Nothing tastes better than a jar of home-canned produce, especially if you canned it yourself. The satisfaction of knowing the effort and hard work you put into that beautiful jar of rather yummy goods makes it even more scrumptious. Whether its pickles, tomatoes, salsa, tomato sauce, green beans, meats, jams, jellies, peaches, pears, cherries or anything else you find delectable, it all tastes almost as good as fresh when you pop open that jar in a few months.

I never thought much about canning while growing up. Sure, I had eaten homemade pickles or home-canned fruits and thought mmm, this is good, I sure hope there’s more, but I never thought about actually doing it myself. My mom had canned and I never really paid much attention to the process, I just happily enjoyed the finished product. Years went by, I grew older and enjoyed more canned goods and one day the “peach revolution” happened. Some time ago, my mother inlaw served me up a bowl of her home-canned peaches. I was in fruit heaven. They were amazing; so sweet and juicy; they tasted just like I was eating them fresh from a farmer’s market stand.

I had to know how she did it. You canned them yourself? Really?! No way! How do you do that? Well....can I watch? I watched and I helped many times and eventually I learned how to do them on my own. I’ve been canning a variety of produce every year since; peaches, pears, cherries, green beans, tomatoes, salsa and even pickles. It’s wonderful to have a pantry stocked full of rainbow-colored goods to enjoy during the cold winter months! Want to try it too? It’s easy. If I can do it, you surely can too!

Getting Started

Canners Lavonne Meyer, Food Safety Field Specialist with the Sioux Falls Regional Center, guided me to their SDSU Extension website at where there is an abundance of resources available. Canning instructions, safety precautions, recipes and videos are all included under the “Healthy Families/Food Safety” section of their website. Let’s begin your canning venture. You will need a few items to get started, the first item being a canner.

The type of canner, a boiling water canner or a pressure canner, will depend on what kinds of foods you want to can.

The boiling water canner, according to Lavonne, is for processing high acid foods like tomatoes, pickles and fruits. The size of your canner must be deep enough to allow an inch of briskly boiling water over your jars during the food processing time. A ridged or flat bottom canner can be used on a gas burner while a flat bottom canner must be used on an electric range. Your water canner must include a rack at the bottom to allow water to move under the jars during processing. Prices vary from $30-$50.

The pressure canner is more expensive, ranging from $70-$250 depending on size. The pressure canner is used for low acid foods like vegetables or meats. A pressure cooker cannot be substituted for a pressure canner. A pressure cooker is intended for general cooking only.

Jars and Lids

Next on your shopping list is canning jars and lids. You will want to look for standard regular or wide-mouth Mason-type, threaded home-canning jars and two-piece lids. There are several sizes of jars available, ranging from four-ounces up to half gallon in size.

You can re-use the jars several times, though you will need to use new lids with each use. Other jars, such as mayonnaise and pickle jars can be used; however their glass is thinner and they have a high risk of breakage. These types of jars should only be used in boiling water canners.

Other Tools

Other tools that you may find useful are: a jar lifter for lifting the hot jars out of the water canner, a funnel for pouring hot food into the jars and a bubbler/measuring tool to release bubbles and measure head space in each jar. Though cost of these items is minimal, they are a great benefit during the canning process.

Processing Precautions

Though processing time and procedure for each type of food varies, there are a few items that are consistent with each process. Wash your fruits and vegetables before canning. Wash and sterilize the jars before each use and check the jars for any cracks or nicks before using. Buy only the number of lids that you will be using that year and do not reuse lids that are bent, old, dented or deformed. Don’t leave your boiling water canner or pressure canner unattended during processing and do not retighten lids after processing the jars.


I spoke to a few fellow canning enthusiasts and they enjoy canning a variety of foods: pickles, whole tomatoes, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce, potatoes, green beans, pumpkin, salsa, jelly, jam, applesauce, apples, grapes and pears. One said her mother used to can chunks of beef roast and recently tried canning dandelion jelly.

