To can or not to can

Confession: I am a fan of oven-processing.

Oven-processing is an alternative to canning, in which jars are placed in a hot oven instead of in a water bath.

pizza sauce in the making

The internet is full of loud voices in opposition to this practice. It is fraught with danger and the USDA has not approved it since 1943. And truly, there are too many variables to make it a strictly trustworthy process: varying oven temperatures, uneven heat distribution, danger of exploding jars due to dry heat, potential for bacteria due to inadequate internal temperature, etc. etc.

But I must admit–I’m still a fan. The USDA undoubtedly no longer approves wooden spoons, either.

With my quite-new stove, I trust the oven temperatures and heat distribution. And I can process 20 quarts or up to 28 pints at a time. Whereas on my stove’s flat-top surface, a canner requires an unbelievably long time to come to a boil (up to 40 minutes each time, even when the water starts hot), and processes only 9 quarts or 11 pints at a time. Plus, with the boiling point of water being 212 degrees, and my oven being set to 250 degrees for roughly twice as long, I feel quite safe.

The jars stay crystal clean, the kitchen stays cool, the cook stays happy.

Here’s how:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Fill jars, and cap with new canning flats and metal canning rings, twisting tightly into place. Put jars in oven, allowing slight spacing between jars to facilitate heat flow.

I processed my quarts of applesauce for 1 hour and 10 minutes, as per my friend Cynthia Hochstetler’s instructions. She’s the one who introduced me to the method, as she processes 100-150 quarts of applesauce per year. In all my 40 quarts, only one jar did not seal.

I tried it with pizza sauce pints as well, bringing the sauce back to a boil before filling the jars. Forty minutes of oven processing was recommended to be adequate, but I wasn’t quite happy with the heat of the jars, and left them in for another 15 minutes. After that time, they were very hot and sealed perfectly.

Again, each woman must decide what is safe for her family. If you have an older oven, are canning with meat, or feel uncomfortable with the idea, then definitely “do not try this at home.” Do your research. It worked for me, and saved me huge amounts of time and mess!

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11 years ago

I’ve actually never canned before – boiling, oven or otherwise. I did take a class one time though that was a lot of fun and have the starter kit so I’m still hopeful. 🙂 My advice: Do what works (and has been working) for you. Sounds like your oven has served you well.

11 years ago

Well what do you know! I’ve never heard of this before, but it sounds like a wonderful idea. And with all your disclaimers, you’re pretty sure not to get sued if it doesn’t work out. 🙂

11 years ago

I just recently learned about this method myself (from Cynthia as well!). I do not trust trying it in my antique gas oven. However, I am all for any new method that saves time and mess. 🙂

11 years ago

I do oven canning all the time– and feel very safe. I do my applesauce, tomato soup, pizza sauce. I’ve never done meat, but I think Chastin does. That scares me a little, but she has had great success. My favorite thing about this way of processing is how CLEAN the jars are. No scrubbing lids or sticky jar sides! Yay!

Cathy M
11 years ago

Did this with my grape juice this year. I’ve done some research since then and wish I would have heated them longer then I did. But I wonder how to decide how much time something needs in the oven. Do I double the water bath time if using the oven? What would cause it to explode?

Mama Zook
11 years ago

never have done this, but I do stack my pints in my canner to waterbathe them and so I can do at least 23 in mine at a time. A friend last year tried this with her pears and peaches and all came unsealed, wondering if she didn’t leave them in the oven long enough!!

Suzanna Weaver
11 years ago

Never, ever heard of this before but will definitely be trying it! And Mama Zook! Such a genius idea to stack pints! Shari and Mama Zook where have you been before today???

LaDonna Nice
11 years ago

With my pizza sauce and tomato sauce I actually just bring the sauce to a good boil, boil my lids and quickly place them on. I’ve never had problems with them sealing. Saves a lot of time. Been doing it for 5 + years now and none of us have gotten sick on it 🙂 so I guess it’s safe.

11 years ago

we canned our tomato products the same way as LaDonna. sure saves a lot of time. learned the hard way one year that the tomatoes need to be acidic enough for the “hot pack and done” method. since then we added 1/4 cup vinegar to 12 quarts of sauce and no more trouble with losing the seal after several weeks in the basement. It also helps if the lids are clean,wet, and hot. None of us ever got sick either, in my experience it’s easy to tell when the food is spoiled.

Renee S
11 years ago

I do oven canning, too, but only with foods that are already cooked and just need heated to seal. That might explain why the peaches and pears did not seal for Mama Zook’s friend. My SIL tried it with green beans and it did not work. Any more time saving canning ideas?

11 years ago

I tried this once with applesauce. They all sealed but a couple weeks later, the jars began to unseal. I got scared and hauled all the jars that were sealed up the steps, back to the kitchen, and recanned them in the normal boiling water method.

And I’ve never had the guts to try it again!

I think my problem may have been that my applesauce had cooled before I put it in the oven. (I had a newborn at the time and just couldn’t get it all done!) If I tried it again (which I don’t plan to) I would make sure everything was piping hot.


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