The 5 Best Canning Books, According to Food Preservation Experts

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 Best Canning Books

Food & Wine / Kristin Kempa

Canning is one of my favorite summer traditions, especially for preserving produce I grow or buy from the local farmer's market. There's something magical about being able to put up food from one season to enjoy in another, and nothing gives me a mood boost in winter quite like cracking open a jar of sunny summer garden tomato sauce. With canning equipment and just a little know-how, pressure canning and hot water bath canning are easy – not to mention, fun and rewarding. (And the jars look great on kitchen shelves!) Here we share our favorite books on canning for beginners, seasoned preservers, and everyone in between.

Best Overall

So Easy To Preserve, 6th Edition

So Easy To Preserve, 6th Edition


Many canning experts consider So Easy to Preserve the best home-preserving book in the U.S. While this book is not as widely available at retailers as our other picks (though sometimes you can find used copies), it's hands down my favorite for a few reasons. First, it's comprehensive: you'll find plenty of recipes to whet your appetite here. Second, but more importantly, it explains the reasons a canning project works or doesn't, so you can understand the process and safely engage in canning experiments of your own. We also love the spiral binding, which means the book lays flat for easy reference in the kitchen. If you’re going to purchase just one canning book, let it be this one.

Price at time of publish: $25

  • Full Title: So Easy to Preserve, 6th Edition
  • Author: Elizabeth Andress and Judy Harrison, Eds.
  • Number of Pages: 388
  • E-book Available: No

Best for Beginners

Ball Canning Back to Basics



Ball Canning has long been the trusted source for canning information (and of course, for jars as well), and this particular book is a great entry point into the world of canning. Many canning enthusiasts began with simple recipes like jams and pickles, which have enough acid or sugar to can safely in a hot water bath, and I always recommend the recipes in Back to Basics to first-time canners. The book gives you useful insights into the canning process, troubleshooting, and simple recipes, so you can build your confidence in the kitchen and put up some great preserves while you're at it.

Price at time of publish: $15

  • Full Title: Ball Canning Back to Basics: A Foolproof Guide to Canning Jams, Jellies, Pickles, and More
  • Author: Ball Home Canning Test Kitchen
  • Number of Pages: 192
  • E-book Available: Yes

Best New Release

The Homestead Canning Cookbook

The Homestead Canning Cookbook


This book came into the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s one of my favorite new books on canning. Full of beautiful photography and typography, the visual appeal of this book give and mouthwatering recipes would make it a great gift, though you’ll almost certainly want to keep it yourself. I love that the recipes are creative and easy to follow, and written by an expert: author Georgia Varozza is a certified master food preserver who knows the ins and outs of safe canning. 

Price at time of publish: $16

  • Full Title: The Homestead Canning Cookbook: Simple, Safe Instructions from a Certified Master Food Preserver
  • Author: Georgia Varozza
  • Number of Pages: 208
  • E-book Available: Yes

Best for Pressure Canning

The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving

The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving


Ball has been publishing comprehensive canning books for roughly a century, so it's no surprise that this new volume is a winner in my book. Ball has published dozens of editions of its canning explainer, the Blue Book, and even though this one goes by a different name, the spirit of the book is the same, according to canning expert Christina Ward. "I do like the 2020 edition of the Complete Book of Food Preservation. Though I still refer to all the Ball-published canning books as the Blue Book,” she says. 

Many canning books focus on water bath canning, but this book focuses on pressure canning as well, making it our top pick on the subject. As with other Ball books, it offers comprehensive guidance on the canning process, including methods and equipment, so you can go into your kitchen equipped with the knowledge you need to put up a bounty of summer foods. 

