There is much debate online about waterbath verses pressure canning, especially with "low acid" foods.  My experience has been through the Amish.  They do not have internet, nor do they know about most of the books out there that talk about the canning process.  This has been a process they have handed down through centuries of time tested know how.  When I was canning bologna with my Amish friends the other day, I asked them "Do you know what botulism is?" they never heard of it.  Well, I take that as a good sign.  If they never heard of it, that means no one has ever experienced it nor died from it and the Amish literally can everything.  Hundreds of thousands of Amish people, and no one died from it.  That is a pretty good statistic.  They can low acid foods in a water bath, covering the jars by one inch on the tops of the jars and boil them for up to 3 hours depending on what it is they are canning.  My mentor, Rosa Bontrager, is a 70 year old Amish woman who grew up in a family of 18 children and raised 14 of her own.  They canned everything from potatoes, green beans, apple sauce, to meats.  I asked her once, why 3 hours for green beans, and she said, "I am not sure exactly why, but that is what mom did."  They have a saying: "When in doubt throw it out."  That means to them, if the seal is broken, the color is off, or the smell is funny, it should be thrown out immediately.

It is not that they are fools, or that they are unlearned.  They know so much, and I value their expertise, but some of you out there are very scared.  Scared about botulism.  If you have a pressure canner, use it.  I have two, I do use them from time to time, but I am still using water bath mostly.  Not because I am stupid or naive.  I just trust in this time tested way.  I do realize that as with everything in life, I am taking a risk by not pressure canning my food.

I will not publicly recommend water bathing your low acids because someone may try it and maybe they will do something wrong, store it in the wrong way, and get sick.  Then they will blame it on my advise.  I would feel terrible that someone thought it was my fault they got sick.  If you choose to do as I do, you do that at your own risk.  I am documenting this today and it will be on file.  If you can not afford a pressure canner, you can choose to water bath everything, like the Amish do, at your own risk.  Like I do.

This is how you water bath can:

First you fill all your clean jars to the neck of the jar (about 1/2" from the top) Never over fill, that will cause problems as well.  It is very important to wipe the opening of the jars very clean, any speck of matter can cause the jars not to seal.  Then you can boil your lids.  Place the lids on top of the clean filled jars.  Next, you will screw the rings on very tight, as tight as you can make them.

Place all of your filled and tightened jars into your water bath canner.  Now you can fill the canner with water.  Just pour enough water in to fill all the way over the tops of your jars, so this will be a lot of water.  Then you cover the canner and turn the stove on.  When you hear the water boiling, you start the timer.  Some things like jams, tomatoes, apples, pears and other high acid foods, are only boiled for 10-40 min.  If you are canning low acid type foods, like meats, green beans, and potatoes, you would boil them for about 2 hours for pints and 3 hours for quarts.  Turn off your heat when the time is up and cool them.  Always wash your jars with hot soapy water after they are cooled off and remove the metal rings.  If you fail to wash the cans, especially meats, and forget to take the rings off, you will have a mess later.  The jars will have some oily residue on them and in a root cellar after time, the oils will get rancid and mold but the inside of the jar will be fine.  It is just plain gross to grab a oily, messy jar in the dark cellar.  Yuck.  I like to keep things nice on the shelf so when I show people, they do not freak out.  They are already skeptical about how I water bath the meats, the mossy outside of an unwashed jar really makes them nervous.  You remove the rings because they will actually begin to rust to the lids and they become very hard to remove later.  You can tell if your jars are sealed by the popping sound as well as visually by the lid sucked down and on there tight.  If the lid is bulged or loose, you need to refrigerate it right away or can it again. Sometimes things do not seal because there is an imperfection in the glass opening.  If it is chipped in any way at the top, they will not seal.  I use those damaged jars for dry food goods storage.  I do not throw them out.

Just for a reminder…

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0 thoughts on “Water Bath Canning

  1. Botulism is real . It’s preventable.. It kills people every year in the USA. This spring in Ohio there was a church function that was a pot luck. Several people were hospitalized, some died. Please use a pressure canner and learn tested and safe ways to preserve food. It’s much faster to use a pressure canner, and they are very safe to use. If you don’t know how or are afraid to use one, there are very caring groups on Facebook. God bless and happy canning.

    • My mom learned how to can from the Mennonites’. We canned all kinds of veggies , fruits, made apple sauce apple pie filling we make salsa spaghetti sauces canned tomato’s and so on, for over 40 years. Water bathing process. Never have we had an issue. No one said botulism isn’t real , but not everything that was used and still used today unsafe. You use your brain and commonsense, broken seal, moldy smell, throw out. I love canning. We have already made tons of jam and salsa , zucchini relish and plenty more stuff to can. Happy canning be safe,

    • The Ohio church where this happened is not one the of Amish or Mennonite communities and therefore possibly may not have been as schooled in the safety of cooking home canned foods as those of the Amish and Mennonite communities. To completely kill all botulism in a low acid canned food and thus render it perfectly safe, one must simply rapid boil the food in an open (no lid) container for a minimum of 10 minutes (I prefer 15 minutes), and that is per the USDA’s website. Such an easy thing to do to make low acid water bath canned foods as safe (or even safer) than pressure canned food. But skip this simple but vitally important step and you risk becoming seriously ill or worse. My grandmother boiled all canned foods (even store bought – just in case) before tasting them, as that was how she was raised. People nowadays are accustomed to just opening a lid and popping the contents in the microwave to heat it through. And how many people do you know have ever opened a store bought can of green beans and sampled a bean right out of the can? Such shortcuts cannot be taken with water bathed canned goods.
      In the pre-1945 official canning guides I have there are bold type warnings all throughout the booklets saying: “WARNING – You must boil all vegetables (except tomatoes) and meats canned at home 10 to 15 minutes in an open vessel before tasting or using. Never taste home-canned vegetables and meats until they have been boiled, so as to destroy any toxins that may have formed in the jar.”
      Skip this simple step and you risk your life and the lives of your loved ones. Follow it, and you can safely water bath can most anything. 🙂

  2. Thankfully science is a real thing, and being ignorant of it doesn’t change the fact that botulism is a serious danger and kills so many. While their way of life has a romatic appeal of days gone by, there is something to be said for learning and growing- especially where ones heath is concerned.

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