- 3 pots, one being large enough to cover your filled mason jars with water (this is very important!)
- Canning Rack (truth be told, I don't use one all of the time, but it helps keep the jars steady when they are boiling)
- Funnel (I don't always use this, but it does make your job a lot easier when filling the jars)
- Lots of other bells and whistles (but the top four are what I use on a regular basis)
Make your jam, sauce, etc. in one of the pots.
While jam, sauce, etc. is cooking, fill the remaining pots (one being the largest) with water and bring to a boil. Add lids, and rings to one of the pots. Add Mason jars to the other larger pot. Let boil for at least 10 minutes (to ensure all bacteria is killed).
Remove jars from the larger pot and shake out all excess water (I like to turn them upside down on a CLEAN towel to ensure they are dry). Once the jam, sauce, etc. is finished, fill the jars up until there is 1/4-1/2 inch of space left at the top (this is call 'head space'). With tongs, take out the jar lids from the other pot and place carefully on top of the filled Mason jars. Take out the jar rings with the tongs, place on the filled Mason jars and with a clean dish towel, screw the rings on tightly.
Once the jars have been filled and lidded, place them in the largest pot of boiling water. Let them boil for at least 15 minutes. This ensures that all bacteria is killed off, and you avoid any issues such as botulism.
Once boiled, remove the filled Mason Jars from the water bath and place on a safe surface to return to room temperature. During this time you should hear a "popping" sound, which means that the jars are adequately sealed. Don't worry too much if you don't hear this noise. Another way to check if yours jars are sealed is if the lid dips down in the center, then it is sealed.
Most jarred items can last up to a whole year. If the recipe has a lot of sugar, or pectin then it can last for up to 3 months in the fridge, opened. If it does not have a lot of sugar and pectin, then it may only last for a week in the fridge (although, this is debatable, as many grandmothers will dictate, "Oh just scrape the mold off of it, it's fine!).