Canning Season is my favorite season. It’s something that I never imagined I would love quite as much as I actually do. In addition to providing food for our family it also creates many fun experiences for us. My mom and I spend a lot of time together in the summer and fall getting food “put up” for our families. We’ve learned a lot over the years and we’ve laughed probably more than we’ve learned. For 2021 our favorite newly canned item was grape juice. We’re already prepping for 2022 by emptying our jars and buying some new ones too. We were blessed enough to know what canning was and what we would need but I also realize that there are many out there who might not know. If you are new to canning here is a summary of canning supplies needed to get you started.
The first thing that you are going to need to pick up is some jars. There are different brands and sizes that are floating around so I’ll dive in.
Ball and Kerr are the old standby brands. I honestly don’t see many new Kerr jars anymore and I know for a fact I’ve never found them in the stores up here. Ball is the most popular and widely used. In normal circumstances you can find them at your local grocery, farm, or hardware store. During the 2020 pandemic there was a major supply shortage, but they seem to be rebounding and more easily found. There is a newer brand, Pur, which is fairly prevalent in stores now. I’ve used their jars and lids and they have worked just fine for me. There is also a country naturals brand that is sold at our local farm store. These jars also worked just fine and I had no issues. I’ve even tried the cheap jars from Amazon and they worked (minus lids- discussed separately).
Regular or Wide Mouth
There are also two types of jars that are out there. There are regular mouth which is smaller, and wide mouth which is as described. What you need will depend on what you are canning. Things that are canned in larger slices or chunks (e.g. potatoes, pickles, beets, etc) are more easily canned in wide mouth jars. They fit better in there and it makes it easier to fit as many as possible in the jar. I also prefer to put my pie filling in wide mouth jars because I can get a knife in there to get more air bubbles in to get more of the syrup portion in the jar.
If you are canning liquids (e.g. tomato sauce, grape juice, applesauce, etc) regular mouth jars are the way to go. I love regular mouth jars because you can fill them up to the hips of the jar (most of the time) and they will be ready for processing. You don’t even really need to use the tool to measure headspace because the “hips” of the jar are an easy reference point.
There are three main sizes of jars: quarts, pints, and half pints. Again, what jars you use will depend on what you are canning. The half pints are mainly used for jams and jellies. A lot of people even call them “jelly jars.”
The pints are great if you are canning something that won’t serve a lot of people. For instance, we can green beans in pints for a side at dinner for just my husband and I. If we had kids we would probably put these in quarts. The other thing I like to keep in pints is things like tomato sauce and pickle slices. Putting tomato sauce in a pint equates it most closely to a store bought can of sauce. I prefer pickle slices in pints as well because this is something that will not usually get used right away (we don’t need a whole jar of pickles on our burgers or sandwiches during one serving).
Pickle spears don’t really fit in pints so we opt for quarts on those. We also use quarts for applesauce, apple pie filling, pumpkin, grape juice, and peaches. Apple pie filling is the only thing I would recommend that needs to go into quarts though. One quart is one pie so it makes that simple. Most of these could go in either pints or quarts depending on how many mouths you are feeding, how many jars you have available, and how much produce you have to can.
Lids & Rings
The 2020 pandemic was really bad on the lid front. A lot of us have jars but need to replace the lids each year. The truth of it is you are not supposed to reuse the lids and it is against the USDA guidelines for canning. You can reuse the jars until they are cracked or chipped but the lids can only be used once. You can hear my opinion on that in my post about lid alternatives. If you are buying brand new jars they should come with rings and lids already on them, so you wouldn’t need to buy any extra on top of that.
If you bought used jars or have used jars laying around that you want to use then you will need to buy the corresponding lids. These can usually be bought at the same store but you may have a hard time finding them. They’ve gotten more prevalent around our area and I have hope that we are moving away from the supply issues. If you can’t find them you can also order some reuseable lids and I’ve found those to work perfectly. I discuss these as well in the lid alternatives article.
