If you are excited to start canning your harvest and stocking your pantry with homemade preserves but don’t have a water bath, we have some great news. You don’t need one. Like many things on a homestead, necessity is the mother of invention. We are here to show you how you can safely can food using what you have without investing in a dedicated water bath.
Use a stainless-steel stock pot to safely can without using a water bath. The pot must have a tight-fitting lid and be tall enough to keep the jars submerged. Place a wire rack at the bottom of the pot to keep the jars from touching the pot’s base. Choose jars that will fit neatly inside the pot.
To can without using a boiling water bath may sound terrifying to many. After all, the last thing you would want to feed your family along with your preserved organic produce is a dose of botulism! Find out how to can safely without investing in a boiling water bath canner.
How To Can Without A Water Bath Canner
There are quite a few reasons why investing in a water bath canner is not worth it for you. As convenient as they are during canning season, they are undeniably large, clunky, and use up a lot of storage space. In addition, water bath canners are not recommended if you have a glass-top stove, so you will need another method to seal your jars safely.
When searching for alternative ways to can instead of using the boiling water bath canning method, you may come across various so-called rebel canning methods. While these pour-and-store techniques may be fine for some, the National Center for Home Food Preservation does not recommend them. Contaminated food that hasn’t been preserved safely could be lethal.
Fortunately, with a bit of know-how, a regular stock pot can get the job done, and you can safely and confidently preserve your summer garden harvest. Remember that water bath canning should only be used for high-acidity foods like tomatoes or fruit preserves. If you want to can meat or fish, you will need a pressure canner.
Here’s what you will need to do to be able to can using a stock pot instead of a water bath canner:
Gather Your Supplies
Canning without a water bath may require a little bit of measuring and calculating in advance to check that your jars will fit into the stock pot. You will also have to make a few modifications to keep them raised off the base and experiment to find the best way to lift them out.
To begin with, gather everything that you need:
- A large stock pot with a tightly fitting lid – The pot must be deep enough that jars remain submerged by at least 2 inches of water while boiling.
- Canning jars – These are special jars used for food preservation purposes. Canning jars are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are not the same as recycled jars from groceries you have purchased. Choose canning jars that will fit comfortably inside the pot you will be using.
- Canning lids – These consist of reusable metal bands that screw onto the jars and non-reusable flat lids.
- Create a canning rack at the base of the pot – The jars must not sit flat against the bottom of the pot. The heat source from below is too strong, which could break the glass.
For this step, you can improvise. Use any low wire rack that will fit snuggly in the base of the pot. Metal steaming racks work well. A makeshift option is to arrange old canning rings along the bottom of the pot to create a raised platform for the jars.
- Tongs – If you don’t have canning tongs, getting hot jars out of the water can be challenging. Space between the jars is often limited when using a stock pot, so sometimes canning tongs won’t work.
A regular pair of kitchen tongs can sometimes work. If you can’t get a good grip, wrap a few elastic bands around the ends. Alternatively, a thick pair of rubber gloves can buy you enough time to quickly lift the first jar and grip it with an oven glove.
- Canning Funnel – It is important to keep the sides of your jar clear of spills to avoid mess and possible contamination. If you don’t have a canning funnel, cut the bottom off a disposable plastic cup to create a makeshift canning tool.
Heat The Water And Sterilize The Jars
Before heating the water in your stock pot, do a final measurement to check how many jars will fit and ensure that you don’t have too much or too little water. When you place full jasr into the pot, water in the pot will be displaced. You don’t want to find that you have too little or have boiling water splashing out.
Jars can be sterilized in the stock pot or another pot, but they should be clean and warm when you add the contents. The NCHFP recommends that empty jars be submerged and boiled for at least 10 minutes.
You can also use your oven to sterilize your clean jars. Simply preheat the oven to 275F and place the dry jars on a double layer of newspaper. Bake for 20 minutes. Then turn off the oven but leave the jars in the oven to stay warm until you are ready to fill them.
Fill Your Jars
This step is the same as if you had a water bath canner. First, make sure that the temperature of the contents is similar to that of the glass jars. Never put boiling food into cold jars or cold contents into hot jars, as they could shatter.
Fill your jars, leaving enough headspace, and ensure no air bubbles are trapped inside. Wipe the rims and place a new flat lid on each jar. Then screw on the metal band before arranging them in the stock pot. Ensure that they are completely covered by at least 2 inches of water.
Bring The Stock Pot To A Boil
Place the lid on the stock pot and turn up the heat. Start the timing process only when the water in the stock pot starts to boil actively. Check each recipe for specific processing times.
Remove The Jars From The Stockpot Canner
Removing the hot jars can be the trickiest part of using a stockpot as a substitute for a water bath canner. Since the space between the jars is sometimes tight, lifting the first jar out of the pot can be challenging. With this in mind, work carefully to avoid getting burnt.
You may need to wait a while for the water to cool slightly to lift the first jar out. Set the hot jars on a kitchen towel or protected surface to cool. Once they have cooled off, check the seals to ensure that a proper vacuum has been obtained.
Your preserved food is now safe to be stored in your pantry for up to a year. No special water bath canner required!
While it is entirely possible to water bath can many types of food without a water bath, it is essential to follow the correct procedure to ensure food safety. There is no substitute for proper canning jars, and flat-top canning lids must always be new.