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I'm debating canning but I don't have a pressure canner. I was just wondering what the best method to can would be since I don't want to get botulism and I want the canned food to last for a long time.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Without a canner you are limited to canning high-acid foods.

Botulism spores don't die at 212F, the boiling point of water. A pressure canner boiling water at 15PSI raises the boiling point to 250F or so which will kill the spores.

The bacterium cannot grow in a high acid environment and so high-acid foods such as fruit and pickles do not need to be processed in a pressure canner. Look for recipes for such foods. As use2199 said they will involve boiling the jars for a while to kill things.

An excellent resource is the Ball Blue Book that can often be found near the canning supplies in grocery stores. It always calls for Ball products of course but it has a ton of good canning recipes and instructions.

Don't experiment. Botulism is not a fun thing. Your lips get tingly and then you die shortly aftwards.

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The best online resource is the National Center for Home Food Preservation. They give clear instructions on how to can many, many types of food safely. – JustRightMenus Aug 27 '10 at 14:33
Do acid really kill the spores? Doesn't it merely stop/slow the growth? – citizen Oct 5 '12 at 3:01
@citizen- oops- yes. That should be that the bacterium can't survive not that it kills the spores. Fixed. – Sobachatina Oct 5 '12 at 14:59

Salsa, tomato sauce, and various pickled vegetables are typically all you can do if you want to have a shelf stable product using a boiling water bath. Nowadays, many recipes add extra acid (vinegar or lemon juice typically) to tomato products to make sure that botulism spores can not grow because tomatoes today have been breed to be sweeter than in days past.

Freeze the food or spring for the pressure canner if you want to do low acid vegetables, meat, soups or stews.

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I don't have a pressure canner either, so whatever I have that's not safe to can, I freeze in . (which I got on sale for less than three bucks for three last month)

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Here are the things I'd have liked to know before I tried hot water canning:

  • It's not as straightforward as it sounds. In addition to a large pot of boiling water and canning jars, you'll need a special rack. You can buy a pot + rack combo, or just a rack that'll fit in a standard stockpot.
  • You'll also need special tongs; as I discovered, you can jury-rig something with thick rubber gloves and bbq tongs, but you'll get boiling water everywhere and be very frustrated. Just buy a kit online, they're cheap enough.
  • You'll be instructed to use the oven to sterilize the jars. You'll be instructed to use boiling water to sterilize the lids. Don't sterilize the rings that hold the lid in place; they don't touch the inside of the jar anyway, and sterilization will make them very hot when you try to screw them in.
  • Everything -- EVERYTHING -- involved in the canning process NEEDS to be kept hot at all times. Crack open a window; my kitchen got very uncomfortable once there were several pots of boiling water plus the stove all going at the same time.
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The "Hot Water Bath" method involves completely submerging and heating jars in boiling water for 5 to 85 minutes, depending on the type and amount of food.

Be aware that this method, unlike pressurised canning, will not kill Clostridium botulinum, so it may only be used for highly acidic food (with a pH of 4.6 or less) unless the jars will be stored at low temperature (below 3 degrees C or 38 degrees F).

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Consider adding an outline of the method. – Chris Steinbach Sep 11 '12 at 3:41
If you Google "Hot Water Bath", every one of the front page web results are for this canning method. – feuGene Oct 4 '12 at 20:34

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