Canning Vegetables Step-By-Step Instructions

Canning Vegetables Step-By-Step Instructions

This year we’ve been lucky enough to have bumper tomato and squash crops – which means it’s time to get canning vegetables!


I’m a huge salsa fan. Like yogurt and mozzarella, salsa is one of those things I can always eat. So I make sure to can a TON of it to keep me going throughout the winter.


When you can anything, salsa included, you need to make sure you do it right. The last thing you want is to ruin the harvest you worked so hard to preserve or worse – get sick.


How to get started canning vegetables:

Step 1: Observe safety rules such as making sure you process your canned vegetables according to standard safety practices.

Step 2: Have necessary tools such as mason jars, lids, rings, and a water bath or pressure canner on hand.

Step 3: Decide whether you’ll use a water bath canner or pressure canner, and familiarize yourself with your unit’s instructions for use.

Step 4: Clean and sterilize your jars by washing them in warm, soapy water.

Step 5: Pack your jars according to the recipe you’re using.

Step 6: Process your jars of vegetables.

Step 7: Store your jars in a cool location away from sunlight. 


But here’s the deal:

Canning is one of those things you can learn in an apartment or on a 100 acre homestead – which means you can start building your homestead anywhere.


If you live in an apartment or your HOA won’t let you grow food, just head down to a farmers market and buy as much of the freshest in-season produce you can afford. 


You can also can most meats and fish – so if you buy your meat in bulk, have a lot of luck fishing, or just find a great deal at a store you don’t wan’t to pass up, you can preserve it for later.


What do I really love about canning?


During the coldest days of winter, you can still have a taste of summer. 

Confused about canning? It's easy! This article covers the basics of canning, including how to do it, what to buy, and where to buy it! From FrugalChicken

Canning basics


Why bother?

While this is fairly intuitive, the point of canning anything, salsa included, is to preserve the freshest foods for times when they might not be so abundant.


That being said, the first step to learning to can salsa is to choose only use the freshest food, and make sure your ingredients are free of mold, soft spots, or any discoloration. In this case, the quality of your salsa ingredients counts!


canning tomato basics


Safety first

The number one rule of thumb is to not make certain canning mistakes, which means you want to make sure you remove oxygen, destroy enzymes and prevent the growth of undesirable bacteria, yeasts, and molds that threaten to destroy your harvest and render the food unsafe.


You want to use a method to can your salsa so that the glass jars and lids form a good vacuum over your harvest so that liquid stays in, while air and microorganisms stay out of the jar so they don’t destroy it.


Necessary tools for canning vegetables

Luckily, to can your harvest, you’ll only need a few inexpensive tools.


First, you’ll need mason jars, lids, and rings, which can be purchased online or at any grocery store.


The mason jars really are a great investment because they can be used for many, many years.


When we first moved to our homestead, the previous family had a huge collection of old mason jars they passed down to us – score!


Even though they were decades old, they were still very usable.


You’ll also need a few specialized tools, such as:

  • A plastic or stainless steel funnel
  • A stainless steel ladle
  • A canning jar lifter with rubber grips
  • A good pair of kitchen tongs
  • Magnetic lid lifter and bubble remover
  • Pressure canner


You can purchase these items individually, but your best bet is to buy a kit (you will have to purchase the pressure canner separately) – that way you’re getting everything at once, and when you start to can, you won’t have missed anything.


Using a pressure canner

Pressure canners used to get a bad rap because old, old models had a possibility of exploding. (pressure and all…)


But today’s models are more advanced and a perfectly safe. If you can find a used one, go for it.


Buying new works as well (full disclosure: I purchased mine new because I wanted to make sure it would work.) 


Follow the directions that come with your pressure canner to use it properly.


Clean and Sterilize Your Jars

Be sure to have all your tools on hand before starting, and decide what size mason jars you will use. They are available in ½ pint, pint, 1½ pint, quart, and ½ gallon sizes.


Before you use your mason jars, wash them in hot, soapy water or run them through the dishwasher.  Just be sure they’re free of soap when they’re clean so the flavor of your food doesn’t get ruined.


You can also soak mason jars for several hours in a solution containing 1 cup of vinegar per gallon of water.


Sterilizing your jars

You will need to sterilize your jars for anything you want to preserve that will be processed less than 10 minutes.


Before sterilizing your jars, prepare the food you want to can. You will place your food into the jars immediately after they’re sterilized.


To sterilize your jars, place them right side up on the rack in pot of boiling water. The rule of thumb is to fill the pot and jars with hot water to 1 inch above the tops of the jars.


Boil 10 minutes at altitudes of less than 1,000 ft.( At higher elevations, you should boil for 1 additional minute for each additional 1,000 ft.)


Using your canning jar lifter, remove your sterilized jars and fill them with the food you want to preserve.


Remove your lids and rings from the water using the magnetic jar lifter


For jams and jellies, or anything with liquid, it’s a good idea to use your funnel.


Top with the lids, making sure to tighten the screw bands.


Processing your jars 

The best book on the market for processing times is the Ball Blue Book.


Every homestead that wants to can their harvest should have a copy on hand. For the value, the price is negligible.


Once you’re done processing your jars, don’t retighten the lids. You’ll know they’re properly sealed when you hear a “ping” after you process the jars and the tops are indented.


Store your jars in a cool location away from sunlight.

It’s necessary to store them below 95°F, and it’s optimal to keep the temperature between 50° to 70°F to maintain the quality of your canned produce.


I’d love to hear from you!


