jars of strawberry jam
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5 from 7 votes

Water Bath Canning

A complete guide to safely processing and sealing preserves for long term dry storage.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Preserve cook time0 mins
Total Time20 mins


Necessary Tools

  • 1 Large Canning Pot with jar rack I prefer a 21 qt+ sized pot
  • 1 pair jar clamps
  • 1 wide mouth funnel
  • 4* 16* ounce mason jars, with NEW* seals and screw bands
  • 1 ladle

Optional, but Useful Tools

  • 1 headspace tool
  • 1 fine mesh sieve
  • 1 lid grip
  • 1 pair clamps


  • Assemble materials so easily accessible.
    funnel, jar clamp, lid clamp, and head space tool
  • Before processing your preserve mixture, sterilize your jars, screw bands and seals by washing with warm soapy water, or by running through a clean, empty dishwasher. Allow to dry.
  • Bring your canning pot, full of water to a boil. You will need at least 1 inch of water above the top of your jars when submerged to properly seal them. It's a good idea to check if you're unsure by lowering a jar in before boiling.
    Alternatively, bring a kettle of water to a boil on the side to add more water if necessary.
    canning pot with rack
  • Cook your fruit preserves.
    If you want to test how your preserve is set before canning (jams and jellies especially), place a few plates in the freezer.
    When you have cooked your preserve fro the allotted time, remove from heat and place a spoonful on the frozen plate. If it sets up the way you want, it's done. If not return to heat, cook 1 to 2 minutes more and retest. Repeat as necessary.
  • Your jars need to be warm before spooning in hot preserves. This can be done by keeping them in the dishwasher after running to retain heat (run the cycle just before you want to fill the jars), by heating VERY gently in a low temperature oven, or by dipping the jars into the boiling water for a few moments before filling. Warm jars ensure they will not shatter or crack when filled with hot liquid.
    mason jars being warmed in water
  • When ready, place your funnel into the mouth of one jar and carefully ladle hot preserve into the jar. Typically you will want to use your headspace tool to verify you have left 1/4 inch of space from the rim to the top of the preserve. Fill all the jars.
  • Use a damp paper towel to wipe any drips from the top of rim. Place on the seals.
    jars ready for lids
  • Using a towel, thick rubber gloves, or a canning glove to protect your hand from the hot jars, carefully place the screw bands around the rim and tighten hand tight. You can also use a lid grip tool to tighten, but always protect the hand touching the glass jar.
  • Using a jar clamps carefully lower the jars into the boiling water until submerged and leave for 10 minutes. This kills bacteria and creates the seal for safe dry storage.
  • Remove from water, place on a towel and verify seal has taken before storing. The seal can take several hours to take, so don't panic!
  • The jar is sealed when you press down on the middle of the lid and it does not move or click. There should be a small indent in the middle of the lid. If after 24 hours the lid clicks or there is no indent, the seal has failed and the preserve needs to be stored in the fridge.
  • Store sealed jars in cupboard for up to 1 year.


*The number and size of the jars needed depends on the recipe. Please refer to your specific recipe for that information. 
* Seals used to require a bath in simmering water before being applied to jars of preserves, for at least Ball and Kerr brand seals this is no longer necessary. Check your packaging and if it suggests doing so, follow their recommendations. 
*Water Bath Canning works to preserve any mixture with high enough acid (fruits and pickles). Low acid food require pressure canning to make shelf stable. Please refer to this guide for questions about what can be safely canned.