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Equipment Needed for Hot Water Bath Canning

basic canning equipment my basic canning equipment- OK, not the houseplants (photo by jhy- click to enlarge)
This article is part one of two which will give general directions for processing foods for storing by the hot water bath method. The focus of this article will be the equipment that is needed.

If you are new to home canning of foods, the list of equipment and steps required may seem daunting. I will admit that there are a lot of pans and dishes and steps involved. However, once you get used to it all, it doesn't seem quite so bad. The reward of eating foods you have preserved yourself is great!


canner with rack and lid
canning jars
lids and rings
jar lifter
canning funnel
assorted utensils- knives, spoons, ladles, scoops, scrapers, measuring cups, bowls, small dishes, etc.
cloth towels (I prefer linen over terry)
paper towels (optional but good)
several large kettles- 1 gallon and 2 gallon are good sizes


Canner- this is a large pot, usually between 11 and 21 quart capacity. It will hold 7 canning jars. The most ordinary size is 11.5 or 12.5 quart. It needs to be large enough to fill with jars, and then have enough room above that to have about an inch of water. The smallest size might have problems with some jars, if your jar collection includes an odd mixture of all ages and brands. The rack will hold jars up off the bottom of the pot so they don't have direct heat transferred to them from the metal, which might cause them to crack. Don't process jars without a rack. Lid- although the processing itself is done without the lid, you can cover the pot to help conserve energy while bringing the water to a boil. Mine is aluminum. I'd prefer granitewear or stainless steel, but that's just me.

Canning Jars- These glass jars vary in size from less than a half-pint (one cup) to two gallon. The most common sizes are half-pint, pint and quart. They are made in two standard mouth sizes, and this is important. There are narrow (or regular) mouth, and wide mouth jars. The mouth size is important, because the sealing lids must fit properly. Some commercial product jars may be able to be used, although more products have gone to plastic rather than glass. The most common example is mayonnaise jars. That said, I have quite a few pint-and-a-half jars that came from Tang breakfast drink long ago. Some spaghetti sauce jars will work. Glass jars can be reused indefinitely as long as the rims don't have any chips or scratches. This can prevent the seal from holding. Glass always cleans up beautifully, retaining no odors or colors.

Lids and Rings- Lids can be purchased anywhere that canning supplies are sold, in either narrow or wide-mouth varieties. The best sources say that lids shouldn't be reused, but I confess that I've done it. If I can pry the lid off a sealed jar with my fingers, rather than a tool, so that it has no dings or bent spots, I wash it carefully and reuse it. The issue is that they may not seal when re-used. I take my chances, and just realize that I may need to use an occasional jar of something right away, or re-process with a new lid. The rings are used to hold the lids in place until the seal has formed. Then they should be removed for storage (so you won't need nearly as many rings as lids). This is not a hard-and-fast rule though. In general, if you leave the ring on it may rust or sugar may make it stick to the jar so much that you will have a hard time removing it later. I usually remove them. However, sometimes for gift foods, I'll leave the ring on and use it to hold a piece of decorative cloth in place- minimalist gift wrapping!

Jar Lifter- I did without one of these for a few years, which was totally silly. They don't cost much, and prevent a lot of burned fingers. This is essentially a pair of tongs which can be opened wide enough to grab and lift canning jars. The metal should be coated with something to protect the jars.

Canning Funnel- This will be used a lot, so don't cheat and try to get by without it, either. A canning funnel has a wide opening at the bottom end, instead of a typical narrow one. This allows you to fill jars more easily than trying to ladle hot liquids through the opening.

Assorted Utensils- In general, I prefer anything other than plastic. I never liked how plastic can retain odors of hot foods, and now that we know more about BPA and other chemicals which can be released when plastic is heated, I like my metal, glass, or wood tools even better. That said, I do have some large bowls of plastic which are really useful for sorting foods to be processed. Like any collection of kitchen tools, you will have your own preferences, but be sure you have bowls, measuring cups, a colander, sieve(s), spoons, forks, sharp kitchen knives, ladles or dippers, small dishes to catch drips, etc. Most ordinary kitchens will have these, but you may need to be sure you have large enough containers for dealing with quantities of food. Other specialty items may be needed for some food preparation, a grinder, food mill, jelly bag, etc.

Cloth Towels- You will need some cloth towels to place on counters to receive the hot jars of processed food. This buffers the jars from direct contact with a surface of a different temperature, which can cause cracking. You may go for years without having a jar crack, but if it happens to you just once, spilling boiling liquid over everything, you won't skip the towel again. I prefer linen towels, because terrycloth ones really stick to sugary syrup with may have leaked during the processing.

Paper Towels- I hate paper towels; they are such a waste. And yet, I find that there are a few things I like them for. (I buy about one roll a year). I use a piece of a towel, moistened, to wipe the rims of jars before putting on the lid. This way, I know I always have a clean "cloth" touching the rim.

Large Kettles- I find that the minimum I need (in addition to the canner) are two 1-gallon kettles, and a 2-gallon kettle. All have lids.

The next article will deal with Basic Instructions for Hot Water Bath Canning.


magi said...

I actually enjoyed reading through this posting. Many thanks.
Used Kitchen Equipment

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