Waterbath Canning is a fairly simple process. The first thing to keep in mind is that you should only use the waterbath canning method for preserving high-acid foods. Following is a step-by-step guide in canning:
1. Washing Jars: Wash your empty canning jars in hot soapy water. Rinse them thoroughly. Place your jars into your waterbath canner or place them into a separate large pot. Cover the canning jars with hot water; bring to a simmer over medium heat. For food that will be processed for less than 10 minutes, you will need to boil your jars for 10 minutes and keep them heated in simmering water until they are needed. Place your jars' screw bands to the side and put the lids into a separate saucepan (if you have a canning lid rack that will make this part much easier) cover the lids with water and bring them to a simmer (do not boil the lids as this will effect the seal).
2. Prepping the canner: If you are using a separate pot for sterilizing your jars (which I actually recommend) you will now want to fill your waterbath canner about half full with water; bring this to a boil. Heat any additional water in another large pot. This extra water may be needed to top off the water in the canning process; you will want to keep the additional water hot, but not boiling.
3. Food Prep: Now is the time to prepare your food. Be sure that you only prepare as much food as you will need in order to fill the number of jars that your canner is capable of holding at one time. Keep your work area clean during this preparation.
4. Remove your sterilized jars from the hot water (a jar lifter makes this A LOT easier and safer); place your hot jars onto towels in order to prevent them from easily slipping while you are packing them.
5. Pack the food into the jars, it is advised to use a wide-mouth funnel to prevent spills. Be sure to allow for adequate headspace. If extra liquid is needed, ladle your boiling liquid over over the food, again, allowing for adequate headspace.
6. Using a bubble freer or a non-metal spatula you will need to release trapped air bubbles from the jars. This is done by working your tool down the insides of the jar. Add extra liquid as needed in order to maintain the necessary headspace.
7. Wipe the jar rims clean with a clean damp cloth as food left on the rim can prevent a perfect seal, resulting in spoiled food. Place your prepared lids onto your jars (a magnetic wand helps a lot during this step), add the screw bands. Tighten the bands according to the manufacturer's directions.
8. As you fill each jar and have the lid and screw band properly placed on it you will want to place it into the rack in the canner. The jars should not touch each other. Replace the lid to the canner each time you add a jar.
9. When all the jars have been added, ladle hot water from the extra pot into the canner to cover jars with water by 1 inch.
10. Cover the canner; heat it to a full rolling boil and begin the processing time. Be sure that you follow the recipe procedures and timings EXACTLY. Allow for adjustments with the altitude if you live above 1,000 feet above sea level. Keep the water boiling during the processing, add additional boiling water if the water level drops. If the water stops boiling when you add more, you will need to stop timing, turn up the heat and wait for a full boil to return before you resume counting your canning time.
11. At the end of processing the jars, remove them from the canner. Place them on towels or on a rack in a draft-free area to allow them to cool. Leave a minimum of 1 inch of space between the jars to allow the air to circulate.
12. After your jars have completely cooled (this takes no less than 12 hours but up to 24 hours) press the center of each lid in order to check the seal. If the dip that is in the lid holds then your jar is sealed. If the lid bounces up and down it failed to seal*. If your jars lost any liquid but they have remained sealed,, then the contents are safe. Keep in mind that the food in those jars that are not covered by liquid will discolor so use these jars first once you start using your preserved foods.
13. Wipe your jars and the lids. Remove your screw bands and wash and dry them; then place them in storage for future use. Label your jars with their contents and the date that they were prepared. Include a batch number on the label if you process several loads in a single day, this helps if a jar has spoiled you will be able to identify other jars from the same batch. Store your jars in a cool dry, dark place and be sure to use them within a year.
*For unsealed jars you will need to check the jar for flaws (cracks, scratches, etc.) The contents of the unsealed jars can be refrigerated as long as it will be used within two to three days, frozen, or you can reprocess it so long as you do this within 24 hours. To reprocess, use a clean sterilized jar and a new lid. Process the food for the full length of time specified in the recipe. Use any reprocessed jars first when you start using your preserved food.