I Can, Can You Can? A Beginner’s Guide to Water Bath Canning

The end of summer is a rough time of year for me. It’s a shame really, because it is one of the most beautiful, joyful, exciting times of year, and therein lies the problem: I’m just not ready for it to end! Yes, of course, I look forward to wearing sweatshirts, tailgating at Kinnick, romping at Wilson’s Orchard, and pumpkin-flavored deliciousness. No doubt! And if we’re comparing, July through December is like infinitely better than January through June, in my opinion. But once summer is gone, it’s gone. For a really long time. For a long, cold, dark, stuck inside time. Sigh.

It’s a little depressing, right? I blame grocery stores. You see, if it weren’t for grocery stores, we’d have to spend our harvest time actually, you know, harvesting, which involves a lot of work, and then we’d be busy and tired and looking forward to that long, cold winter of rest. Maybe? It’s a stretch. Well, either way, there is something truly spiritual about harvesting the fruits and veggies of your labor, and preserving them in stacks of jars and piles of bags to stock your freezer and pantry for the year ahead.

Canning your own fruits and veggies is like wrapping up pieces of summer into perfect packages to be opened whenever you’re longing for a bit of sunshine in your life, which can be just the attitude adjustment we need to welcome the fall and winter with open arms.

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Canning is one of those skills that should be learned at the skirt of your grandma, a yearly tradition that becomes as ingrained in your memory as Christmas morning. Like a lot of my contemporaries from our generation, I didn’t learn how to can from my grandma, but I was fortunate enough to have an awesome Aunt Debbie who inspired me and told me the one secret I needed to know to get started.

The Secret Weapon

I’ll let you in on the “secret”: Just buy the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, (pictured below). It is all you need. Every fear of the unknown will be explained, every step of the process accompanied by picture details, and an excellent index and troubleshooting guide for help. You can trust that all of its recipes are tested for safety and deliciousness. The book will also tell you what supplies you need, and how to buy them.

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In short, here’s the basic list of supplies for water-bath canning, though the book will give more details:

  • A water-bath canner, which is essentially a big pot with a rack that fits inside for lowering and lifting the jars
  • A jar lifter for picking up individual hot jars
  • A funnel for filling the jars
  • Jars with lids and bands
  • A big wooden spoon

Once you have those things, you can make your own jams, jellies, salsas, pickles, syrups, preserves, sauces, and more! And soon, the smell of apples cooking will fill your nose, the sound of jars popping will fill your ears, and bountiful stacks of summery goodness will fill your pantry. You won’t even notice summer is gone once again.

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See? Husbands like canning, too!

Thanks, Aunt Debbie, for passing on this fun and delicious tradition!

Mamas, have I convinced anyone to learn to can? Stock up on your supplies, comment here with your questions, and next time I’ll take you step by step through some of my favorite recipes!


Lianna is a homesteading mama of three: a sparkly seven-year-old daughter, a joyful five-year-old boy, and a confident three-year-old boy. After graduating from the University of Iowa’s college of education, she started Wondergarten Early Enrichment Home, a multi-age, play-based early childhood program. A self-proclaimed Queen Dabbler, she has a long list of hobbies (from gardening and canning to sewing and painting), and doesn’t mind being only mediocre at all of them. She lives with her husband, mother, three kiddos, dog, cat, rabbits, dwarf goats, and chickens on an acreage in the country. The Cornally family spends their time talking about education, learning how to grow and preserve their own food, and romping around in their woods.


  1. Lianna, isn’t it wonderful to have such a complete set of illustrated instructions? That is why I’ve heard the Blue Book called the canning Bible. Pretty cool. I think my favorite part of canning is looking at how beautiful the finished products are. My second favorite is the anticipation of the lids popping when they seal, and the satisfaction I feel when (if) they all do. This is a tradition/process I hope you will pass on to Lenora and she to her kids…

  2. Yes! I think I have the smell of hot apples ingrained in my memory from helping my mom make applesauce when I was little, because that smell is my absolute favorite. I will pass this on to all of my kiddos, hopefully! If not, they and everyone who knows me will continue to receive my canned goods as holiday gifts forever, so they better get used to it. 🙂


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