Old-Timers Practical Advice for Home Preserving

These tips have been collected from the 1940s and 1950s, most are quite practical but one is truly a piece of old-timer wisdom that I couldn’t resist including (you’ll know which one when you see it!). I’ve also included a section “Canning Arithmetic” from that time period, it provides a guideline for what quantities to expect from several different types of fruits.

Vintage Victory Garden Booklet Cover

  1. When making catsup, pour off the watery liquid on top of tomatoes after running through sieve. Your catsup will have a bright red appearance and cooking time will be cut in half.
  2. If your water bath canner does not have a rack, stretch an old rubber ring round the middle of each jar. This prevents the jars from bumping together and breaking while they are being processed.
  3. If you don’t have a rack, set extra jar rings on the bottom of the pot to keep your jars off the bottom.
  4. For foods which have been blanched for freezing, add ice cubes to the water in which they are to be chilled to hasten the chilling and retain the full flavor.
  5. To label jars of food, write on the jar while it is still hot with a bright colored crayon.
  6. Flaps cut from old unsealed envelopes can be used to label jars of fruit or preserves.
  7. Select only the perfect and fresh products. Imperfect and irregular shaped fruits and vegetables may be used in jams and preserves.
  8. One tablespoon vinegar to each quart beets will help retain their color.
  9. Use soft water for blanching and precooking peas; it helps to prevent cloudiness.
  10. Make sauerkraut when the moon is new until the first quarter, and the juice will stay on until it is used.
  11. That teaspoon off your metal measuring spoons makes a handy gadget for coring fresh pears, salads or desserts. Cut pears in half and then run metal teaspoon around the core. Presto, out it comes in a jiffy!
  12. When working with corn, place cob in angel food tube and cut off the corn. The corn will fall into pan.
  13. To keep pickles from shriveling, add one heaping tablespoon of alum to first salt water. (you’ll find Common Causes Of Poor Quality Pickles on this page)
  14. Use only sack salt for pickles and kraut because other salt has been treated, thus will soften, discolor, and give unpleasant taste.
  15. When processing tomatoes, put onions and peppers in with them, this is grand with rice or macaroni and it is all ready to use.
  16. Add a few drops of food coloring to a jar or two of pears. The colored pears will provide that extra touch in holiday desserts or salads.
  17. To clean lids, put them in a pan. Cover with sweet milk, let stand till clabbered, then take out and wash. They are like new.
  18. Soak jars overnight in a solution of 1 cup vinegar to 1 gallon of water, this will remove scale and hard water film.
  19. A little lime kept on shelves where jellies or preserves are stored, will usually prevent formation of mold.
  20. A little borax sprinkled in empty jars will keep them sweet and fresh until needed again.
  21. Red fruit fades if cooked too rapidly at the start. It should be heated slowly until hot clear through, then finished quickly.
  22. Cook red fruits in aluminum or enamel to avoid their getting a bluish color. Do not use a chipped enamel kettle.
  23. After plums are washed, pierce each one to prevent the skin from bursting.
  24. When using glass jars, remove only one at a time from the boiling water bath.
  25. If you’re processing more than one lot a day, mark the lot number on each label for quality control.
  26. Protect packed glass jars from the light to help protect the food from fading in color.


If the jars and fruit don’t come out even when you are canning, better sit down and do some figuring before you start to can. Here are some tips to help you…

  • Apples: 1 bushel (50 pounds) cans 17 to 20 quarts
  • Apricots: 4 baskets or crates (1 bushel) cans 20 to 25 quarts
  • Berries: 24 quart crate cans 15 to 24 quarts
  • Grapes: 1 bushel (48 pounds) cans 16 to 20 quarts
  • Pears: 1 bushel (58 pounds) cans 20 to 24 quarts
  • Peaches: 1 bushel (50 pounds) cans 18 to 20 quarts
  • Pineapples: 15 pineapples yields 30 pints
  • Plums: 1 bushel (56 pounds) cans 24 to 30 quarts
  • Tomatoes: 1 bushel (56 pounds) cans 15 to 20 quarts

More Goodies:

And you don’t want to miss these free labels to print.

