A Beginner’s Guide to Canning Food

How to preserve your seasonal food in cans

Canning food is a great solution to preserve your seasonal food, especially if you are buying it from farms or growing in your own garden. No more food waste with these few simple steps. You get to save money, eat healthy and keep your pantry full!

Canning is a great sustainable option if you have access to a surplus of food, especially during your garden’s growing season. It is a way to preserve food in a sealed air tight container. (Yes, we call it canning, but we actually use jars now.)

There are many ways to preserve food, some of which have been around for ages. A few popular methods are smoking, fermenting, and drying. John L. Mason invented the reusable jar with the screw-on lid in the 1850s, hence the term Mason jars. 

While preservation methods improved throughout the years, the need to self-preserve your own food has basically gone away, especially for those who do not grow their own food. However, it is still helpful if you are on a budget or want/need to know exactly what is in your food. For example, I got a giant box of tomatoes for $6. And it costs $10 to make 7 big jars of tomato sauce, which is much cheaper than buying 7 jars of tomato sauce.

A Beginner’s Guide to Canning Food

The concept of canning is actually pretty simple, even though it can seem daunting. Honestly, I wish I had tried it sooner.

Your canning starter kit:

  • Tongs
  • Jars with a 2-piece lid (1 piece forms a suction, the other tightens)
  • A large pot
  • Funnel or pouring cup
  • Eventually storage plastic trays

A Beginner’s Guide to Canning Food

The process of canning

Step by step here’s the simple process of canning:

  1. When your recipe is ready for canning (below I’ll show you how to cook this tomato sauce), you’ll want to boil water in a large pot.
  2. Place the clean jars into the boiling water. I had to do 2 jars at a time, granted I was using large jars.

A Beginner’s Guide to Canning Food

  1. Once you remove the jar from the hot water, fill it with your product. I used a measuring cup to pour the still hot sauce into the hot jar. A funnel can also be used to ensure no spillage. Make sure to leave 1/4 – 1/2-inch gap at the top, to avoid overfilling.
  2. Place the lid and ring to tighten the lid. 

Note: Be sure the jar and sauce are HOT during the process. Immediately put on the lid because the heat will cause the suction. Also, don’t be surprised when you hear the jar pop, as that’s the lid causing the suction.

A Beginner’s Guide to Canning Food

Below is a recipe for tomato sauce, but there are many things you can preserve, such as jams, fruits, vegetables and pickles.

To make 7x jars of tomato sauce


18 Tomatoes 

6 Peppers

6 Onions

3 Tbsp of Garlic

3 Tbsp of Basil

3 Tbsp of Oregano

3 Tbsp of Parsley

How to make the tomato sauce for canning

You can either make the sauce with or without the skins on the tomato. I personally like without the skins; therefore, I’ve added a trick to easily peel tomatoes.

A Beginner’s Guide to Canning Food

Don’t add tomato paste before canning the sauce. If desired, add the paste when actually eating it.

  1. First, start by coring (taking the stem off) the tomatoes with a knife. Next, cut an X into the the opposite side of the tomato. 
  2. Place cored tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove with a slotted spoon. Let cool, and where you placed the X, the skin should easily peel off.

A Beginner’s Guide to Canning Food

  1. Cut the tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic, and put them in a pot. Bring to a boil. Simmer at low, covered for 3 hours.  

A Beginner’s Guide to Canning Food

  1. Add the rest of the ingredients and then blend until the desired texture. I personally used a stick immersion blender.

A Beginner’s Guide to Canning Food

Eat some tonight and can the rest for later. Now that you’ve canned your first produce, don’t let it be your last!

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Jillian Pfennig

Jillian Pfennig is a freelance writer, blogger, photographer, artist and travel enthusiast. Follow along on her adventures on Instagram @jillianpfennig

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