jars of jams

Exactly What You Need for Canning Summer Produce So It's at Peak Perfection All Year Long

A professional preserver shares the essential equipment for capturing the season's bounty in sauce, jam, pickles, and more.
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Whether you are expecting a truckload of tomatoes from your garden this year and are excited to can them as sauce to last through winter, or you plan to make some extra special jams that you'll give as holiday gifts, if you're going to be canning it is important to have the right tools and canning supplies on hand to safely preserve your summer bounty.

Renee Pottle, who runs the preservation website Seed to Pantry, is an expert source for all things gardening, preserving, and cooking. In addition to providing expert guidance via her website, Pottle has written several cookbooks, including a tome on Water Bath Canning ($13.49, amazon.com). With her expertise on canning, we asked Pottle to share her favorite tools for preserving summer produce.

Best Canning Supplies for 2022

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Kerr mason jars
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Everyday Jars: Kerr Wide-Mouth Pint-Size Mason Jars

$27.00, amazon.com

Pottle uses Ball and Kerr jars for most recipes and recommends them for beginners and pros alike. "Since they are specifically manufactured for canning, they are heavy enough to use over and over," she says. If you're just starting out and overwhelmed with jar options, Pottle's top pick is this wide-mouth pint jar. She says the set of 12 is "perfect for canning salsa, tomatoes, fruit, and pickles." If you wanted more variety, Pottle suggests adding the smaller, 8-ounce jelly jars for jams, jellies, and other soft spreads like fruit butters.

Canning jars
Credit: Courtesy of Container Store

Best Fancy Jars: Bormioli Rocco Quattro 8.5-Ounce Canning Jar

$5.99 each, containerstore.com

"My favorite "splurge" jars are these Bormioli Rocco Quattro 8-ounce jars," says Pottle. "I use them for special gift jams and sauces," she says.

Funnel for canning
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Canning Funnel: Norpro Wide Mouth Plastic Funnel

$4.53, amazon.com

Pottle prefers plastic canning funnels over the metal kind because of material issues that can come up with the latter, "Too many metal funnels are aluminum, which reacts with vinegar and will give your pickles a metallic taste." If you really must have a metal funnel, Pottle urges choosing one made of stainless steel. Otherwise, "buy a wide mouth, plastic funnel and use it for all your canning. It will also come in handy when transferring bulk grains to storage jars. I have used the same inexpensive Norpro canning funnel for years now."

Ladle
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Canning Ladle: KitchenAid Silicone Ladle

$13.04, amazon.com

Often overlooked when thinking about tools for canning, a ladle is a helpful tool for transferring hot jam or pickling liquid into the jars. For Pottle, years of experience have taught her that the best ladle is the one that feels best in your hand, she goes on to say, "Nothing too large, but certainly not too small, either. You want one that you have control over." After trial and error, Pottle's pick is this silicone, tear-dropped ladle from KitchenAid.

Jar lifter
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Jar Lifter: Norpro Canning Jar Lifter

$6.69, amazon.com

"A jar lifter is one of the few items I consider absolutely necessary for canning," says Pottle. She's owned this Norpro version for 20 years, which speaks for itself!

Stone stock pot
Credit: Courtesy of Walmart

Best Water-Bath Canner: Granite Ware Enamel on Steel 21-Quart Stock Pot with Lid

$29.97, walmart.com

Pottle doesn't see a need to splurge on the actual vessel you will be canning in. "The important thing is to find one that is the right size for the canning you plan to do." She finds that most beginners go for the 21-quart canner from Granite Ware (the company also sells complete kits for first-time canners).

For glass-top stove owners, Pottle issues a word of warning: "You must use a smooth bottom water bath canner, which means something different from the standard Granite Ware, which has a ribbed bottom. Most newer glass top stoves are approved for canning, but the canner should not be more than one inch larger than the burner," she advises.

Metal jar rack for canning
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Canning Rack: Granite Ware Canner Rack

$13.99, amazon.com

Pottle considers a canning rack, which keeps the jars from touching the bottom and sides of the canner, an essential tool to have for a safe and successful canning experience.

Box of salt for canning and pickling
Credit: Courtesy of Walmart

Favorite Pickling Salts: Morton Canning & Pickling Salt

$1.72, walmart.com

If you plan to do a lot of pickling this year, it's best to think about the kind of salt you will be using. For Pottle, it's the safest bet to buy pickling salt, "regular table salt has additives that keep it from clumping, but it will make your canned items cloudy, so it's best to use pickling salt when canning, which is free from additives."         

Journal for canning and jamming
Credit: Courtesy of SeedtoPantry / Etsy

Best Jar Labels: Renee Pottle's Canning and Preserving Journal

$6.99, etsy.com

Pottle's method for labels bypasses the annoying 'sticker shock' of traditional adhesives. "I don't use stick-on labels on any of my jars," she says. "Trying to remove the adhesive when I want to reuse the jar is an irritation."

Instead, Pottle prints out circular labels and affixes them to the jar lids. And when she is making large batches of preserves in the summer to give away at a later date, she'll write the basics down on the lid (after the jars have been processed and cooled), and then write all the details in her canning journal. When a jar needs to be gifted, she can look back at the journal and write the information down on a separate gift tag.