Wednesday, September 14, 2022

My new canning Bible

A month ago, we had a discussion about the merits of my faithful and much-tattered canning bible, "Putting Food By."

The problem is, the book is out of date and hasn't been revised since 2010. A reader asked if I had a better recommendation for an authoritative canning guide, and I didn't.

Until now.

I looked over various canning books on the market, but I was a little put off by the fact that most of them were written by passionate canners (like me). The trouble with passionate canners (like me) is we tend to get a little over-enthusiastic about what can safely go in jars.

But safety must come first when it comes to canning, even if it means bypassing so many canning myths (i.e. water-bath canning meats or other low-acid foods; or oven canning; or wax sealing; or other dangerous practices).

So when I stumbled across the "USDA's Complete Guide to Home Canning," I was interested. This is the government organization, after all, which publishes canning guidelines based on strict laboratory testing.

Why listen to a government organization?

I wrote an article eight years ago for Backwoods Home Magazine entitled "What NOT to Can" (the article can be found in their 25th Year Anthology). Researching this article was fascinating and educational. Among much else, I did an extensive interview with Dr. Elizabeth Andress, who was then the Project Director for the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) as well as Extension Food Safety Specialist at the University of Georgia. The NCHFP is a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U of Georgia. Dr. Andress helped write or update the USDA guidelines for canning safety upon which all national guidelines are based, including such canning classics as "The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving."

Not only did I speak with Dr. Andress on the phone at length, but she was kind enough to review the article before I submitted it for publication. During this research, I realized how vital it is to follow official guidelines when it comes to canning.

This is a long-winded explanation of why, when searching for an authoritative canning guide, I didn't want to use one written by a passionate canner (like me), but instead an authoritative source; in this case, the USDA.

The USDA's "Complete Guide to Home Canning" is 196 pages in length and available as a free download from the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. The publication is also available in a spiral-bound book format from Purdue University’s Education Store. The website says the cost is $18 per copy, but the actual print cost is now $25.50, and with shipping, it comes to $33.85. (There are also volume discounts available.)

I received my copy a couple weeks ago, and frankly I'm thrilled. (The fact that it's spiral-bound and thus lies flat when in use is, in my opinion, another benefit.)

Each chapter has a comprehensive table of contents. The chapters cover:

• Principles of Home Canning

• Selecting, Preparing, and Canning Fruit and Fruit Products

• Selecting, Preparing, and Canning  Tomatoes and Tomato Products

• Selecting, Preparing, and Canning Vegetables and Vegetable Products

• Preparing and Canning Poultry, Red Meats, and Seafoods

• Preparing and Canning Fermented Foods and Pickled Vegetables

• Preparing and Canning Jams and Jellies

Each chapter is color-coded.

The guidelines for each food item are detailed and easy to follow.

In short, if anything could be called a canning "bible," this is it. Highly recommended for both novice and experienced canners.

UPDATE: Well nuts. Apparently the printed spiral-bound copies are sold out (it is canning season, after all). If you're interested in buying one, I urge you to contact them and let them know. Hopefully they'll make more available soon.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader reports the books are back in stock. Give it a go.


  1. Unfortunately, the website says that this book is not available and there is no restock date…

  2. The non bulk version is now out of stock, but the bulk set is still available.

  3. Link says book is out of stock

  4. After discovering and falling in love with your blog, I purchased the book, "Putting food by." It's come in very handy as there are not very many guidelines where I live in Australia. After recently watching some youtube "canning" videos and such, I was directed to the "National Center for Home Food Preservation" website. I was thrilled and check often with this. I have definitely noticed some updates with safe canning and am so glad to have found the site. I haven't yet printed out a copy but am seriously contemplating it. It would be handy to have the booklet but shipping to Australia may make it quite expensive. Thanks for the update. I do love your canning posts in particular and it was you who inspired me to start. You are an inspiration and I thank you. Jenny

  5. Quality paper that will hold up to the spiral binding and the kitchen?

  6. I purchased mine at a local Extension Office in July for $20.00. It's worth a phone call to see if there are any left in stock.

  7. I ordered this from abe books today but not sure if its spiral version- will see when it gets here

  8. The Book is now available again, not sure how they got some in that quick

  9. Snagged one, it asked where I heard about this book and I wrote your blog name. Hope that was OK.

  10. I emailed them about availability and they emailed back and said they had added some to their stock and you can online order now. I just completed an order.

  11. Ordered and mentioned Rural revolution :-)

  12. I ordered mine on-line on Sept. 15, and received it in the mail today, Sept. 19. It is the spiral bound version as pictured.

  13. Perhaps humorously, I used the NCHFP site to teach myself to can when I was a young woman with a lot of memories of canning with my elders, a lot of energy, and little money to spend on things like canning books.

    I fairly regularly start firestorms on FB canning books for recommending it, but it’s my go-to resource to this day because it presents information in an accessible, systematic manner and makes versatility easy.

    Want to can that beef and vegetable soup?? Find the ingredient with the longest process time and go!!

    The only thing I wish is that, in addition to telling you what things did not test safely and what things have not been tested, they told you what seasonings process poorly. It took me several jars of bitter taco soup to learn.

    Now when I want to can convenience food, I make soups seasoned only with salt, and add additional seasonings at the point of use along with starches that can’t be safely canned due to density or that don’t handle moisture well. It would be great to have an authoritative list of the things that turn bitter when subjected to pressure canning.

  14. I got the USDA canning guide last year and really like it. I just got finished canning 24 pints of cinnamon applesauce.

  15. The USDA canning book is available as a free download at the NCFHP site. It is split into a series of pdf files. An alternative to trying to buy the spiral bound book is just to print the pdf files, use a three-hole punch to punch holes in the pages, then put them into a three-ring binder. You then have your own version of the book with little cost.

  16. The USDA canning book is also available for free download on the NCFHP site as a set of pdf documents. An alternative to buying, or waiting to buy, the spiral-bound book is to simply print the pdf documents, punch holes in the pages with a three-hole punch, and put them into a three-ring binder. You can add index tabs is you want to separate the chapters. Then you have your very own book that can also lie flat and be easily used.