I love a good yummy jar of pickled cucumbers or a rich spoonful of fruit preserves as much as the next person. But until recently, I was paying a premium to buy commercial pickled and preserved produce. Now my mom and I are learning how to do our own home canning—and it's fun! As well, we've discovered we don't need to invest much money at all into our new "habit!"
Canning supplies you need
Professional canning websites will tell you that you need a lot of expensive supplies to do home canning. You don't.
What you need for home canning:
- Fresh produce
- Sugar, salt, vinegar
- Big pot
- Jar lifter
- Airtight lids
- Canning recipes
8 Tips to save on canning supplies
Here is how to spend as little as possible to do your canning at home.
1. Fresh produce
KCL is a big advocate of buying as much fresh produce as you can stockpile while it is in season and prices are at their lowest. As well, for canning, it is best to use the freshest produce possible.
- How to save: Stockpile fresh seasonal produce—as much as you need to eat and use for canning.
2. Sugar, salt, vinegar
For preserves, you will need sugar and water along with your produce. For pickling, you will need salt/vinegar.
- How to save: Watch KCL's coupons page for great coupon deals on sugar, salt, and vinegar—then stockpile to your heart's content!
3. Big pot
If you buy a full-on professional BWB (boiling water bath) canning pot with accompanying jar rack, you can expect to pay anywhere from $30 – $60+.
The only real point of having the pot and rack is to make sure it is deep enough so the water can cover the jars, and the rack helps the boiling water circulate around the lower part of each jar. So you can totally jerry-rig something at home to save!
- How to save: Use a deep soup pot or stockpot (the kind you would want to boil a lobster in). For the jar rack, pop in a heat-safe cooling rack (the kind you cool bread on) if you have one that fits in your pot, or use a clean cloth placed at the bottom of the pot instead.
4. Jar lifter
If you are a serious canner, you may want to actually invest in a jar lifter (typical cost is $5-$20 depending on what type you buy).
Otherwise, this device does exactly what it sounds like it does—it lifts the hot jars out of the pot so you avoid getting burned – you can get by easily with the following to save.
- How to save: Use heat-safe hinged salad tongs instead. Or just use a heat-safe ladle to take out as much of the hot water as you can, then remove the jars themselves with oven mitts.
Here’s the one area where you may have to pony up a few pennies to get started. I like to save mason jars and this helps me save on canning supplies.
Note: You absolutely need to use authentic canning jars—the kind that are heat-tempered and logo embossed (Mason, Bell, Presto, Atlas are common logos to find on real mason jars) and will form a safe airtight seal with the two-piece lids used in canning. While there are reusable jars and lids that are now commercially available, check with the USDA first to get the latest safety recommendations (see #7).
- How to save: Ask friends if they have mason jars they don't need (consider giving them a jar of preserves or pickled veggies as a thank you!). Check out eBay and Craigslist. Visit local thrift stores—buy only jars with zero cracks or chips! And don't spend too much for used jars—consider that you can get new jars for about $1 per jar+lid! So aim for $.50 for used jar+lid or lower—or don't buy it.
6. Airtight lids
Canning lids are two-part lids. There is the flat cap or top, and the open screw top that tightens down to hold the flat lid in place. You can reuse the open screw top so long as it holds its shape and tightens evenly. But you must buy new flat lids for each batch of canning you undertake, because they are designed to seal only once (unless you plan to use the new reusable lids – see #5).
- How to save: You may find you need to buy the whole two-part lid to get the flat part, but luckily you can find a set of 12 for under $4 on Amazon. Here, just be sure to match the mouth width (wide or regular) and brand (Ball, Mason, etc.) before you purchase.
While experienced canners say it can really be helpful to have a funnel with a wide mouth (for which you will pay $3-$5 on average), if you don't own one of these, you can make do with other equipment to save!
- How to save: Use a ladle or even a large serving spoon and just be careful when you are transferring the canning mixture from the big pot to the jars.
8. Canning recipes
With the wealth of online resources available today, you don’t need a cookbook!
- How to save: Just download the USDA Guide to Complete Home Canning for free (the print version is also available for a fee).