The Best Boiling Water Bath Canner For Jams and Jellies

Water Bath Canning

In order for jam, jelly, and other home-canned foods to be sealed properly so that the food stays good for an extended period of time, it must be carefully prepared and handled. Over the years, I’ve used a number of different canning pots, and recently did some research on products that are available and how important certain features are.

My recommendation for the best canner that has all the necessary features is this 21-quart stainless steel boiling water bath canner (Click to see Amazon listing) made by Ball.

As a long-time canner and jam and jelly maker, I am convinced that the boiling-water bath process is one of the most important parts of the canning process. The purpose of the boiling water bath is to kill harmful bacteria, mold, and yeast in the food, and the equipment you use plays an important part in the successful preservation of your canned food. Let’s further explore what makes a good canner.

The Required Features of a Boiling Water Bath Canner

A boiling-water bath canner must:

  • Be large enough in diameter to hold 6 to 9 jars of canned food,
  • Be tall enough to allow the jars to be completely submerged in the water with 1 to 2 inches of water above the tops of the jars,
  • Be large enough for water to boil in a full rolling boil without spilling over,
  • Have a lid
  • Contain a jar rack with a handle to lift the rack and jars out of the water and rest on the top of the pot for safe removal.

Does a Boiling Water Bath Canner Have to be Made From A Certain Material?

When you are canning vegetables and making jam, jelly, and preserves, you must use a non-reactive pot made out of stainless steel, copper, coated cast iron, or coated aluminum, because using aluminum or cast iron would cause a reaction with the high acid content of certain foods causing an unpleasant taste in your finished product.

But, no matter what you are canning, when you get to the boiling water bath process, the food has already been placed in the jars and will not come into contact with the pot, so it really doesn’t matter what material the pot is made from.

Most canners are made from:

  • Stainless steel
  • Aluminum
  • Enamelware

Do I Have to Process All Foods in a Boiling Water Bath?

Not all canned foods have to be processed in a boiling water bath.

Only high acidic foods like pickles, sauerkraut, jam, jelly, marmalade, and other fruit products must be processed in a boiling water bath to ensure they will keep for an extended period of time with proper storage.

Low acidic foods like most vegetables must be processed in a pressure canner that reaches the high temperatures required to safely can those foods, while a boiling water bath canner can only reach the temperature of boiling water.

What is the Boiling Water Bath Process?

  1. Before you start cooking your jam, pickles, or other food, fill the canner half full with water, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Reduce heat so that the water is simmering.
  3. Check that your jars do not have any nicks, cracks, or rough edges around the rim that would cause them to break.
  4. Rings can be reused but be sure to use new lids as recycled lids may or may not seal properly.
  5. Wash jars, lids, and rings in hot soapy water.
  6. Place clean jars in a pot of water and bring them to a boil, allowing them to boil at least 10 minutes to sterilize while you are cooking the food.
  7. Place lids in a pot of boiling water, reduce heat, and let them set in the hot water until needed.
  8. Cook the food that you are canning and pour into properly prepared jars. Wipe jar rims with a clean wet cloth and affix lids.
  9. Place the jars into the canning rack and lower into the simmering water.
  10. Bring water back to a full rolling boil and cook for the time designated by the recipe for the food you are canning.
  11. Lift the canning rack to rest on the rim of the canner and carefully remove the jars of food onto a rack or other prepared place where they can set undisturbed until completely cooled.

Can I Use a Pressure Cooker For Jelly and Jam?

A pressure cooker can be used for making jam, though I would hesitate to make jelly. Jelly requires the ingredients to be added at different intervals which would be difficult in a pressure canner, and I would be afraid of overcooking which could destroy the gelling properties of the pectin.

Normally, low acidic foods such as most vegetables must be canned in a pressure canner to reach the high temperature required to kill the bacteria in those foods. But, the high acidic foods such as pickles, sauerkraut and most fruit products like jam and preserves, only require the temperature of boiling water to kill the bacteria, mold, and yeast that would cause those foods to spoil.

As a result, I always use the boiling water bath for making jam and pickles and a pressure canner for some vegetables. I actually prefer blanching and freezing most vegetables and only can vegetables like green beans that do not freeze well.

If you want to make jam with a pressure cooker, make sure you get a good one. My son recently bought an Instant Pot Duo60 and has been happy with his purchase.

What is a Budget Friendly Canner? 

There are at least a couple of options for those folks who either don’t can enough to justify the purchase of an expensive canner or just can’t fit one into the budget right now.

  • Another option would be to use that large stock pot that you already have and buy a canning rack, like this one that fits a 21.5-quart pot, and voila! you have a boiling water bath canner!

Final Thoughts

I’m sure many of you, like me, have been canning for years and have been using the same canning equipment for most of those years. But, for those of you who are new to home canning, get out that stock pot and find a canning rack to fit it while you try your hand at putting up food. I would recommend making sure canning is something you really like to do before making a large investment in equipment that you may not use very often.

Related Questions

How do you seal jam jars without a canner? If you don’t have a canner, then a simple saucepan can work. However, if you are doing more than just a few jars you will want a large dedicated canner.

How many pint jars fit in a water bath canner? A typical 12-quart canner will hold about 7 pint-sized jars.

Can you reprocess jars that don’t seal? Jars that do not seal properly can be reprocessed using the same canning method. However, be sure to check the edge of the jar to make sure there are no nicks or chips in the glass. If you find damage, it’s best to save the contents but throw the jar away.