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Jun 27, 2010 09:15 PM

Need recommendation on canning kit

I'm interested in trying home canning for the first time. Would like to start off trying to make my own tomato/pasta sauce. Need recommendation on which canning kit to buy - quick seach on internet pulled up a few but the jars that come with them look quite small.


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  1. Since I don't know what type of canning kit you were looking at, I'll say this, in reference to the tomato/pasta sauce canning: depending on the acidity and variety of your tomatoes, it's recommended that you purchase a pressure canner for tomatoes/tomato sauce now; water bath canning of tomato products is no longer considered a safe canning method for tomatoes, as tomato varieties are lower in acid than they were a few decades ago, and shouldn't be canned in a water bath without the necessary acidulation of the tomatoes, by adding lemon juice or citric acid.

    Pressure canners aren't all that difficult to use; just a little more involved process-wise and slightly pricier:

    Water bath canner with rack:

    Jar size is up to you; I pack tomatoes into wide mouth quart Ball jars:

    Other than that, you need a good wide mouth funnel, and some posters use jar lifters; I use heavy duty tongs. I may be forgetting something, but you really don't need any more equipment than that when starting out.

    Purchase a good canning guide book; posters often suggest this one to start with, and there's other good guides at amazon:


    Lastly, there are a good number of canning discussion threads and lots of info and advice from posters here on chow; do a relevance search for "canning tomatoes" just to get started.

    Here's a very good online reference guide:

    14 Replies
    1. re: bushwickgirl

      Agree about the funnel and the lifter, but you forgot the rack. I canned for a few years without any of it, but there was spillage and a few burns. Of the three, the rack is the least important purchase because you can improvise by using a round cake cooling rack, some empty tuna cans, or some lid rings wired together. Anything to maintain water circulation under the jars. A proper rack is nice because it prevents the jars from banging into one another, which means a small risk of cracking. Most hardware stores sell canning kits very reasonably during the summer and fall.

      1. re: greygarious

        Racks are usually sold with canners; the canner link I provided for the OP included one. If not, they cost $5-6. Worth having, they can save jars from cracking.

        This is a great time of year to buy a canner; I see the price at amazon has dropped recently. Yes, a good hardware store will carry everything you need to get started.

        1. re: bushwickgirl

          Do you (or anybody else) know of a canning rack that works for differently sized jars? I canned for the first time today (indeed, the jars just came out about 5 minutes ago and I heard the "pop" on both jars--I'm so proud!). The rack that came with my water bath canner is designed for pint jars, but I used half-pint jars. I only canned two jars of zucchini relish today (I'm trying to learn the technique) but the jars kind of flopped around in the canner until I finally got them sort of upright. Do I really need a different rack for the half-pint jars?

          1. re: nofunlatte

            Nofunlatte, the caning racks normally hold pint or quart jars. For half pints, especially if you're only canning a few, you can use the stock pot method; a smaller stock pot (make sure the number of jars you're processing fit first, with at least an inch of water to cover the jars) and fill the empty spaces with jars, as poster al b. darned recommends. I think you've read this thread:


            Here's a rack sold at amazon that holds assorted jars, from jelly sized to half pints to quarts. Price wise, I think the only reason I'd buy this rack is if I did quite a lot of canning:


        2. re: greygarious

          I've canned for over 20 years without a rack in my canning kettle. I had a stainless kettle w/ a rack that got lost in the last move and could not find another to fit my new SS kettle so I've gone without one. (I hate the granite ware kettles.) I have never had a cracked or broken jar. The only precaution I take is to fill the kettle w/jars, empty ones if I don't have enough full ones.

          1. re: al b. darned

            al.b.--I've read about the "fill canner w/jars" and I"m curious about how this is done. Would you take empty jars of the same size, fill them with water and cap them with old lids? Or would you just leave the lids off? I assume the (empty) jars should also be simmering with the jars to.b.filled (sorry!) with jams, pickles, whatever, so that the empty jars aren't subject to a temperature shock.