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    • June Williams

    I just want to congragulate you for including info on canning, it is a rare bird these days. And most of all I find it interesting that the “moon” in mentioned when canning sauerkraut. Does the jet set even know what you are talking about? Can you tell I come from an old farm family, actually that paid alot of attention to the moon. I really am enjlying Tip Nut. The labels are fabulous, would you consider creating a pretty generic one? Thank you, June Bug

    • Mom's Cafe Home Cooking

    Thanks so much for this timeless wisdom collection on canning. I do a lot of canning so have heard many of these tips however, I had not heard the one about sauerkraut. Very interesting!

    • Stacy

    Caution! #15 can promote botulism! NEVER add low acid vegies like onions or peppers to tomatoes unless you are going to process your jars in a pressure cooker!

      • Amanda

      As long as you are adding vinegar- you should be fine- making a less seasoned ‘salsa’ almost- or a chunkier Spaghetti sauce type of mix….
      I add peppers and onions to my salsa and spaghetti sauce- …

      • Tanya

      Actually you can add onions and peppers safely. I have done it for years and I do not own a pressure canner. There is enough acid in tomatoes to keep it safe as long as you don’t go over board on the amount you add. I mix my onions that are finely chopped. The add only one tsp to each jar. Then I add a pinch of salt & a slice of beet ( old Russian trick to make tomatoes nice and deeper red). Then I fill the jar the rest of the way with diced tomatoes and process 25 minutes.

      • MsMarieH

      So long as you are following a safe tested recipe that allows for the proper acidity you are fine. However, I agree that just blindly monkeying around with adding your own ingredients on the fly is a recipe for disaster. It only takes once for a lifetime of regret.

    • mom of 5

    hi i was wondering if you could please tell me the secret to caning corn in the water bath, i tried it and did something wrong thank you hope to hear from you

      • Messed Up Mama

      I don’t think you can safely can corn in a water bath. You have to pressure can it to prevent botulism.

      • Amanda

      Yep- Corn, Greenbeans, low acid veggies alone- need pressure canned

    • Michelle

    the new moon, or no moon has to do with the magnetic pull of the earth. This is also the best time to make your flavored oils and vinegar.

    • Jen

    RE: #15 I tried canning salsa years ago and added onions and peppers and a bunch of other ingred. I didn’t use a pressure canner and had no problems what so ever with botulism…on the down-side the salsa turned out more like stewed tomatoes.

    • Lilac

    What is “sweet milk” and what is “clabbered”? 🙂

      • lalalaa

      Clabbered is something that will not happen with our new-fangled pasturized milk. When you could get raw milk is would “sour” into something usefull, Clabbered is what you would call the soured milk. It was edible not like the milk from the grocery store which is just rank when it sours.

      Sweet milk is just fresh milk, before it has clabbered.

      • Janice

      Sweet milk is an old fashion term for regular whole store bought milk. Clabbered is another old fashion term used for soured milk.

      • Marylon

      Lilac, sweet milk is just whole milk, this is opposed to soured milk which is buttermilk. If you leave your milk in the fridge long enough (or too long)it will get chunky, this is clabbered. Hope this helps.

      • RAMONA

      Sweet Milk is fresh milk and clabbered is when it is set out it starts to spoil and thickens up in other words clabbers.

    • Jan

    For years and years my Mother in law and then myself made what we called garden special. Tomatoes.onions.peppers.and celery. We used the hot water bath method and never lost a jar.No one ever got sick and i still have jars made over five years ago.

    • charlotte

    I have a question. I am a first time canner and this past summer I made stewed tomatoes and I did not use a pressure canner but a water bath. I have heard several things about this . One is that I can get botulisim if I eat these. Is this true?

    • Cyn Ann

    My mother canned green and yellow beans for years and never pressure canned just did in a water bath,she also did her own stewed tomatoes.

    My fathers mother did her canning with her oven the way factories do it and she had food from one year to the next no one got sick.

    The big deal today is you are not working with tomatoes from years ago they have played with them so now they say you have to cook a new way. get heritage seeds and cook with the veggies your grandmother had.

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