Home Canning: The Basics

— Written By Courtney Tevepaugh
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Home canning is a great way to save fresh foods to eat year-round. The history of canning dates back to as early as 1809 when Nicolas Appert developed a method of preserving food in airtight glass jars. Over the years canning has evolved which is why it’s very important to follow scientifically tested recipes to ensure safe home processing. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is one of the best sources for current research-based information.

Whether you are new to canning or experienced it’s always helpful to brush up on the instructions each year. Click here for general canning information (safety, choosing jars and lids, troubleshooting, etc.).

Methods of Canning

Pressure Canning

Pressure canning is mainly used for low acid foods and some high acid foods. Pressure canning low acid food is essential in order to kill C. Botulinum (botulism) spores. Pressure canners heat to at least 240 degrees F to destroy pathogens and prevent spoilage.

pressure cooker components

See Pressure Canning publication from the National Center for Home Food Preservation

Examples of Low Acid Foods (pH above 4.6)

Most vegetables

  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Green and dried beans
  • Okra
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet corn


  • Beef and Poultry
  • Mincemeat pie filling
  • Seafood
  • Wild game

Combination Foods

  • Meat sauces
  • Soups and stews

Water Bath Canning

For safety this method should be used for high acid foods only, the acid in the food kills botulism spores. Water must be heated to boiling (212 degrees F) in order to destroy pathogens and prevent spoilage.water bath canning apparatus

See Water Bath Canning publication from the National Center for Home Food Preservation

Examples of High-Acid Foods (pH equal to or below 4.6)

Most fruits

  • Apples and apple sauce
  • Apricots
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Jams and jellies (fruit only)
  • Peppers
  • Peaches and nectarines
  • Pears
  • Pie fillings (fruit only)
  • Plums

Acidified and fermented foods

  • Chutney
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Pickles (cucumbers)
  • Relishes
  • Salsa
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tomatoes (acidified)

A word of caution…

There can be a lot of misinformation regarding canning practices, and outdated methods that could lead to food spoilage and allow the growth of clostridium botulinum (an illness that can result in death). The following canning methods are not recommended by Cooperative Extension research.

  • Pressure cookers
  • Electric saucepans
  • Open kettle method (putting hot food into jars and letting them self seal).
  • Microwaves
  • Dishwashers
  • Instant pot
  • Oven canning

For more home food preservation information contact your local Cooperative Extension Center.

NC State Extension – Home Food Preservation