Home canning is not as complicated as you might think. Yes, it’s something pioneer women would devote an entire weekend to, but even if you’re not a whiz in the kitchen you can try out these simple canning recipes and start putting up your own preserves right away.
Water bath canning is easy, requires little equipment, and is a great way to preserve fresh fruit, vegetables, or any combination of the aforementioned with spices and fresh herbs. The most important thing is that you follow proper procedures so as not to introduce bad bacteria, and follow the recipes exactly as written (they’re tailored to specific methods and formulated with precise amounts of vinegar or lemon juice to create an acidic environment that discourages bacteria from growing as well).
Ball 9-Piece Canning Starter Kit, $14.83 from Walmart
This kit includes four half-pint canning jars, a funnel, a bubble remover, a jar lifter, a trivet, and pectin for jams and jelly.
Related Reading: Essential Canning Supplies to Stock Before You Begin
With water bath canning, once you’ve poured the contents into the jars you boil them until the seals form; let them cool, check to make sure the seals are tight, and you’re all set. Label and date the fruits (or veggies) of your labor and pack your pantry full—or give some away to lucky friends and family.
Then try these recipes, from pickles to fruit preserves:
A great recipe for a beginner, these dill pickles are about as simple as you can get. Use fresh dill and white vinegar and feel free to add extra garlic; you can also cut your pickles however you like, from spears to slices. Get the Dill Pickle recipe.
Related Reading: How to Quick Pickle Almost Anything
The spice combination is what makes this Pickled Cauliflower recipe so distinct. It blends coriander seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, garlic, turmeric, red pepper, and fresh ginger for a killer kick; you can make it as a quick pickle, or can it to keep it longer.
While low acid food like green beans and other vegetables normally must be processed with a pressure canner, because these are pickled first, the water bath method works. Yellow mustard seeds, black peppercorns, and five garlic cloves give them a punch; fresh dill and dill seed give them their herby twist. These stay crisp even after canning, too. Get the Virginia Willis’ Spicy Dilly Beans recipe.
Pickled jalapenos are delicious, but if you can’t help craving sweet and heat, candied jalapeno peppers are even more amazing. There’s still a tangy kick from apple cider vinegar too. Get the Cowboy Candy recipe.
Another sweet-tart option, this zippy zucchini relish is made from the most famous summer squash. It’s great in place of your usual pickle relish in tuna salad and on hot dogs. Or try mixing with a little mayo and ketchup for a shortcut Thousand Island-style dressing or dip. Get the Zucchini Relish recipe.
Pickled beets may be old-fashioned, but they’re just as delicious as ever. If you don’t have pickling salt, be sure to use a brand of kosher salt without any anti-caking agents (Diamond Crystal is a good choice). This is more for quality than safety issues, but it’s good to know how different types of salt affect pickles. Get the Pickled Beets recipe.
Canning is more than just pickling, of course! Jams and jellies get a lot of attention, but preserved plums are underrated—when the fruit is at its peak this summer, try our Spicy Plum Chutney recipe with red onion, brown sugar, currants, apple cider vinegar, garlic, and mustard seed. You can pair this with roasted pork or chicken, eat it with sharp cheese and crackers, or even spoon it over simple vanilla ice cream.
More traditional but no less delicious, our Blueberry Jam recipe is thickened with apple peel rather than store-bought pectin, and has a little bottled lemon juice that you shouldn’t skip (since it’s there not just for flavor, but to ensure proper acidity).
Our simple Apricot Jam recipe captures the sunny taste and color of summer; you can make it as a quick freezer jam for storing up to three months, but if you follow the canning process, it will last a lot longer.
The same is true of our Strawberry Jam recipe; you can give it a water bath if you want to store it for a longer period, or follow a more casual process if you’re going to enjoy it within a few months.
Our Crock Pot Blueberry Butter recipe can also be made on the stovetop, but either way, canning it in jars afterward will make it last well into the winter. The hint of cinnamon and nutmeg make it extra-special.
Peach jam is another favorite, but simple slices of ripe peach preserved in a light syrup are way better than what you’d get at the store. You should stick to yellow peaches since white peaches have lower acidity and may not be safe to can via the water bath method. Get the Canned Peaches recipe.
When it comes to summer fruit, tomatoes are near the top of the list, and simply preserving them whole in their own juice is a great way to stock your pantry. You can use them any way you would store-bought canned tomatoes. Get our Canned Tomato recipe (feel free to skip the basil).
Canning your own tomato sauce means the best plates of pasta for months to come. If you wanted to add meat before canning, you would have to process the jars using a pressure canner—but making a basic vegetarian tomato sauce means you only need equipment for water bath canning. It’s still important (always) to follow the recipe as written; even adding garlic or basil can throw off the all-important pH. But you can always add herbs, aromatics, and even cooked ground beef or poultry when you’re making dinner down the line. Get the Tomato Sauce recipe.
Got even more tomatoes? Combine them with peppers, onion, garlic, lemon juice, and spices for homemade salsa and put it up in the pantry for plenty of chip dipping and recipe making later (it’s great added to soups and chili). Get the Home Canned Salsa recipe.
In our Red Pepper Jam recipe, the natural sweetness of bell peppers gets a a kick from a jalapeño (or a serrano chile) and a little tang from white wine vinegar. If you can it, you can give it as gifts—or hoard it all for yourself. It’s great as a glaze on meat or shrimp, or spooned onto soft cheese and toast or crackers.
Canning isn’t just for summer produce, either. These recipes for canned applesauce and apple butter are great ways to make use of a bushel of fall’s favorite fruit, and they keep forever in the cupboard. Get the Applesauce recipe, or our Homemade Apple Butter recipe (and follow the linked canning instructions to store it long-term).
The original version of this story was by Caitlin M. O’Shaughnessy in 2015; it has been updated with additional images, links, and text.
Header image courtesy of istetiana / Moment / Getty Images