You’ll need these essential canning tools before you can really think about getting started. Get what you need to preserve your harvest (and more)!
There’s nothing like popping open a jar of food that you’ve preserved yourself. Whether it be beans, corn, pickles, jam, or any other food you’ve learned to can, when the seal is broken, the deliciousness is fresh and ready! Eating the food that you grew and preserved is much healthier than anything you can buy at the grocery store.
But before you get started, you’re going to need some basic canning equipment.
What Canning Tools Do I Need?
Canning food is a great method to preserve your harvest each year. But what canning tools do you absolutely need? What canning gear and equipment can you just not do it without?
If you don’t have jars and lids, you have nothing to put your food into for canning. Granted, it’s called “canning”, but we all know you’re using glass Mason jars. Although the most common are pints and quarts, you can get half-pint, quarter-pint, and half-gallon sizes, as well.
Fun fact – did you know “Mason” used to be a brand and is now just considered the style of canning jars? The style of canning jar was patented in 1858 by John Landis Mason. Modern jars you use are still considered “Mason” jars, but the actual brand may vary (Ball, Kerr, etc.).
Lids and Rings
Rings (or “bands”) are what holds the lids (or “flats”) in place during the canning process. While rings can be used over and over again, it is recommended that you only use a lid once for canning. Lids can be reused for simpler storage like if you’re just storing something in the fridge for a few days, but most people don’t reuse them if they need the lids to actually seal.
If you’re looking for some lids that you can reuse, check into these Tattler reusable canning lids. There are other brands of reusable lids1 (like Harvest Guard), but these are the most widely known. You can replace the rubber o-ring gasket when you need to, but as I understand it, these are reusable as well.
Water Bath or Large Stock Pot
When processing high acidity foods like pickles (or anything pickled – like okra), jams or jellies, you’ll likely be using the water bath method of canning. This consists of a large pot, a rack to keep your jars from touching the bottom of the pot, and a lid.
You can actually use a large stock pot as a water bath canner. Simply add a small towel or some canning rings in the bottom of the pot. Anything will do as long as you have enough room for the water to be one inch above the jar lids.
The most common water bath canner you’ll see is this 21.5-quart graniteware style pot.
Steam canners are relatively new to me. I’ve only seen them used in the last couple of years as a mainstay way to preserve food. However, the methodology of steam canning is the same as the other ways.
You’ll need to get yourself a steam canner that will hold at least seven quart-sized jars for it to be productive for your homestead. This model of steam canner is the only one I have seen on Amazon, but you may be able to find something at a local Amish store or old country store. (If you do, please let me know!)
We’ve never tried steam canning, but it’s on our short-list of things to do soon!
There are two main pressure canners that your typical homesteader will use. Which one you choose is totally up to your personal preference and budget.
One model is this 21.5-quart canner from All-American. Its metal-to-metal seal relies on the positive action clamping locks to form a steam-tight seal. It’s heavy, but it’s also heavy-duty and durable. (It also carries a heavy-duty price tag.)
The model we have is much more economical and works just fine for us. We have this 23-quart Presto Pressure Canner (pictured on the right). While both the All-American and the Presto are both made from aluminum, the Presto model is much lighter.
Both models can double as a water bath canner, as well.
Canning Tools – Accessories
Along with your canner of choice, you’ll need some basic accessories to help process these jars of food from beginning to end. You can get them all together in a kit like this, or you can buy them individually.
- Jar Lifter – After your jars have processed in high temperatures, you’ll need something to move them out of the canner. A set of tongs called a jar lifter will do the job nicely.
- Magnetic Lid Lifter – Whether you sterilize your lids or not, you’ll want a magnetic lid lifter so you don’t either burn your hand or contaminate the seal.
- Wide Mouth Canning Funnel – Getting your food into the jars without making an absolute mess requires a wide mouth canning funnel.
- Debubbler & Headspace Checker – Most people use their headspace checker as a debubbler (something to remove the bubbles from the jars before processing), as well. However, you can get a canning funnel with headspace measurements on it and use either a small silicone spatula or a wooden chopstick to debubble your jars.
- NOTE: Never use a metal tool to debubble a jar as you may chip, crack or otherwise break the glass!
What Optional Canning Tools & Gear Might I Want?
Now that you have the absolute essential canning tools, let’s take a look at some of the things that make your canning quality of life much better. These aren’t necessary in the long run, but if you have them handy, they’ll make the system much faster.
