Water Bath Canning as a Method of Food and Herb Preservation

by Melody Baum

Preserving food by heating and sealing in jars had been a practice since 1790. Canning was the main method of preservation by families until after World War II when other methods became more widespread. However, since 1973, the rate of canning by individuals has increased every year. Learning to preserve food this way can be a challenge – most people either learn from older family members or the internet. Canning is an amazing hobby – it allows you to take advantage of good deals on seasonal produce as well as know exactly what is in your food. Once you have a good grasp of safety basics allowances can also be made for food sensitivities. There are recipes for no-mato sauce, all sorts of ketchups, and pickles made without peppers!

Canning is an expensive hobby, the first time! Almost everything in canning is reusable. Basic equipment includes:

  • A large stockpot or canner
  • Jars – use high-quality jars. I prefer ones made in the US. They come in sizes from 4 ounces to half-gallon
  • Lids can be one-time use (the type that comes with the cases of canning jars) or reusable (Tattler brand closures can be re-used up to 10 times)
  • Utensils – jar funnels and jar lifters are a must, many other items can be substituted with household items

Once you’ve collected your equipment, it’s time to look at the food or herbs you are going to preserve. There are specific types of foods that can be water-bath canned, namely high acid foods.  These are foods that either naturally have a pH greater than 4.6, are fermented, or have been prepared using vinegar with a greater than 5% acidity (like pickles).  ALL LOW ACID FOODS MUST BE PRESSURE CANNED, FROZEN OR DRIED. LOW ACID FOODS CANNOT BE WATER-BATHED. Most fruits and tomatoes are high acid as well as soft spreads like jams and jellies. All products containing meat, even if the final product has a pH greater than 4.6, must be pressure canned.

The process for canning is not complicated. The food should be brought to a boiling temperature, placed in heated jars, and the tops of the jars wiped clean. The lid, also slightly heated, is placed on the top and secured with a screw on ring. The jars are then placed in the canner of boiling water for a determined time listed in the recipe. Canning in Colorado means adjusting for the altitude as well – your pickles may take an extra ten to twenty minutes compared to someone in Kansas.

If you would like to learn more, I am presenting a series of classes on food and herb preservation at CSCH, 424 East Simpson Street, in Lafayette, CO. A $10 donation per class is suggested.

  • October 3 – 5:30-7:30 pm, water bath canning, burdock pickles
  • October 9 – 5:30-7:30 pm, pressure canning, bone broth with medicinal mushrooms
  • October 10- 5:30-7:30 pm, dehydrators, root cellars and other options for food storage

For more information or to register, contact Melody at melody.baum@clinicalherbalism.com.


National Center for Home Food Preservation:  http://nchfp.uga.edu

Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, 37th edition