Prepping: Water Bath Canning With Vinegar

By Mac Slavo

After the post about vinegar went up, there were quite a few questions on some things, and I will attempt to tackle them one at a time.  Many had asked for a more detailed explanation on water bath canning with vinegar to preserve food.

First of all, water bath canning is a bit easier to master than pressure canning, according to most seasoned canners. But keep in mind, water bath canning works well for fruits and pickles, but can’t be used for low-acid vegetables like cucumbers (unless you have a lot of vinegar). Whether food should be processed in a pressure canner or boiling-water canner to control botulinum bacteria depends on the acidity of the food. Acidity may be natural, as in most fruits, or added, as in pickled food. Low-acid canned foods are not acidic enough to prevent the growth of these bacteria. Acid foods, on the other hand, contain enough to block their growth or destroy them more rapidly when heated.

*NOTE: You should NEVER water bath can meats for safety reasons! Invest in a pressure cooker for meat!

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The term “pH” is a measure of acidity; the lower its value, the more acid the food. The acidity level in foods can be increased by adding lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar. Bumping up the acidity helps prevent the growth of dangerous food-borne bacteria.  Cucumbers, for example, contain very limited acidity and typically have a pH of 5.12 to 5.78. Making sure that enough vinegar is added to the cucumbers is important to make safe pickles. Clostridium botulinum can grow in improperly canned, pickled foods with a pH higher than 4.6.  It is critical to use scientifically tested recipes for making pickles to ensure their safety, according to Clemson.

Most mixtures of low-acid and acid foods also have pH values above 4.6 unless their recipes include enough lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar to make them acid foods. Acid foods have a pH of 4.6 or lower. They include fruits, pickles, sauerkraut, jams, jellies, marmalades, and fruit butters. –National Center for Home Food Preservation

The point is to be safe! No one wants botulism (a deadly form of food poisoning) after the SHTF! But not everyone has a fancy pressure canner and water bath canning could be the only option in a survival scenario.  In this case, again, ensure the pH is below 4.6 before you begin the process. You can use pH test strips, which aren’t too expensive and small enough to add to your prepper gear.

The below video guide is about the most thorough I could find to help you if you’d like to learn more about canning and safety.

Essentially, to make your low-acid food safe, you’ll be “pickling” it.

NOTE: The only method recommended safe by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for canning vegetables, meats, poultry, and seafood is a pressure canner. There are many on the market, and they won’t break the bank entirely.  You can get one from Amazon for under $70.

A pressure canner will add that extra peace of mind for certain, but a low enough pH should do the trick too. The reason vinegar is suggested to acidify food for preppers, in particular, is because of it’s many other uses. Lemon juice and citric acid could get the pH low enough to make the low-acid food safe to water can too.

*This article is for informational purposes only.  The USDA suggests pressure canning all low acid foods. Please be safe, and don’t risk botulism! **Caution: Never eat food from a jar that has an unsealed or swollen lid or that shows any signs of spoiling! Take all necessary precautions to ensure your food is safe to eat!

This article was sourced from

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