Step-by-step instructions for canning like a pro.
1. Review procedure and equipment needs before buying produce. Choose a time when you can work with few or no interruptions.
2. Wash canning jars in hot sudsy water; rinse. Cover with boiling water until ready to fill. Jars used in recipes in which food is processed for less than 10 minutes must be sterilized by immersion in boiling water for 10 minutes. Prepare lids and screw bands according to manufacturer's directions.
3. Fill canner with water; start heating.
4. Prepare only as much food as needed to fill the maximum number of jars your canner will hold at one time. Work quickly, keeping work area clean.
5. Place hot jars on cloth towels to prevent slippage while filling.
6. Fill jars, leaving recommended headspace (space between top of food and jar rim) to promote sealing. Add salt to canned vegetables, if desired (use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon for pints; 1/2 to 1 teaspoon for quarts).
7. Add boiling liquid to jar, keeping specified headspace.
8. Release trapped air bubbles in jar by gently working a nonmetallic utensil around the jar's sides. Add liquid if needed to maintain headspace.
9. Wipe jar rim with clean, damp cloth (food on the rim prevents a perfect seal).
10. Position prepared lid and screw band, tightening according to manufacturer's instructions.
11. Set each jar into the canner as it is filled; jars should not touch.
12. Cover canner; process as directed.
13. Remove jars; set on towels or rack, leaving at least 1 inch between jars.
14. After jars are completely cooled (12 to 24 hours), press center of each lid. If dip in lid holds, the jar is sealed. If lid pops up and down, jar isn't sealed. Unsealed jars can be refrigerated and used within 2 or 3 days, frozen (allow 1-1/2-inch headspace), or reprocessed within 24 hours. To reprocess, use a clean jar and a new lid; process for the full length of time. Mark label and use any recanned jars first. If the jars have lost liquid but are still sealed, the contents are safe. However, any food that is not covered by liquid will discolor. Use these jars first.
15. Wipe jars and lids to remove any food residue. Remove, wash, and dry screw bands; store for future use. Label jars with contents and date; include a batch number if doing more than one canner load per day. (If one jar spoils, you can easily identify any others from that canner load.) Store jars in a cool (50 to 70 degrees F), dry, dark place. Use within one year.