyes before trying it on my own.

Yes, I was nervous!

Since I'd been canning for awhile, I knew a lot of these tips already, but I learned a few new tricks about water bath canning too. Perhaps you'll find these tips helpful as well.

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Canning basics

First and most important, Dr. Brown stressed that you should always use reliable sources for your canning recipes. 

Canning is a science based on principles of food safety. Processing times and pressure (if you're using a pressure canner) are extremely important, and the acidity of the food you're canning plays a large part in the recipe too.

Fruits may be preserved in a boiling water bath canner (BWB), but vegetables must be pressure-canned using a pressure canner.

Canning resources

Combining ingredients in a canning recipe - adding onions and peppers to a batch of tomatoes that you're canning, for instance - changes everything. You should always use an approved recipe and follow it closely.

You'll find a treasure trove of safety-tested canning recipes in the following resources:

Some canning tips you might not know

Canning jars and lids

  • Half gallon jars should only be used for high-acid fruit juices (apple and grape, NOT tomato juice)
  • If you're going to water bath process for less than 10 minutes, you should sterilize the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes before filling
  • When you simmer the lids ("flats") in hot water before putting them on your jars, alternate them (one right side up, the next upside down) so they won't nest together.

Canners and canning racks

To use a pressure cooker as a pressure canner, it must hold at least four quart-size jars on a rack. Anything smaller is too small to use as a canner.

If you want to use a stockpot or other large pot as a boiling water bath canner, the pot must be tall enough to hold the rack, the jars, and another 1-2" of water over the top of the jars, and enough space above that so the water doesn't boil over. 

The pot must also have a well-fitting lid.

Using a rack is extremely important in both types of canners (BWB and pressure canners). You need water to circulate under the jars during processing. 

Do not use a towel on the bottom of the canner instead of a rack. 

You can substitute jar rings, or a round cake cooling rack in a water bath canner (measure the inside of your canning pot before ordering), or use the rack from your pressure canner in your water bath canner.

To store your pressure canner:

  • Make sure the pot is dry
  • Add some wadded-up newspaper or paper towels to absorb any moisture that might be left
  • Put the lid inside a brown paper bag, then set it upside down on top of the canner
  • Keep the manual/instruction book inside the pot
  • Store in a dry place

Homemade apple jelly

Canning Salt

You can omit the salt from canned vegetables if you wish.

Do not leave salt out of pickle recipes. Omitting the salt will make your pickles soft.

Use canning salt or pickling salt when canning. Table salt will make your canned goods look cloudy.

Your altitude is very important

If you live more than 1,000 feet above sea level you must to adjust your canning times. 

To find your altitude, go to altitude at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. It will take you to a USGA site with topographical maps.

Canning tips you may not know.

How to measure head space

Head space refers to the empty space at the top of your canning jars. It's measured from the top of the jar to the top of your ingredients inside the jar. 

Although you'll see the judges at the county fair measuring head space with a ruler as they judge the canning entries, you don't need to use a ruler when filling your jars (unless you want to enter your efforts in your own county fair).

The point at which the screw threads begin is 1/4" from the top of the jar, and the end of the threads is 1/2" from the top.

There is a mark or ridge you can feel with your fingernail under the threads that is one inch from the top. 

How to get started

You'll find step-by-step directions to preserve fruits, vegetables and more to fill your pantry in this post.

And tutorials here:

Did you know all of these basic tips for canners? You'll find even more tips plus some ways to save money while canning safely in my collection of frugal canning tips here.

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These canning tips and tricks will save you time while canning.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. Excellent tips! Our garden produced pretty well this year and we got a large variety of things from it. Got one nice crop of tomatoes from it and canned them, then the tomatoes got a fungus and quit producing. I managed to nurse them back enough to have another crop going to be ready soon. I also planted a fall crop of beans that should be ready soon too. Hopefully I'll be doing some canning in a few weeks. Other than that, I haven't canned near as much this year as I have previous years... and my garden turned into a jungle. It's been an odd year for gardening for me.

  2. I'm sorry about your tomatoes but glad your fall garden is doing pretty good. Happy fall canning!

  3. Great canning tips! Thank you for sharing this on the Art of Home-Making Mondays. I will be pinning this :)

  4. Thank you for sharing, Jes. Hope you had a good summer away, but I'm glad you're back.

  5. No matter how long I have been canning I always read canning tips just to refresh my memory. Great list Kathi!

  6. I know what you mean, Tracy. Thank you.

  7. Neat, I never knew there was a 1 inch ridge in there. I used to can all the time. I'd really like to get back to it this fall!

  8. Canning is a rewarding task, isn't it, Jamie? I hope you are able to do some this fall. Buy fruits and veggies if you don't have a garden!

  9. Great tips and very helpful since I will be ready to do some canning soon. Thanks for sharing at My Flagstaff Home!


  10. I hope it was helpful, Jennifer. Thank you for visiting.

  11. Great tips on canning! Perfect for our readers over at the Country Fair Blog Party. Thank you for joining again this month.
    Laurie - Co-Host

  12. Great canning tips! I enjoyed your post so much I highlighted it as one of my blue ribbon winners for the Country Fair Blog Party for October: I hope you link up again this month!

  13. I haven't done any canning yet, but I'm hoping to start this year! Your tips will be super helpful when I go to start.

    1. Thank you, Megan, I do hope they are helpful!

  14. Sometimes the best tips are so obvious after you here them. I love the tip about alternating the flats so they don't stick together!

    1. I thought that was a good one too, Sally!

  15. Those are great tips! I learned a few things and was reminded of others. I hope to make some jelly one day. I still haven't done any pressure canning, but I'd like to try someday.

    1. Michelle, I'm glad you learned something new. Don't let someday pass you by, but also remember than it's never too late to try something new.

  16. These are great tips for newbies to canning like me! Thanks for sharing on the #WasteLessWednesday blog hop!

  17. Hi Kathi,

    Thank you for sharing this information! I've been wanting to learn to can for some time now, and I guess it's probably time for me to just do it! We have 5 huge apple trees on our homestead, and last year it was a shame how many apples went to waste. I need to can!!

    Thanks for sharing with us on the Homestead Blog Hop!


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