Hot and Steamy: A Visual Tour of Hot Water Bath Canning

A couple weeks ago I attempted canning for the first time in several years. Yes, I've made refrigerator jams and pickles, but I hadn't actually canned anything in quite a while. The process was both as easy — and as hot and steamy! — as I remembered it. For those of you who are on the fence about canning, here's a visual walkthrough of the process.

I had pounds and pounds of sour cherries in the fridge and I wanted to make Eugenia Bone's cherries in red wine. I wanted to save this treat for some Christmas gift-giving, and the only way to do that, obviously, was to can them properly.

Hot water bath canning is a fairly simple process, albeit hot and steamy. The whole point is to sterilize the jars and other accessories that will hold the food, and then to sterilize the food itself. So you start by boiling jars and lids, then you cook the food. Then you put hot food into the hot, sterilized jars (when you're doing hot pack canning; some foods can be cold packed, or packed raw into hot jars). Those jars are boiled for a set period of time to kill any remaining bacteria and to seal the lids onto the jars.

Here's a look through the steps of that process. (Click through the photo gallery for captions.)

Here is the recipe I used:

Cherries in Wine by Eugenia Bone

A note: This post is NOT NOT NOT a safety guide to canning. Consult a USDA handbook or an extension guide to canning for all the correct USDA precautions. Here's one such resource:

Boiling Water Bath Canning at Virginia Cooperative Extension

Overall, canning is hot and steamy work, involving heavy pots of hot water and even hotter glass jars and metal lids. It takes some brawn and care to get through it without getting burned or sopping wet. But it the end it's really worth it — especially when you are working in small batches that can fit into one big pot. It will only take about 2 hours to make a batch of 10-12 half-pint jars like this one here, and in the end your kitchen isn't too dirty at all — what with all that fresh hot steam!

Related: What Are You Preserving This Summer?

(Images: Faith Durand)

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Faith is the executive editor of The Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks. They include Bakeless Sweets (Spring 2013) as well as The Kitchn's first cookbook, which will be published in Fall 2014. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.