These enthusiasts have a range of 7-25 years canning experience among them and most of them carry on the canning tradition from their mothers. Many commented on how much they enjoy having a healthy variety of delicious canned goods on their shelves, especially during the cold winter months. Pickles seemed to be a top favorite on several “must have” lists. I agree, almost nothing beats a homemade pickle; except a jar of home-canned peaches!

There are several resources available for recipes and steps on each food you would like to can. Usually, when you purchase a canner, you will receive an instructional booklet that gives you some pro cessing instructions for a few foods. My canning bible is the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. I purchased this book shortly after the canning lessons from my mother-in-law and it contains everything you need to know about canning, including instructions and recipes for several foods. Used and abused, several pages dogeared, written on or stuck together, my book is the first place I go to when I get ready for canning season. Canning information is available everywhere on the internet; a couple of my favorite sources are the SDSU Extension site at and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) site at


Following are a couple recipes to get you started.

These recipes are taken from It’s time to get started, so get off your can and get on with the canning!


Quantity & Quality Information

* Quantity: 2 1/2 pounds per quart

* Quality: Ripe, mature fruit best for eating or cooking should be used. Fresh peaches should be stored in the refrigerator (2-4 weeks) for best quality.

Canning Peaches - Procedure: Peaches should be dipped in boiling water until skins are loose (30-60 seconds). Quickly move peaches to cold water and remove skins. Slice the fruit in half and remove the pit. Placing the peeled peach in ascorbic acid will prevent darkening.

* Syrup for canning peaches should be no heavier than medium syrup at 30% sugar to water (see chart below). Water, apple juice or white grape juice may also be used.

* Hot Pack: Using a large saucepan put in peaches with desired liquid and bring to a boil. Fill jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace, wipe lids, and process.

* Raw Pack: Fill jars with raw fruit add hot syrup or juice leaving 1/2 in headspace, wipe lids, and process.

Altitudes will change boiling times during the procedure.

Boiling Water Bath Canner

Dill Pickles

No matter what dill pickle recipe you use, it is recommended that you use fresh picked small pickling cucumbers. Try for no bigger than your thumb. Anything too much bigger gets made into relish or bread and butter pickles. It is also recommended canning these in pints. Quarts must be processed longer and may get mushy.


* 8 lbs of 3-4 inch pickling cucumbers

* 2 gals water

* 1 1/4 cups canning or pickling salt

* 1 1/2 qts vinegar (5 percent)

* 1/4 cup sugar

* 2 quarts water

* 2 T whole mixed pickling spice

* whole mustard seed (2 tsp to 1 tsp per pint jar)

* fresh dill (1 1/2 heads per pint jar) or 4 1/2 T dill seed (1 1/2 tsp per pint jar)

Wash your cucumbers and thinly slice off the blossom end (the blossoms have an enzyme that will make your pickles soft). Add 3/4 cup salt dissolved in 2 gallons water. Soak cucumbers in water for 12 hours. Drain cucumbers and get your canning supplies together:

Gather your canning supplies

* water bath canner

* canning jars

* canning seals and rings

* jar lifter

* canning funnel

* large pot

* bowls

* large spoons

* sharp knife

* towels and dish cloths

* pot or kettle for the brine

* ladle

Get the water in your canner heating while you prepare your pickles.

Combine vinegar, 1/2 cup salt, sugar, and 2 quarts of water. Place pickling spices in a cheesecloth and place in your vinegar brine. Heat brine to boiling.

Tip: Try a stainless steel teapot to make the brine, it makes filling the jars super easy!

Fill jars with drained cucumbers. Add:

* 1 tsp mustard seed and

* 1 head fresh dill or 1 tsp dill seed per pint.

Fill jars with hot pickling brine. Leave a 1/2 inch head space.

Hot Water Bath Processing

Processing time will vary according to your elevation.

Altitude - processing time:

0-1000 ft - 10 minutes

1000-6000 ft - 15 minutes

over 6000 ft - 20 minutes