A word of caution- the cheap lids on amazon will probably not have a high success rate. Mine all worked but I’ve seen horrible reviews on them so just be careful!
Brands For Lids
The brands that we’re discussing for jars (Ball, Kerr, Pur,etc) are the same brands that I recommend you buy for the lids. I’ve also used Bernardin lids (popular in Canada) and those also worked perfectly for me. There is a new brand that has emerged called Denali lids and I’ve seen a lot of the influencers I follow use them successfully and recommend them. Eventually I will get around to ordering some and trying them, but for right now we are fully stocked up on Ball because we grabbed full trays of them when we could see them.
A lot of times people end up with too many rings. You only need the rings to process the jars. You do not want to store the jars with the rings left on them because it can cause both the ring and the jar to rust. New jars will come with rings attached but if you need them they are fairly easy to find at the stores. A lot of times there are packs that come with both rings and lids in them. Otherwise, ask your canner friend because they probably have some to share! I know I’d probably give a few of mine away because they add up fast.
Canners & Racks
Probably one of the most important of the canning supplies needed! To start, I recommend using a water bath canner first. We got all of ours off of auctions for super cheap but you can buy them right at the store. If you buy them brand new they will sometimes even come with the rack that you need. If they don’t or you buy them secondhand you may need to purchase a rack to hold the cans in place. This is important because it helps make sure the jars don’t bounce around too much while processing and break. It also helps get the jars in and out of the water. Water bath canners only work for more acidic foods. This limits what you are able to process with them. You also cannot stack jars in water bath canners.
If you are wanting to can less acidic foods you will also need a pressure canner. They are the more expensive option so that is why I typically recommend people start with a water bath canner first. They come in all different sizes but if you are going to get one I recommend you go with the biggest. It might take more time to come to pressure if you are doing a small batch but if you are doing large batches you’ll want to be able to stack the jars. That is the cool thing about pressure canners- you can stack jars! You need to make sure there is a tray in between but you can layer them. Pressure canners take more time and effort but they are worth the investment if you want to be able to preserve any and everything.
There are a few minor accessories that you will need in addition to the big stuff. They typically come in a little kit but you might be able to pick them up one by one at the thrift store if you are willing to be patient.
- The first is a funnel. This will help keep make sure everything gets into the jars instead of on your counters. The important thing to remember is you are often times working with a hot product when you are canning. Sure, you could ladle it into the jars but that would take a long time and you’d probably still fill. We prefer a glass measuring cup and a funnel to scoop and fill.
- A lid magnet. This is the most simple tool ever but necessary. Well, there might be debate on that. Ball is now saying that you don’t have to boil your lids anymore. You can make that decision yourself. The old method was to boil the lids to get them ready to put on the jars. If you opt to go this route you will need a magnet to get them out of the hot water and onto the jars. I’ve done this with tongs before in a pinch but the magnet makes it easier.
- A jar lifter. This is imperative if you have a water bath canner. This tool helps you get the jars out of that boiling hot water so they stop processing. If you just leave them in the hot water until it cools they will just keep processing. For pressure canners you have to let them sit until they de-pressurize so the temperature is often lower already just by this process.
One optional tool is a head space measurer. I have one but I couldn’t tell you the last time we used it. After you’ve canned a couple of things it starts to get pretty easy to eyeball where you need to be at to leave enough headspace. The reason we need to leave headspace is to make sure that the contents have room to expand in the jar and if we don’t leave enough it will boil over and probably not seal. If you are just learning definitely give this tool a shot but if you feel like you’re a good eyeballer you might not need it.
In Summary: Canning Supplies Needed
The canning supplies needed are a lot to purchase but it’s definitely investing. The money you will save processing your own homegrown food will be worth it. It’ll all balance out as long as you are willing to put in the effort that it takes. Most of our supplies have come from various estate auctions and sales. I’ve been able to score some canners for $1 at sales. It’s worth it to check into them and have patience to gather everything. Are there any other essentials for your canning process?