What Are the Steps in the Canning Process?

Tiffany Manley
Tiffany Manley
A canning jar of pickled cornichons.
A canning jar of pickled cornichons.

The canning process is made up of several steps designed to ensure safety and quality. Preparing, filling, and wiping the containers are the first steps a person would typically take. Afterward, the lids and bands used to seal the receptacles are placed on. Heating in a canner, pressure cooker, or large pot helps create a seal. Once the jars have cooled, the seals are tested and they are marked with the date.

Jars and lids should be thoroughly cleaned before using them for canning.
Jars and lids should be thoroughly cleaned before using them for canning.

To begin the canning process, jars should usually be prepared first. If the contents will be processed for less than 10 minutes containers should be boiled, otherwise washing in hot soapy water is usually sufficient. Only the amount needed should be prepared and stored in hot water until they are used, to help ensure all germs have been destroyed.

Wash jars in hot soapy water before filling.
Wash jars in hot soapy water before filling.

Any preparation of the items to be canned should typically take place while the containers sit in hot water. Once edible items are ready, containers can be removed from the water and dried. Fruits and vegetables are usually cut into smaller pieces and packed with water or syrup; soups, jams, and other liquids are placed directly into jars. If necessary, a funnel might be used for filling the jars, otherwise everything should be packed while leaving enough space for a tight seal.

Someone using a water bath canning method for jars only needs to sterilize the jars if the canning process will take less than 10 minutes.
Someone using a water bath canning method for jars only needs to sterilize the jars if the canning process will take less than 10 minutes.

After filling is complete, it might be necessary to wipe down the jars at this point in the canning process. Food left on the rim can potentially interfere with proper sealing. Without one, canned foods might be exposed to germs and bacteria that sometimes spoil the food. After cleaning, lids and bands can usually be added. Bands should be screwed on tight enough to help create a seal but not so much so that is potentially interferes with the process.

A jar lifter may be used to remove sterilized jars from a boiling water canner.
A jar lifter may be used to remove sterilized jars from a boiling water canner.

The next step in the canning process is to heat the containers in a pressure cooker, stock pot, or canner. This helps create a seal to keep the food fresh and also kills any remaining bacteria. Since pressure cookers and other items used to heat canned goods usually vary among manufacturers, it is typically best for individuals to consult their user manuals to determine proper use.

After the jars have been heated, the next step in the canning process is to test the seal and mark the date on the containers. When a lid is pressed, it should not move at all; if it does, proper sealing has not taken place. A permanent writing instrument can be used to write down the date the items were finished so they can be stored.

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    • A canning jar of pickled cornichons.
      A canning jar of pickled cornichons.
    • Jars and lids should be thoroughly cleaned before using them for canning.
      Jars and lids should be thoroughly cleaned before using them for canning.
    • Wash jars in hot soapy water before filling.
      Wash jars in hot soapy water before filling.
    • Someone using a water bath canning method for jars only needs to sterilize the jars if the canning process will take less than 10 minutes.
      Someone using a water bath canning method for jars only needs to sterilize the jars if the canning process will take less than 10 minutes.
    • A jar lifter may be used to remove sterilized jars from a boiling water canner.
      A jar lifter may be used to remove sterilized jars from a boiling water canner.