There could be several reasons you don’t have a canning rack. For one thing, canners don’t always come with their racks, especially if purchased second-hand. For another, you may be just getting started with canning, and rather than investing a lot of money straight off, you have to make do with what you already have at home.
In this article, I will give you a guide to water bath canning without a rack using a few different methods.
In a hurry? Here’s the quick guide:
To make a DIY canning rack, cut two-inch-wide and foot-long strips of aluminum foil. Make a circle with the foil that fits the perimeter of your canning pot, then make a zig-zag pattern with the foil to stretch across the diameter of the foil circle.
While the aluminum foil rack is a great one-off solution with materials you probably already have at home, it’s not the best long-term or even the most stable solution for your jars. For more DIY canning rack options that may be more suited to your available materials and preferences, check out the rest of the article.
Table of Contents
Aluminum Foil Canning Rack
To make an aluminum foil canning rack, cut strips of aluminum that are a foot long and two inches wide. Make a circle that fits your stockpot, then mesh the remaining foil rods to the circle to create a zig-zag pattern.
There are many methods someone desperate to have a rack can use, but the aluminum foil method can be done in a pinch with only one material and a little bit of craftsmanship.
First, roll out a foot of aluminum foil and cut out seven strips that are two inches in width. Roll each of these strips into tightly-wound rods that are as even as possible across the surface. Using your canning or stockpot as a reference, make a circle with a few of your aluminum rods so that it fits neatly within the pot.
Next, fit your remaining aluminum rods lengthwise in a zig-zag pattern across the circle. You want to use a zig-zag instead of a cross-hatch pattern, so the foil doesn’t become too elevated on the nodes where the rods meet, making it an uneven surface for the jars.
Use extra foil to mesh the rods to the outer circle, and make sure by testing that, number one, you can place the jars on the rack and they won’t fall over, and number two, they won’t fall through and touch the bottom of the pot.
This method is ideal for a one-time canning session, but this is not a long-term alternative canning solution. For one thing, the foil is fragile and may not last for more than one or two sessions, and for another, it may be difficult to roll the foil so that it is an even surface to support the jars appropriately.
Canning Ring Rack
To make a canning rack alternative with canning rings, lay the extra rings on the bottom of the pot to see how many you need, then using wire or a non-soluble string, tie them together in a pattern to cover the bottom of the pot.
The reason this method isn’t the immediate suggestion, though it is a better solution, is because not everyone who is just starting with canning or doing it as an occasional hobby will have extra canning rings lying around. If you do, this is a good semi-long-term solution.
Using the bottom of your pot as a reference, arrange the extra canning rings so that the makeshift rack will fit comfortably, but there are no gaps for jars to fall through. Use the smaller-sized canning ring you have as you don’t want your smallest jars to fall through the holes of bigger canning rings.
After you’ve got your arrangement, use wire or non-soluble string (some people use zip-ties) to secure the rings together. I suggest wire because it will not melt with high heat. You might have to be careful with a string like hemp because it will dissolve in the water. Something acrylic like ribbon or yarn might do just fine.
After you’ve secured the rings together, they can sit together on the bottom of the pot and not float to the top! This method of canning rack may last for a while, though the string may need to be replaced every once in a while.
Wash Cloth Cushion Canning Rack Alternative
To make a cushion on the bottom of your pot to act as a canning rack alternative, sew two or three layers of clean washcloths together or use a sturdy, large potholder to lay across the bottom of the pot.
This method is not the recommended go-to for a couple of reasons. While this can be done with an extra bit of frustration, the washcloths or potholder are going to float to the top while you have the water boiling, meaning you’re going to have to push it to the bottom with the jars as you place them in. This method might also result in an unstable surface which will cause the jars to knock together excessively or fall over, jeopardizing the canning and sanitization process.
As an extra warning, you can’t assure proper water and airflow with this method, which is essential for creating a seal.
If you’re in absolutely dire need and have a deft hand, though, you may be able to make this work.
To start, lay two or three washcloths together so they lay flat and the corners are touching. Mark with a pen several small areas that are equidistant from each other. Using a pair of scissors, cut these areas out, making sure they’re not large enough for a jar to slip through and touch the bottom of the pot.
If you’re using a potholder, sorry, you’ll need to punch some holes in that, too.
After you’ve cut the holes, lay the washcloths together so each corner matches. Using a sewing needle and some sturdy thread, create loops around each corner with a strong knot.
Do the same for the middle of the washcloth. If you want to make this work, secure the spaces between the holes in the cloth with some thread as well. This will reduce the chance that the water gets inside the layers of the cloth and makes havoc.
While this is a more stable surface with all of these threads, you can begin to see how water won’t be able to circulate as well. You can leave the washcloths or potholder or towel in a single layer on the bottom, only secured by the jars, but this carries its risks.
With these three methods, you can cobble a DIY canning rack together for that canning session you’ve been dying for. I hope these canning rack alternatives and common problem solutions will help you get canning with fewer jar casualties and lost time.