Get Started With Water Bath Canning – Equipment

raspberry jamDoes this describe you? You are ready to start exploring how to can food at home, but are scared off by all the new equipment that seems necessary? The good news is this – water bath canning really doesn’t require spending lots of money. In fact, you probably already have almost everything you need right at home, and can purchase the remainder for under $50. Here’s how:

Have to Have

In my opinion, there are only three new items you have to have for water bath canning, assuming you already a stove, a ladle, and a long handled spoon:

canning jarsCanning Jars – approved canning jars with two piece lids. Your Mom may have used empty mayonnaise or pickle jars. Please don’t! Commercial canning uses a whole different process, and those jars are not designed for the home canning process. At best, you’ll end up with lots of broken jars. At worse, broken jars and injuries from glass shards.

canning jar lifterJar Lifter – I love this handy implement. There is just no other way to effectively remove hot jars from a water bath canner.

canning rackCanning Rack – Although a purchased canner is not absolutely necessary (see below), you will need some sort of rack to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot. Most canners come with an aluminum rack. This works great, but will rust over time. If you are planning to do a lot of water bath canning, treat yourself and splurge on a stainless steel rack. It took me years to do this. Don’t be a cheapskate like me!

Should Have

Although not absolutely necessary, you really should have this equipment for effective canning:

water bath cannerWater Bath Canner – Really, you can use any large stock pot for canning, as long as it is deep enough to cover the jars with 2 inches of water. But most stock pots are tall and narrow or short and wide, neither of which meets our needs when canning. Water Bath Canners are tall enough to cover the jars and wide enough to allow us to process up to 7 jars at a time. Plus, they are really inexpensive, only about $25.

canning funnelCanning Funnel – You can fill jars without a funnel, but using one makes the job easier and less messy.

Paper Towels –  Probably already in your kitchen, a moist paper towel is the easiest way to wipe jar lips before the two piece lids. You could use cheesecloth or another clean, lint free cotton cloth, but paper towels make the job easier.

Nice to Have

Some equipment is not necessary, but will make the whole canning process more enjoyable:

bubble removerBubble Remover – This is an implement specifically designed to remove bubbles from filled jars. Most often used when canning fruits or pickles. Any long, non-metallic device can be used (I still use a spatula handle), but the bubble remover is thin and thus more effective.

Dishwasher – Do you remember Grandma sterilizing her canning jars in a big pot of boiling water on the stove? You can still do it that way, but I prefer to run the jars through the dishwasher. As long as the canning jars and lids are clean, and the processing time for your project is at least 10 minutes, it’s no longer necessary to sterilize canning jars before use.

Towel – Yeah, I’m guessing you have one available! I place old dishtowels on the counter to cushion the jars. The towels help keep the jars from slipping while they are being filled, and then insulates the hot jars after processing.

propane camp stoveCamp Stove – A camp stove falls into the “have to have” category if you have a glass-top stove (see our 7 Secrets of Canning Pros) to avoid a shattered stove top. But even if that isn’t a concern, a camp stove can make canning on a hot summer day a much more enjoyable experience. Using a camp stove moves the processing heat out of your kitchen and gives you an excuse to spend the time outdoors enjoying the day!

So, with just a little bit of equipment, it’s easy to start water bath canning preserves, tomatoes, or fruit right at home. I’m anxious to get started today, aren’t you?



by Renee Pottle

Renee Pottle, a freelance writer and Home Economist, is fanatic about all things food. She blogs about canning and food preservation at Find her professional food writing info at

March 4, 2013

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