              1. re: greygarious

                Thanks! Will do that tomorrow evening, when my canning adventures continue.

                1. re: greygarious

                  Empty jars of the same size, fill and leave the lids off.

          2. re: bushwickgirl

            Actually, as long as there's something else acidic in your tomato sauce, etc. (vinegar, wine) you should be just fine. I've been canning sauces, relishes, jams, jelliies, chutneys, pickles, etc. for over 25 years and never, ever EVER had a "bad jar."

            My canner is a just cheap enamelware from the hardware store. I'd imagine it's about ten quarts (as its approximately the same size as my All Clad rondeau. ) Cheap, sturdy, and gets the job done. No "brand name" necessary; you just want something that can hold about 7 jars in the accompanying wire basket, without their touching each other, and is deep enough to cover whatever size jars you plan on using by at least two inches.

            I have a metal funnel, the aforementioned jar tongs (really useful when you're lifting pints and quarts; they're good grippers), and maybe some pretty blank labels.

            Over the years I've used both Ball and Kerr jars with no noticeable difference. And remember: Good Friends remember to return the jars after you gift them with the fruits of your labor, so you can do it all over again next year! :-)

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              The only thing I can is tomato product, actually only salsa and I've never used a pressure cooker. I was given a bunch of tomatoes a few years ago and spent several hours making tomato sauce and I got 5 pints which would cost about $3 at the store, so I don't do that anymore. But, I've never noticed the salsa going bad. The recipe I use includes vinegar and salt so I assume it's ok, or is it?

              1. re: John E.

                Yup, as I wrote tomato products need to be acidified (not ossified) now, and your salsa was. All the other stuff canners process with a water bath, such as food products that Becky mentioned, are fine as well, all high acid.

              2. re: bushwickgirl

                What a helpful reply! (I mean to Bushwickgirl's first--I hit the wrong button--but I'm on my way to the rest, too.)

                I'm thinking about this too, though, realistically speaking, for next year.

                1. re: Bada Bing

                  Learn from my mistake. Do not use a grantiteware water bath canner on a glass smooth top. It made a permanent scratch in a big circle around the burner ring. After this happened, I dug the label out of the trash. It said not to use on glass tops. It moved and vibrated with the boiling action in the canner and that's what caused the scratch. Be warned.

              3. Wow thanks bushwickgirl and everyone else! That's more than enough info to help me decide what to get. All the tips regarding the accessories (funnel, tongs, rack etc) are useful to know, had not thought about those bits and pieces.

                I'd like to get the water bath type of canning kit so will just make sure to add lots and lots of red wine to make my sauce sufficiently acidic enough to prevent any food poisoning. My husband and I will also be the guinea pigs before we hand anything out to friends.

                2 Replies
                1. re: SeoulQueen

                  Do not use wine for acidification!!! Only a true acid such as lemon juice or citric acid should be used. Read up on canning tomato products before you do it. Don't guess.

                  1. re: al b. darned

                    Wine can be used to acidify the cook, though!

                2. First of all, if you are just starting out you NEED a good reference book. I recommend "Putting Food By"

                  And the "Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving"

                  I have used both for more than 25 years.

                  1. The original comment has been removed
                    1. A couple of extra points...both concerning tea towels

                      If you use the two litre size then you probably wont find a rack for them. I stuff tea-towels between the jars so they don't bang.

                      And fold a couple of tea towels and put them on the lid. It allows you to turn the heat down quite a lot.

                      Iit's summer when you can your toms. If you use a heavy BBQ with a side burner the house keeps a lot cooler. Especially if you are doing six or seven bushels at a go. (Take care, a graniteware canner with water and seven jars weighs a lot.)

                      If any friends / neighbours have a proper electric tomato mill then beg, borrow or steal it. Saves a huge amount of time if you like pureed tomato sauce.

                      I throw some basil in with most of them.

                      Finally, you don't need a vicious boil. Water that is just simmering is at the same temperature as a rolling boil.