How to Can Fruit Preserves

Water bath canning is an easy way to preserve high-acid foods like fruit jams and jellies, allowing you to enjoy the bounty of the season any time of year.

Saving the Season

Canning kits are widely available at hardware stores and online, but you can use any stockpot tall enough to submerge the jars by at least 1 inch of water. You’ll need a clean towel or a trivet in the bottom to keep bubbles from knocking the jars around; canning pots come with racks for this purpose. You will need a few pieces of equipment, though: a canning funnel to pour your preserves into jars, canning tongs to move your jars in and out of the water, and a ladle. A rack to hold lids is not strictly necessary, but it is very convenient.

Preparing to Can

Before your jams and jellies are ready to can, you must get the jars and lids prepared. Jars should be sterilized by keeping them in simmering water (greater than 180 degrees F, but not boiling) for 10 minutes; this is most easily done in your canning pot. In a separate pot or bowl, submerge the lids in hot (again, not boiling) water for at least five minutes to soften the gaskets. Keep a kettle of boiling water on hand to refill your canning pot if necessary.

Make Way for Jam

When your jam is ready to can, remove each jar from the hot water using the canning tongs (the curved side of the tons makes it easy to grab the jars). Carefully pour the hot water back into the canning pot. Turn up the heat and bring your canning pot to a boil.

Fill 'Em Up

Working swiftly, ladle the jam into your jars via the canning funnel. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace, or whatever headspace is recommended for your recipe. The empty space is important to get a good seal.

Keep It Clean

Use a moistened paper towel to wipe any jam from the rims of the jars. Again, this is important to get a good seal.

Bubble Up

Run a clean chopstick or spatula around the periphery of the jar. This is called bubbling, and it serves to release any trapped air in your jam.

Put a Lid on It ...

Remove your lids from the hot water and set them on top of your filled jars. A magnetic lid wand is handy for this.

... And a Ring on It

Screw the rings onto your jars, but only until finger-tight. In other words, turn them just until they give resistance. If you screw the rings on too tightly, air cannot escape, and the lids will not seal properly

Into the Drink

Lift each jar using the canning tongs, making sure to keep the jars vertical, and lower them directly into the water. Once all the jars are in the pot, they should be submerged by about 1 inch of water. If necessary, add more boiling water from your kettle. Bring the water to a full rolling boil, and process the jars for the amount of time recommended by your recipe.


Here are some jam recipes to try:

Strawberry Jam

Fig Jam with Fennel Pollen

Apricot Jam with Spices and Bourbon

Spiced Blueberry Jam

Cantaloupe Jam with Vanilla


Up and Out

When your processing time is up, turn off the heat. Using your canning tongs, carefully lift each jar vertically up and out of the pot, making sure not to slosh the contents, which could interfere with the seal of the lid.

Cool It

Remove each jar to a cooling rack or towel. Do not set jars directly on a counter or other cool surface, as the differential can shock the jars and cause breakage. Allow the jars to sit for at least 12 hours undisturbed. You should hear pinging noises as the lids flex and seal. Once the jars have completely cooled, you should be able to pick them up by the lids — without the rings. If any lids do not seal, reprocess using the same method, or store in the refrigerator and simply consume. Store sealed jars in a cool dark place without the rings for up to a year.