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University of Illinois Extension

Using a Boiling Water Bath Canner

Boiling Water Canner illustration

  1. Before you start preparing your recipe, fill the canner half full with clean hot water
  2. Preheat the water to about 180°F for hot packed foods
  3. Fill jars:
    • Fill clean jars using a wide mouth funnel
    • Headspace illustration

    • Leave headspace ¼ - inch for jellies, jams, butters, and preserves. ½ - inch for fruits, pickles and pickled products
    • Wipe jar rims using a clean wet cloth
    • Screw on new two-piece lids (screw bands may be reused as long as they are not rusted) which have been washed in hot soapy water and rinsed
    • Screw the band down fingertip tight; not too tight. Do not use force. Note: tightening screw band too tight may result in buckled lids that may not seal properly
  4. Using a jar lifter, load canner with filled jars; water should be 1 to 2 inches above the top of the jars; measure with ruler. Add more hot water if needed
  5. Increase heat to the highest setting; cover the canner with the lid until the water boils vigorously
  6. Once the water boils vigorously, set the timer. Process for the appropriate time according to the tested recipe. Start processing time after the water is boiling
  7. Turn off heat and allow jars to stay in canner an additional 5 minutes, which safeguards the seal
  8. Using a jar lifter, remove the jars and place on towels, cutting board or cooling rack to prevent the jars from breaking on contact with a cold surface
  9. Let the jars sit undisturbed, away from a draft, for 12 to 24 hours
  10. Test seals:
    • Lids won't move when pressed
    • Clear ringing sound when tapped
    • Lid curved inward (concave)
  11. Remove screw bands and wipe jars clean
  12. Use vinegar to remove white mineral deposits on jars
  13. Label using cottage food operation labeling guidelines (See Food Labeling and Placards)
  14. Testing for Seals

  15. Store without screw bands to avoid rust; add back on to transport and sell at Farmers Market
  16. Store in a cool, dry, dark place; away from sunlight
  17. Use within 1 year for best quality

Print a fact sheet on Water Bath Canning at National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Steps in Processing Jams and Jellies