To Help Prepare the Jars
- Canning Book – As always, I refer to the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. It’s the gold standard when it comes to canning books.
- Jar Labels – You could write on the lid with a Sharpie marker (which is what we typically do), or you could pop on a label. I would recommend these dissolvable labels that will leave behind no trace when you wash them in soapy water.
- Lid Rack – I actually saw this canning lid rack for the first time a few weeks ago, and I think it’s awesome! You can dunk your lids into boiling water, the water circulates freely around all of the lids, and they’re completely sterilized. The handle will keep your hand free of the boiling water, and then you can use your lid lifter to put the lids on the jars.
To Help Prepare the Food
- Immersion Blender – Also called a “stick blender” (or as a friend of mine calls it, a “blendy wand”), the immersion blender is used to smooth out sauces. Submerge it into a pot of simmering tomatoes, and your tomato sauce will be free from chunks.
- Multi-Chopper – I’ve always hand-chopped my vegetables, but this 10-in-1 multi-chopper has been an absolute time saver since we got it. It really makes consistent veggie chopping is easy.
- Food Mill – If you need a quick and easy way to grind or puree foods for canning, look into getting yourself a food mill. It’s easy to use, really helps with things like apple sauce, and it uses no electricity.
- Sauce Maker/Food Strainer – This does basically the same thing as a food mill, but a good sauce maker will take your tomato sauce to the next level by removing seeds and skins, as well.
What Canning Tools & Hardware Might I Already Have?
Most of the items on this next list of canning tools are pretty standard in the household kitchen hardware category. If you don’t have some of these, I would recommend picking them up as they’ll not only help you with canning, but with daily cooking, as well.
- Wooden Spoons – For stirring jams, jellies, sauces and other foods prior to canning.
- Sharp Knives – Chopping ingredients the manual way requires a good set of sharp kitchen knives.
- Tongs – Tongs will help when handling hot foods and other things (like sterilized lid rings).
- Slotted Spoon – When you only want to scoop the food and leave the liquid behind.
- Vegetable Peeler – An ancient wand that removes fruit and vegetable peels.
- Small Silicone Spatula – Helps with scraping pots and bowls but can also be used as a debubbler for your jars.
- Measuring Spoons – Sometimes you need precise measurements with canning, and sometimes you just want consistency with ingredients to ensure the same flavor with all of your preserved food.
- Liquid Measuring Cups – You’ll be measuring a lot of water, vinegar and other liquids. You’ll need dry measuring cups, too… but when you’re measuring liquids, you need to use the ones meant for liquids. (Did you know there was a difference?)
- Towels – You’ll need some towels to lay on your counter to put your processed jars on when they’re done. This will ease any temperature shock and potentially stop your jars from cracking.
- Kitchen Timer – If you’ve got an Alexa device (or a smartphone), you’ve already got a timer handy. However, maybe you like to be a little old fashioned in the kitchen with a stand-alone kitchen timer.
- Mixing Bowls – Use to mix ingredients to make the foods you’re going to be preserving.
- Sharpie Markers – Write directly onto your jar lids with a Sharpie, if you so choose.
Canning Supplies in the Pantry
These items are what make up the pickling liquids and help thicken the jams and jellies.
Liquids Needed for Canning
- Lemon Juice – Add lemon juice to your jams and jellies to raise the acidity before water bath canning.
- Vinegar (5% Acidity) – Vinegar must be 5% acidity when used in canning and pickling to kill bacteria.
- Water – Some people recommend distilled water, but we’ve never had any issue with regular old tap water.
Spices and Natural Additives
- Pectin – Used to gel foods like fruit preserves, jams, jellies, and gummy candy.
- Sugar – Gives jams and jellies added sweetness.
- Pickling Spice – Whole spice seed blend that gives extra flavor for your pickled goods.
- Pickle Crisp – Added to pickled foods to help them retain crunchiness.
- Black Peppercorns – Kick up the spice a little bit with black peppercorns.
- Pickling Salt – Fine grain iodine-free salt used to help preserve canned goods.
- Fruit Fresh – Naturally prevents browning of fresh cut produce for up to 8 hours.
Canning Tools Acquired, Now What?
Now you learn the basics of canning! How to Get Started Canning will teach you the first step.
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Patrick & Jessie homestead in Middle Georgia with two of their four children and their three dogs. They love gardening, food preservation, and keeping their family prepared for any disaster that may come.