Price at time of publish: $18

  • Full Title: The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving: Over 350 of the Best Canned, Jammed, Pickled, and Preserved Recipes
  • Author: Ball Home Canning Test Kitchen
  • Number of Pages: 368
  • E-book Available: Yes

Best Canning and Preserving

Preservation: The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation, and Dehydration



With a fountain of food preservation knowledge, Christina Ward is one of my go-to sources for canning and preserving topics (see our Frequently Asked Questions section). Her book was gifted to me years ago, and I still turn to it time and again when looking for approachable, accurate information about food preservation. Ward is a certified master food preserver, and she uses that expertise to guide readers through canning and a range of other food preservation practices, including fermentation and dehydration. While other books on the market cover preservation in general, most can’t compete with the breadth of preservation topics in Ward's book or her fun-yet-informative writing. If you're looking for a book that can help you build up a food preserving practice in earnest, this is the choice for you.

Price at time of publish: $25

  • Full Title: Preservation: The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation, and Dehydration
  • Author: Christina Ward
  • Number of Pages: 400
  • E-book Available: Yes
Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do you know if a canning recipe is safe?

    Just because a canning recipe has been published on the Internet or in a community cookbook, for example, doesn’t mean it’s safe. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends using recipes published after 1995 from reputable sources, according to Preservation author Christina Ward, canning expert and the Master Food Preserver for Wisconsin.

    “That’s the cut-off date when the majority of reputable publishers updated their cookbooks and guides to include the very important step of hot-water bath processing for high-acid foods. Prior to that, canning instructions, especially for jams and jellies, omitted any type of processing; just pour it into the jar, pour on the wax, and you’re done. Hard yikes! I know the argument from people: 'My grandmother did it that way, and we all turned out fine.' Yes, but! You’re playing pathogenic Russian roulette. It only takes a teeny-tiny bacteria to make one sick,” Ward says, adding that these food-borne illnesses can be life-threatening. 

    “A home canner should have confidence in the science that informs the recommended canning process as published by the National Center for Home Food Preservation and the Ball Company canning books. It’s why canning recipes should be followed closely; it’s the process of completely doing each step that assures your jarred creation is safe to store and safe to eat," she says.

  • When was the first Ball Blue Book published?

    Ball published the book in 1909 to interest people in its canning jars through appetizing recipes and how-to advice, according to Ward.

  • Can you half a canning recipe? What about doubling?

    "You can safely halve a canning recipe. You can also safely double a recipe. The key is to keep the ratios exactly the same. But, do not triple or quadruple a recipe! Any time you increase the volume of material beyond 8 cups or 2 quarts, you’ll encounter trouble," says Ward.

  • Can you add spices to canning recipes?

    “Dried spices can definitely be added to recipes. Though, a canner should know that whole-spice flavors can intensify over time. If you add lots of mustard seeds to your dill pickles, the mustard flavor develops over time. This is not a bad thing, but something the maker should be aware of,” says Ward. "If you want to add flavor but control the intensity, put the spices into a cheesecloth bindle or tea ball. That way, you can cook the pickling solution or jam or jelly with the spice bag then pull it out when the flavor is where you want it to be."

  • Can you reduce sugar in canning recipes?

    "It depends. Sugar can be reduced or omitted when reduction of water activity isn’t the primary method of preservation. For example, a basic tomato sauce uses acidity as its primary hurdle; the sugar is used for taste. In that scenario, the sugar can be omitted,” says Ward. 

    “For recipes that rely on sugar to reduce the water activity — jams and jellies and the like — the sugar can be reduced, but only when combined with the addition of a low-sugar pectin. Low sugar pectin contains a different form of sugar (dextrose) to reduce the water activity without added sweetness,” she says. Also: “Never omit or reduce the addition of lemon juice (or equivalent acid) in a sweetened preserve recipe or when canning tomatoes,” she says.

Our Expertise

Julia Skinner, Ph.D., is a writer, culinary educator, and avid gardener and food preserver. She writes about and teaches fermentation and food preservation through her business, Root.

Christina Ward is the author of Preservation: The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation, and Dehydration as well as an editor and the Master Food Preserver for Wisconsin. She has contributed to Serious Eats, The Wall Street Journal, Maggot Brain, and more.

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