Canning your fruits and vegetables this harvest season.

Is there anything more Mid-Missouri than setting out a garden and putting up the bounty it produces? Years ago, most local families cultivated their summer vegetable garden and harvested the fruits and vegetables it produced as a matter of practice. They utilized methods to preserve and can the food they picked so it could be enjoyed throughout the long winter months that followed the growing season.

Our practices today most likely involve a weekly trip to the grocery store, where an almost dizzying array of frozen and canned options await. But for many, gardening and home canning is a relaxing and rewarding activity — and the results are well worth the time invested. This season, why not get together with friends or family and put up some delicious homemade recipes that can be shared, enjoyed, and even given as a hand-crafted gift?

“You can Capture the bounty of your summertime garden & orchard with shelves lined with canned fruits and vegetables, sparkling jams and jellies, and crunchy pickles.”

– Better Homes and Gardens
New Cook Book, 1955

Tips for Success

The Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1969 edition, offers five time-honored rules for canning success:

  1. To avoid spoilage, select only sound, firm-ripe, unbruised foods.
  2. Make small batches and avoid doubling a recipe.
  3. Use the proper canning method for the type of food to be preserved (water bath or pressure cooked).
  4. Generally, leave ¼-inch headspace for jams and jellies; ½ inch for other high-acid, water bath recipes; and 1-inch headspace for low-acid and pressure cooked foods.

Bonus rule: Use only standard jars and lids intended for preserving, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for sealing the jar, and remember to label and date each jar.

What to Can

If it can be grown, chances are it can be canned. Fruits, vegetables, and even some meats (if prepared properly) can be preserved by home canning. In addition to whole foods, try getting creative with canned jams, relishes, salsa, or even soups. Many cookbooks and cooking websites offer simple and delicious recipes and step-by-step guidance on proper canning and preserving methods. Pre-mixed packets for pickling, salsa, pasta sauce, and more are available at most local grocery stores and can take the guesswork out of making the perfect product.

Methods of Canning

To water bath or pressure cook? Raw pack or hot pack? These terms can be confusing, but canning is really easier than one might think — as long as a few ground rules are kept in mind. Your top two rules are to maintain proper heat and to properly seal containers. Heat destroys troublesome bacteria and the sealed containers prevent recontamination.

To be effective, the proper combination of temperature and time must be maintained for the type of food being prepared. The two most common methods used are water bath processing and pressure cooking. 

Water bath processing is used for high-acid foods. Jars are filled with food, sealed with a lid, and covered with water that boils continuously for a prescribed time. Many fruits, including tomatoes, naturally contain acidity that allows for water bath processing. Sauerkraut, pickles, relishes, and other recipes prepared with vinegar can also be canned using the water bath method.

Pressure cooking is used to process foods at a higher temperature than the water bath method. A pressure cooker traps steam inside a pressurized container and is used to process low-acid vegetables, such as beans and root vegetables, as well as meats and even fish or other seafood.

“Cold packing” is a term that has several meanings. Most commonly, cold packing means packing raw, or uncooked, food into jars before sealing. It also is used to describe the water bath method of processing. “Hot packing” is a process in which the food is thoroughly cooked or boiled before it is added to the jar and sealed.

What Is Needed

Clean and undamaged canning jars, metal rings, and new (unused) lids. A plastic or silicone funnel is also helpful when pouring liquids. If using the water bath method, use a large stockpot deep enough for water to boil over, completely covering the quart or pint jars. If using a pressure cooker, always ensure that the steam valve and cover, as well as the pressure gauge, are in working order, and always use the manufacturer’s instructions while operating.

Canning is a hot business, so be careful when handling cooked jars! Silicone gloves or potholders can protect hands, and consider investing in inexpensive pair of canning jar tongs to remove hot jars from the pot or cooker.


Store canned goods in a cool, dry place and avoid sunlight. The shelf life of home-canned goods may vary, but a good rule of thumb is to consume by the end of the year following the date it was canned.

The USDA National Center for Food Preservation offers some excellent printable resource guides relating to best practices for canning fruits, vegetables, nut products, and poultry, red meats, and seafood. 

“Betty’s Pickles! Aunt Alice’s Peach Conserve! Mary’s Mint Relish! Is there anything nicer than a gift you made yourself? So why not give your family your very best? It isn’t all that hard!”

Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1969
Clockwise: Dana Miller, Kim Rademan, Luca Alonso, Elva Alonso, Yvette Alonso, Analicia Alonso, and JoJo the dog.

No garden? No problem. 

Try supporting one of Jefferson City’s farmers markets to purchase homegrown, fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables. 

Capital City Farmers Market, 
2304 Missouri Blvd., JCMO
Saturdays, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. 

Cole County Farmers Market, 
3600 Country Club Dr., JCMO
Tuesdays and Fridays, 4 to 6 p.m.
Saturdays, 2 to 4 p.m.

Lincoln University Farmers Market
1002 Chestnut St., JCMO
Saturdays, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Sweet & Spicy Dill Pickles Recipie

  • 9-11 pounds pickling cucumbers (about 50, 3-4 inches)
  • 2-3 white or yellow onions
  • 3 1/3 cups Mrs. Wages white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 7 1/3 cups water
  • 1/2  to 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Assorted hot peppers, stemmed and sliced (cayenne, jalapeno, or hot banana peppers work well)
  • Garlic cloves
  • 1 pouch Mrs. Wages dill or kosher dill pickles mix

  1. Sterilize canning jars and lids according to the manufacturer’s instructions for sterilized jars.
  2. Wash cucumbers and remove blossoms, then drain. Leave whole, cut into spears or slice.
  3. Combine vinegar and water into a large nonreactive pot. Do not use aluminum. Bring mixture just to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, add pickle mix and sugar, and stir until dissolved.
  4. Pack cucumbers and onions into sterilized jars, adding a garlic clove and several slices of hot pepper into each jar. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace. Evenly divide hot pickling liquid among the packed jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles and cap each jar as it is filled. If more liquid is needed for proper headspace, add a mix of one part vinegar, one part sugar, and two parts water.
  5. Process pints for five minutes (quarts for 10 minutes) in a boiling water bath canner. Test jars for airtight seals according to the manufacturer’s directions. If jars do not seal, refrigerate and consume within two weeks. 

Adapted from Mrs. Wages spicy dill pickle recipe: 

Taste of Home vintage canning recipes: