Canning Tips & Tricks

Periodically, I'll be adding a variety of tips and tricks on this tab. Some will do with basic safety and others will just be great tips I've picked up along the way that may help beginners and experienced canners perfect their "craft." Please drop me a note at any time if there are issues you'd like me to cover in this area of my blog.

Freezer Jell Test:
Sometimes it's harder to tell if you're achieving the proper jell consistency when you cook jams and jellies. This can be especially tricky if you're using alcoholic ingredients such as wine or beer. In these cases, the spoon sheeting test isn't always accurate. If you're unsure of your jell, try the freezer jell test instead. To do this, put a small plate in the freezer for a few minutes until cold. Put a drop of your jam or jelly mixture onto the plate and put it back into the freezer for a minute or two. Take it out and gently push at the edge of the drop with your fingertip. If the surface of the drop "wrinkles" when pushed, your jell should be adequate.

Mineral Deposits in Your Canning Pot:
If the inside of your canning pot is starting to look a little scary, with a nasty white film covering the surface, you're probably dealing with hard water stains. To get that pot looking as good as new, pour two cups of white vinegar into the pot, then fill it the rest of the way with water. Put the pot on your stove, bring it to a boil and let it simmer for five to ten minutes. It doesn't smell great, but it does an amazing job breaking down those mineral deposits. When you're done, dump the vinegar/water mixture down the drain, rinse out your pot and dry it out. Your old pot will be sparkly clean again in no time!

Mineral Deposits on Your Canning Jars:
If your canning jars and lids come out of the canning process with spots or a film, that's also due to hard water stains. You can avoid these entirely by pouring about a half cup of white vinegar into your canning pot before bringing it to a boil. This method works in a boiling water bath canner as well as a pressure canner. Doing this every time you can will also help you avoid the above-mentioned pot film as well.

Getting Pieces of Peppers or Fruit Suspended in Clear Jelly:
Thanks to Debbie for asking the question of whether or not she could put jalapenos into a jelly she wanted to make with store-bought juice (per my recipe for making jelly from juice here. This brought up the issue of how to get pieces of peppers, or even fruit, suspended throughout what would otherwise be a clear jelly. The problem here is that without a little intervention, it's likely that the pieces would either settle at the bottom of your jars or float to the surface. Here's a tip that should be helpful.

Note: You should only try this with jelly jars that are 8-ounces or smaller and have been water bath processed for at least 10 minutes. This method would be considered unsafe for larger jars or unprocessed recipes as it would interfere with proper final processing.

Process your jars as normal in your boiling water canner (at least 10 minutes). After the jars have been removed from the canner, cool them (always upright!) for 15 to 30 minutes. Essentially, you want to do this right after the lids have "popped" but before your jelly has really set. As soon as each lid "pops," gently tilt and twist it to get the solids to disperse throughout the jar. Don't shake or turn the jar upside down! Then return each jar to it's regular upright position to continue to cool and set.

I've seen some information on the internet that says you can stir your jelly for awhile before putting into your jars to accomplish the same thing, but doing so can damage the final set of your jelly and I don't recommend it.


  1. Hi Sydney, I found you on the Ball Canning FB page. I am brand new to canning and my first question is do I need BOTH a water canner AND a pressure canner. I purchased the pressure canner, have my jars and tools, got the Ball book and there I saw a list of things to can IN a water canner I was like UGH. I need both?
    Thank you, Linda

    1. Hi Linda! I'm so happy you're here!
      The good news is that you do NOT need both a pressure canner and a water bath canner. The bad news is that the one you'll probably want to start with is the water bath. In fact, I've been canning for almost 25 years and bought my first pressure canner last summer to deal with an overabundance of green beans and eggplant.

      The general rule is that most fruits (jams/jellies) should be processed in a water bath, while most vegetables should be processed in a pressure canner. This has to do with the acid content (or lack thereof) of whatever you're attempting to can. That said, there are some models of pressure canners that can be used for both methods, but not all. Check the instructions that came with yours to see if this is the case for the one you bought. If it CAN "go both ways," so to speak, you're in good shape. If not, and making jams and jellies is your first order of business, you'll want to get yourself a regular water bath canner. These are not very expensive, by the way - in the $20-$25 range at your local WalMart.

      I hope this is helpful. Come back anytime and when you're ready to get going, I have plenty of other tips for learning the basics.


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