jars of peach and apricot jam

Our Favorite Canning Foods, Techniques and Tips for Success

When it comes to canning, you just can’t beat tomatoes and cucumbers. They are almost the standby classic for even beginning canners.

But there are many different foods that can very well including chicken and vegetables. Here are some of the favorite canning foods for both newbies and experienced canners.

High Acid Foods and Water Bath Canning

High acid foods are typically the easiest to get right for the novice new to home canning. A water bath usually reaches about 212 degrees, which is sufficient for high acid foods, but not low acid foods.

jarred pickles

My mom, who was terrified of pressure cookers and pressure canners, only put up food that could be safely done with a water bath. That means she only canned high acid foods. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Fruits
  • Fruit juice
  • Jellies
  • Jams
  • Fruit spread
  • Tomatoes
  • Salsa
  • Pickles
  • Chutney
  • Relish
  • Sauce
  • Condiments
  • Vinegar

The natural acids in these foods help to preserve them, so when you follow water bath directions carefully, you’ll have great success with your canning. Each different item has its own directions, so you’ll want to follow the directions carefully to make sure that there are no problems.

Water bath canning involves boiling the jar full of preserves in a saucepot, covered with water. While a pressure canner is preferred by some for all their canning needs, with the right foods, you can get great satisfaction with the water bath.

With your fruits, tomatoes, and pickles, you want to make sure the rims are clean before you set the lid on the opening. This will help seal the lid. High acid foods canned properly will look and taste good for a year after they are canned. They may not taste as good, or be as pretty after a year, but they will still be edible.

Low Acid Foods and the Pressure Canner

Low acid foods need extra help in overcoming the microorganisms natural to the food. This means that it has to be processed at 240 degrees for a set period of time in order to kill botulism spores. Low acid foods include, but are not limited to:

  • Vegetables
  • Stock
  • Stews
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Soup
pot of soup cooking on the stovetop with a ladel

Even if you combine one of these low acid foods with a high acid one, like tomatoes, it is still considered a low acid food.

It is crucial with these foods to maintain the proper temperature, but also the proper pressure. The USDA does not recommend canning any of these foods in a water bath, due to the likelihood of botulism, molds, yeast, and other microorganisms that will grow in the jar.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation that works in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture states this very clearly.

Botulinum spores are very hard to destroy at boiling-water temperatures; the higher the canner temperature, the more easily they are destroyed. Therefore, all low-acid foods should be sterilized at temperatures of 240° to 250°F, attainable with pressure canners operated at 10 to 15 PSIG.

NCHFP – Ensuring Safe Canned Foods

Therefore, when you can any of these foods, you need a pressure canner. Some people use their pressure cooker, but be sure that it will maintain the necessary pressure of 5, 10, or 15 pounds for long enough periods of time to safely can the food. If the pressure drops, you’ll have to start the pressurization process all over again.

As with the high acid foods, low acid foods should retain their flavor for up to a year. They will be safe to eat after that, but may lose some of their flavor and appearance.

Storage Tips

Many people want to decorate their kitchen or porch with items they have canned. This is a nice look, but it won’t look nice for long. Heat and light are the enemies of canned food. Both of these elements will turn the food a distasteful brown color. The flavor will also fade sooner. To keep your canned foods in peak condition, store them in a cool, dark place.

Attics are usually too hot. Basements, if they are not finished out, may freeze. So find a good place so that the jars won’t encounter extremes of temperature. Also, keeping the light off of them will keep the color better.

canned pickles and tomatoes
While it may look pretty to keep your canned goods on a kitchen shelf, exposing the jars to heat and light is not recommended for storage.

Vinegar is not a Free Ticket

Adding vinegar to a food does not make it high acid. If you choose to pickle a vegetable, such as okra or green beans, go ahead. But, adding vinegar to green beans in a hot water bath will not kill microorganisms. You’ll need to can them according to directions.


Most people don’t realize that salt and sugar in canning recipes are used for flavor. Therefore, if you are on a low salt diet, or want fewer calories in your food, you can reduce these additions.

Are All Recipes Suitable for Canning?

My kids are always asking me if I can put up some of their favorite soups. The answer is, unfortunately, no.

What I can do is to use tested recipes from the USDA. They test recipes to see how long these low acid foods must be pressurized to kill any microorganisms. Those recipes are ok to can, but I’m not comfortable canning my own recipes, except for the ones very similar to the approved ones.

For more information on home canning, be sure to check out the USDA home canning guide to see the best practices and get some ideas of your own!

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