What will you try canning first? Leave a comment below, or email me!


Like this article? Try these recipes!

Classic Strawberry Jam

Peaches & Basil Jam

Blackberry Chia Seed Jam

3 Square Foot Gardening Layouts That Are Genius Time Savers

3 Square Foot Gardening Layouts That Are Genius Time Savers

Longing for the days when people used to grow their own vegetables through traditional sweat and dirt…..but don’t have the time? Well, it’s time to get off your butt. Consider this your call to action: a beginner’s guide to square foot gardening layouts.


(This article is an excerpt from my best selling gardening book, Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide to Backyard Gardening. You can get the entire book including more layouts on Amazon or directly from me, which will save you 10% and includes shipping.

Click here to get it from me and save 20% plus get free shipping

Click here to get it on Amazon)


Say hello to a newer and easier type of gardening.


In case you’ve never heard about or aren’t sure what square foot gardening is, this technique (some say it’s a way of life) lets you harvest more veggies in a smaller space while decreasing your workload.


If you’ve never tried it, then you’ll want to print out this article and grab my book above, which is a step-by-step guide to implementing these layouts.


The square foot gardening layouts I’ll show you make adopting this style of growing really easy.


So easy, you’ll write me love letters (well….maybe a like letter. I’m married….and don’t want the drama from receiving random love letters. Although an argument might spice up a Friday night here in the country where nothing ever happens.)


The bottom line is that cultivating plants in square foot boxes optimizes the use of your garden space and minimizes your effort while maximizing production – pretty nifty stuff.


square foot gardening plant spacing

 Here's 3 genius square foot gardening layouts that are perfect for raised beds. Square foot gardening for beginners just got easier!

Planning your square foot gardening layouts

Like any other growing technique out there, success with square foot gardening layouts requires a bit of planning so you can get a great harvest.


You can grow what you like – but you’ll do better making sure all your plants “play” well together. Layouts like the ones in this article will make it super easy for you.


A square foot gardening planting guide (like my companion planting guide you can download right here) also will help you be successful with any layouts you design yourself, especially since not all vegetable plants play well together.


square foot gardening plant spacing

Three square foot gardening layout guides you can use this spring

Three square foot gardening layouts I personally love are a salsa garden, a greens garden, and an all-tomato garden. Because who doesn’t love tomatoes?


(Well, I know a few people….but they’re not friends. Friends don’t let friends be friends with people who don’t like tomatoes. ← Gardening haiku)


These are three square foot gardening layouts I use every year (and I start them indoors in my warm greenhouse), and some of my tried-and-true hacks you can use to have a great harvest!


square foot gardening plant spacing

Salsa Garden

This one is probably my favorite square foot gardening layouts because….well….salsa.


Salsa garden layouts can be fancy or simple. This one includes just a few veggies and herbs: tomatoes, scallions, peppers, and herbs such as parsley, oregano, basil, and cilantro.


Here's 3 genius square foot gardening layouts that are perfect for raised beds. Square foot gardening for beginners just got easier!


(Salsa generally includes onions, but they take up a LOT of room and have a long growing season – your better layouts include more tomatoes or herbs. You can buy your onions or plant them elsewhere on your yard.)


How you arrange the plants in your raised bed will depend on certain factors such as growing size.


For example. tomato plants need an entire square, and it’s best to plant them one or two feet away from each other.


You CAN plant herbs near tomatoes, however, and they’re supposed to improve the flavor of the our red fruity friends.


A pepper plant needs as much nutrients and sunlight as a tomato plant, but consumes less space. You can place pepper plants 12 inches away from another.


For the most part, these vegetables and herbs mature at the same time, particularly if you grow indeterminate tomatoes. If your herbs start flowering, pinch them off to extend their life.


square foot gardening plant spacing

Greens Garden

If you are a fan of fresh salads (or have a lot of rabbits), a square foot gardening planting guide for a greens garden is gonna be your jam.


Like the other square foot gardening layouts in this article, you need to be conscious of the space between each plant, but you’re totally free to grow any type of greens your healthy heart desires.


Here's 3 genius square foot gardening layouts that are perfect for raised beds. Square foot gardening for beginners just got easier!


Some of my favorite layouts include spicy mustard greens, kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, and arugula (I grow the arugula for my rabbits though – personally, I can’t stand the stuff).


Mustard greens and kale must be planted three inches away from each other. Spinach, on the other hand, should have at least 14-inch spacing. Green lettuce and arugula need 4 inches.


square foot gardening plant spacing

All Tomato Garden

Now, I know when you think about vegetable gardens, you’re dreaming of tomatoes. Since tomatoes are my specialty, I love using all tomato square foot gardening layouts.


This plan will show you how to grow an near-unlimited supply of tender tomatoes in the summer (as long as you grow indeterminate varieties).


An all-tomato layout can have as many varieties of tomatoes as you would like to plant – try some heirloom varieties for fuller flavor.


You can get husky red cherry tomatoes or golden jubilees to name a few. Although different, they still have the same needs, like an adequate amount of sunlight and enough space between each other.


The bottom line, regardless of the types of vegetables you grow, is that planning your square foot garden is the key to a healthy harvest.


Factors such as distance, amount of sunlight, moisture, nutrient amount, and maturity length must also be considered when planning your layout.


If you want very detailed gardening advice, then get Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening, and refer to it as you plan out your own garden.


Do have favorite square foot gardening layouts? Send them to me, and I might feature them in an upcoming article!


square foot gardening plant spacing