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 recipes and start canning 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 clean the jars thoroughly to prevent bacteria (and the vinegar in many of the recipes creates an acidic environment that discourages bacteria from growing as well).
With water bath canning, once you’ve poured the contents into the jars you boil them in water until the seals form and you hear an audible popping noise that signals the jars are sealed airtight. Label the jars with the date and contents and then you’re all set! Here’s a simple step-by-step guide that will get you started.
1. Choose Your Ingredients
If there’s anything you love to eat fresh off the vine, then most likely you’ll enjoy it canned. Think of combinations that you wouldn’t normally find - add fresh herbs, spices, and vinegars to get started. Combine different types of vegetables (peppers, carrots, cauliflower) and can them together to make a great antipasto. Cut the fruit and vegetables into uniform slices and make sure they’ll fit in the jars you choose.
2. Clean Your Jars
Boil the jars, lids, and rings until you’re certain they’re clean. Be sure not to introduce bacteria to the mix by handling with dirty hands - keep the jars in the water until you’re ready to use. Use a ladle and spoon the ingredients into the clean jars with a canning funnel and be sure to use tongs to handle the hot jars. Check out Serious Eats' primer on canning here.
3. Check the Seals
Return your canning jars to the hot water bath and leave them in as long as the specific recipe you’re using indicates. Once you take the jars out of the hot water you will hear an audible “pop” or “ping” as the jar seals and the lid has formed an airtight seal. When it doubt, throw it out. If you don’t hear a jar seal then don’t save the contents for a date in the future. You can enjoy them within a week or two if kept in the fridge but they’re not safe for shelf storage.
Start off with jams and pickles, then go wild and can whatever your heart desires. If you love it, you can can it.
Here are 7 recipes to try once you’ve perfected your technique.
1. Dill Pickles
A great recipe for a beginner, these dill pickles are about as simple as you can get. Use fresh dill and white vinegar (you can add garlic as well, but be prepared that it will completely change the taste and likely overpower the dill). Get the recipe here.
2. Home-Canned Applesauce
Canning is more than just pickling! This recipe for canned applesauce is a great way to make use of a bushel of apples and it keeps forever in the cupboard. Get the recipe here.
3. Pickled Cauliflower
The spice combination is what makes this pickled cauliflower so distinct. This recipe blends together coriander seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, garlic, turmeric, red pepper, and fresh ginger for a killer combo. Get the recipe here.
4. Pickled Jalapenos and Carrots
The perfect sandwich topper, these pickled jalapenos and carrots are just the kick you need to spice up a plain old turkey sandwich. Red onions add a nice bit of color to the mix as well. Get the recipe here.
5. Blueberry Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Fresh blueberries and Meyer lemons are at their best when paired together in this marmalade that begs to be spread on toast, muffins, or even eaten straight from the jar. Make a double batch and give this as hostess gift if you’ve got a lot of fresh blueberries you need to use. Get the recipe here.
6. Green Beans
Fresh tarragon and dill, combined with garlic, peppercorns, white wine vinegar, and salt, make for a lovely summertime snack that also tastes great with a glass of wine. Get the recipe here.
7. Plum Butter
Canning isn’t just great for preserving fruits and vegetables, it’s also perfect for making spreads and jams you can use year-round. This plum butter flavored with cardamom, cinnamon, and lemon juice tastes just as good on baked goo as it does spooned on top of a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Get the recipe here.
Caitlin M. O'Shaughnessy is a New York City–based food writer and editor at Penguin who has worked on and recipe-tested several cookbooks. She is currently in search of NYC's best ramen, and is one of the few people who admit to disliking brunch.