Believe it or not, you probably have most of the equipment you need to put up a few jars of tasty food in an afternoon — and the process is less complicated than you might think.
These recipes are designed for water-bath canning and will keep for up to a year. The acid, salt, and heat of processing act as preservatives to prevent bacterial growth and keep your food vacuum-sealed. Before consuming canned food, inspect jars for signs of spoilage: Bulging lids, leakage, and an unnatural color or smell indicate that something’s gone off and should be discarded.
These recipes are ideal for the days when your garden is delivering a big harvest, or when you get a bunch of veggies in your community-supported-agriculture box. When you open up that jar of tomato sauce in December, you’ll be so glad you saved a little bit of summer flavor.
- A tall pot
- A trivet or folded towel
- Half-pint Mason, Ball, or Kerr jars
- New, unused lids and bands
- Canning-jar lifter tongs or other heavy tongs
- Rubber spatula
Choose a pot that’s tall enough to allow the jars to sit inside of it, submerged in water by at least 1 inch. Fill your tall pot with water and place a trivet or folded towel in the bottom to keep the jars from touching the pot. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer.
Wash jars, lids, and bands in hot, soapy water. They’ll get sterilized during their processing time, so you just need to wash them beforehand to remove any dust or debris. Place empty, unlidded jars in your pot of water to preheat. Place lids and bands in a shallow pan of simmering water to keep warm.
Use a jar lifter or tongs to remove your empty, preheated jars. If you’re using tongs, support the bottom of each jar with a folded towel as you pull it out of the hot water. Place the jars on a folded towel on the countertop and fill with prepared food, leaving at least a 1/2 inch of headspace.
Use a clean, damp towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then center the lids on top of the jars and press to adhere. Screw the metal bands onto the jars as tight as you can using just your fingertips. During processing, air will be forced out of the jar to create a vacuum seal — if the band is too tight, air won’t be able to escape and the jars may not seal properly.
Use your jar lifters or tongs to transfer your filled jars back into your pot of water, ensuring they’re covered by at least 1 inch of water. Cover the pot and bring water to a full boil, then process for the amount of time indicated in your recipe. When the time is up, turn off the burner and let the jars stand in the hot water for five minutes before transferring back to the towel on the counter.
Let the jars stand, undisturbed, for 24 hours, until they’ve cooled to room temperature. Then check the seals: If you press the center of the lid with your finger, it should not move. If it springs back, refrigerate the jar and use the contents within a few days. Label your sealed jars clearly and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Makes five half-pint jars | Cook time 1 hour, 20 minutes | Process time 30 minutes
- 3 pounds Roma tomatoes, halved and cored
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 1 1/2 tsp. canning salt, kosher salt, or pure sea salt
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 tsp. citric acid or 3 tbs. fresh lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and place your tomatoes in a large, deep roasting pan.
- Add the onion, garlic, salt, oregano, basil, and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil and toss to mix.
- Roast for 30 minutes. Stir, scraping the bottom with a metal spatula, and roast for 30 minutes longer. Stir again to incorporate any browned juices from the pan, then let cool until you can handle the tomatoes.
- Use tongs or your fingers to strip the skins from the tomatoes, if desired. Transfer the contents of the pan to a large saucepan and use an immersion blender to coarsely purée. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for about five minutes, until slightly thickened.
- Stir in citric acid or lemon juice, then use a ladle to scoop the sauce into jars, leaving at least 1/2 inch of headspace. Process in a hot-water bath for 30 minutes or refrigerate without canning and use within a month.
Makes four half-pint jars | Cook time 45 minutes | Process time 30 minutes
- 1 1/2 lb. medium beets
- 1 cup apple-cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. canning salt, kosher salt, or pure sea salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- 2 slices fresh ginger
- 1 large shallot, sliced
- Trim the beet tops and reserve for another use. Place beets in a pot and cover with water by an inch, then bring to a boil. Boil the beets until they are easily pierced with a paring knife, about 20 minutes for smaller beets, or 30 minutes for larger ones. Drain in a colander and, with cold water running, hold each beet under the tap as you rub off the skin.
- Leave small beets whole and quarter larger ones, then slice all beets into 1/4-inch slices.
- In a medium pot, combine vinegar, salt, sugar, water, cinnamon stick, and ginger. Bring to a boil, then add the beet slices and shallots. Return to a boil and cook for five minutes. Remove the ginger slices and cinnamon stick.
- Use a ladle to transfer hot beets and their liquid into jars, leaving at least a 1/2 inch of headspace. Process in a hot-water bath for 30 minutes or refrigerate without canning and use within a month.
Makes four half-pint jars | Cook time 30 minutes, plus 8 hours in the slow cooker | Process time 10 minutes
- 3 lb. apples, peeled and cored (peels reserved)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 tbs. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. allspice
- 1/4 tsp. cloves
- 2 tbs. fresh lemon juice
- Place the apples in a slow cooker and stir in the maple syrup, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and lemon juice. Place the peels on top — they contain a lot of pectin, a natural thickener that will help give your apple butter its texture. Cover the pot and cook on low for eight hours. Alternatively, cook over low heat on the stovetop, stirring occasionally.
- Transfer the apple mixture to a high-speed blender, either discarding the apple peels or including them for extra fiber, as desired. Blend until smooth. Use a ladle to transfer apple butter to jars, leaving at least a 1/2 inch of headspace. Process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes or refrigerate without canning and use within a month.
Makes six half-pint jars | Cook time 30 minutes, plus 6 hours refrigeration time | Process time 15 minutes
- 5 cups mixed vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, red bell pepper, jalapeños, carrots, celery)
- 2 tbs. canning salt, kosher salt, or pure sea salt, divided
- 1 tsp. mustard seeds
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 tsp. celery seeds
- 1 tsp. black peppercorns
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. red-pepper flakes, optional
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise
- Cut the cauliflower and broccoli in small florets to make about 2 cups. Cut strips of bell pepper about 1 1/2 inches long. Core the jalapeño and slice in rounds. Slice carrots and celery on the diagonal. Measure vegetables to make five packed cups.
- Place vegetables in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt, then stir to mix. Refrigerate for six hours or overnight.
- Mix the mustard seeds, fennel seeds, celery seeds, peppercorns, and thyme in a small bowl, then place a rounded half-teaspoon of the mixture in each jar. If using red-pepper flakes, add a generous pinch to each jar.
- Drain and rinse the vegetables. In a small pot, combine the vinegar, water, and remaining tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt.
- Pack the vegetables in the jars. Add half a garlic clove to each jar. Carefully pour the hot brine into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Process in a hot-water bath for 15 minutes or refrigerate without canning and use within a month.
This article originally appeared as “Yes, You Can!” in the September 2021 issue of Experience Life.