Before you start canning, you need to make sure that you have all of the necessary tools on hand. Most of the equipment is relatively inexpensive, but it does add up. The good news is that most of the equipment will be used over and over in all of your canning endeavors, and will pay for itself many times over.
Water Bath Canner or Pressure Canner: What is the Difference?
A water bath canner is used to process acidic foods like fruit and tomatoes. A pressure canner is necessary for canning non-acidic foods like green beans and corn, and also used for canning things like meat, poultry, and stews.
Water Bath Canner: This is simply a large stock pot. Most will hold 5 to 7 quart or pint jars. These canners are pretty inexpensive. You should be able to pick one up for about twenty dollars.
Pressure Canner: Pressure canners are sealed canners that created steam under pressure at about 240 degrees. Water bath canners cannot reach these kinds of temperatures. Pressure canners can be pricey. You should expect to pay at least seventy dollars and they can cost as much as two hundred dollars.
Canning Jars, Bands and Lids
When buying jars lids and bands, do keep in mind that both pint and quart jars come in regular and wide mouth sizes. You must have the same size bands and lids for the jar type you are using.
Jars: You can find new jars almost anywhere these days. Local grocery stores and Walmart carry them. However, you do not have to buy jars new. If you scout out yard sales and thrift stores you can get them cheaply. Just make sure that they are standard sized canning jars with a name like Kerr or Bell or Mason on the side, and make sure that they are not chipped or cracked.
Bands: These are the rings that hold the lid onto the jar. They are also reusable and you can either buy them new or look in yard sales and thrift stores. A small bit of rust is no worry, as long as the integrity of the band is not affected.
Lids: Lids are the small flat covers that actually seal the jars. They are not reusable because they often get bent or damaged when you open sealed jars.
In addition to the canner and the jars, there is a multitude of equipment that you will need to have on hand. Most of these items are inexpensive, and some could be considered optional, but you probably want to go ahead and invest in them.
Jar Rack: A jar rack is a rack that fits in the bottom of your water bath canner to keep the jars from being directly on the bottom of the pot. Your water bath canner may or may not have come with one.
Canning Funnel: A canning funnel is a wide mouthed funnel that fits into the top of the jars. The funnel keeps food from spilling onto the edges or jars when you add your food to the jars. Any spilled food could keep the jars from sealing properly.
Lid Lifter: A lid lifter is a magnetic wand that is used to lift the hot lids out of the water when you are sealing your jars. If you cannot find one of these, you can use regular tongs.
Jar Tongs: Jar tongs are used to move the jars into and out of the water bath or pressure canner. These are not regular tongs.
Canning Book: You should always keep an up to date canning book like the Ball Blue Book on hand. The book will have accurate recipes and processing times for both water bath and pressure canners.
There are quite a few items that you need to have on hand to be successful in canning. You can find many kits like the Ball Home Canning Kit that contain most of the miscellaneous items so that you do not have to search for each item individually.