Always follow a recommended recipe when water bath canning to ensure it is safe for shelf storage and label then store safely. Foods sealed via hot water bath canning often keep for 12 months or more in a dark, dry, cool place (like your pantry) and are refrigerated once opened.

 1.  CHOOSE your preserving recipe – i.e. high acid fruits, tomatoes (with bottled lemon juice), or pickled vegetables (vinegar-based pickles, chutney, relish, salsa etc.) to determine the number of jars you will require. Get jars and new lids/seals out. Jars must be clean and have no cracks or chips. Remember lids are only one- time use, so always use new lids with each batch as the sealing compound inside the lid can wear away and cause seal failure during storage.
2.  CLEAN jars (or bottles) and equipment by washing in hot soapy water and rinsing well before use. 
3.  PLACE canning rack inside canner (or use a round cake rack/clean dishtowel). Place jars (not lids) inside the rack, right way up (jar base should be on the bottom, empty top facing upwards).
4.  FILL canner with water, water should cover jar rims by 1-2 inches (3-5cm). Add 1- 2tbsp of white vinegar if you have hard water to prevent streaks on the jars or lids. Place lid onto canner.
5.  BOIL jars for 10 minutes to pre-heat while you prepare the preserve (if this step is required as per the recipe). Start the 10-minute timer once the water inside the canner is boiling steadily. Once the 10 minutes is up, turn the heat off but keep the jars inside the canner until you're ready to fill the hot jars with the hot preserve.
6.  PREPARE ingredients i.e. weigh, wash, peel, dice, measure (if required).
7.  FOLLOW recipe steps to make the preserve.
8.  WARM up lids by placing into a pot of pre-boiled water (not over heat) and heat for 5-10 minutes while you fill the jars with the prepared preserve.
9.  REMOVE hot jars from the canner using jar tongs and place onto a towel-covered surface, the right way up (jar base on the towel).
10.  FILL jars with hot preserve into hot jars to the appropriate headspace (usually 1/4 inch, 1/2 inch or 1 inch, refer to the recipe). The headspace is the distance between the jar rim/top and the surface of the preserve. A jar funnel is often used to keep jar rims clean. Use a headspace tool or a clean "kitchen-use-only" plastic ruler to measure headspace accurately.
11.  REMOVE air bubbles from the jars using a bubble remover tool or a plastic spatula (or wooden chopstick). Do not use a metal utensil. Add extra preserve/liquid if the headspace is under, or remove some preserve if over filled.
12.  WIPE rims using a damp paper towel to remove any food residue (dampen with a little vinegar if the jar rims are sticky).
13.  REMOVE lids from hot water and twist lids onto jars “fingertip tight” - twist lids on firmly (but not as tightly as possible). Use a hand towel to hold jars firmly while you twist on the lids/bands as the jars will be very hot!
14.  LOWER sealed jars carefully into the canner rack in a single layer. Add a second rack if you are going to double stack in the canner to stop the jars bouncing off one another. The water in the canner should still be 1-2 inches (3-5cm) above the jar lids (plus another 1-2 inches / 3-5cm to allow space for the water to boil).
15.  CLOSE water bath canner (add lid) and heat over high until the water returns to a boil.
16.  PROCESS for the time stated in the recipe (for your altitude), starting the timer once the water returns to a boil and keeping it boiling for the timed period. i.e. jams/jellies at 10 minutes boil to process safely in a water bath canner.
17.  TURN off the heat once the time is up, remove canner lid but leave jars inside canner for a further 5 minutes.
18.  REMOVE jars from canner using the jar lifter/tongs, and place jars of preserves onto a wooden board or a clean, towel-covered bench overnight to seal. Do not tilt, upturn or shake jars. Do not adjust lids during this time. As they cool you will hear a PING! or POP! sound as the air inside the jars cool and shrink, forcing the lid downwards and creating a strong vacuum seal.
19.  AFTER 12-24 hours: check jars have sealed. Jar seals/lids should be tightly sealed and should not flex up or down when pressed. If jars did not seal, re-process with new lids or refrigerate immediately. If jars have sealed, remove rings from two-piece lids, and lid clips (if used).
20.  LABEL AND DATE jars clearly before storing in a cool, dark and dry place for up to 12 months. Some people write the date of when the preserve was made (this is what we do); others write the "best before" date instead (12 months from date canned). Just remember to use the same labelling system for all of your preserving! Jar lids should remain tightly sealed during storage, and not flex up or down when pressed (which indicates jar seal failure, do not consume). 
TIP: wait 4-6 weeks before opening vinegar preserves, to allow the vinegar flavour to subside.
Upon opening a jar, store in the refrigerator and consume jar contents within the number of days stated in the recipe.
Author: Megan Radaich           
Image Credit: Megan Radaich          
Publication: www.foodpreserving.org

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