by Shirley Camp, retired extension educator
Thank goodness winter 2010 is over! It’s time to gather together your supplies for the canning season.
Check for freshness
Check expiration dates on pectins and other ingredients and throw away any outdated foods. Also check your spices, smell them to see if they have a good aroma, if not, toss those and buy new. As with any food preparation, begin with the best quality supplies you can.
Canning Equipment Do’s and Dont's
I’ve been seeing canning jars and equipment in the stores since February. Watch for sales on jars and buy what you think you can use. One thing to remember – do not save the flat lids that seal to the jars from year to year. They have a sealing compound around the rim that can deteriorate in storage. If I have leftovers of these, I have used them for some of the popular mixes in jars since these are not sealed.
If you have a pressure canner, check it over. Some Extension Offices offer a service to check dial-type gauges. This should be done annually, if possible. Weighted gauges do not need to be checked. If you are shopping for a pressure canner, one word of caution, beware of auctions and garage sales. Pressure canners come in all shapes and sizes and have several parts – buying one at a sale may leave you with a large flower pot because some of the parts are missing. Also, there are lots of “antique” canners out there – ones that are no longer manufactured or that are unsafe to use. If you know what you are looking for and are certain that the canner has had good care, a “sale” canner may be okay for you.
Another word on pressure canners – if the bottom is warped, don’t buy it! For a period of time the directions for pressure canning left out one critical step – exhausting the canner – which left the bottom of the canner warped. Metal stress. Not a good thing
Use real canning jars
Jars are another item you may pick up at garage sales and auctions. First of all, make sure they are real canning jars, not jars that once contained peanut butter, pickles, mayo, etc. Mason canning jars are what you need. Secondly, the green, blue, and brown canning jars are antiques – use them for your crafts, not canning. The same is true for the old zinc lids and glass tops with wire bails. Today we use the flat lids (called either lid or flat) and a ring to seal the jar. Also check for nicks and cracks – these may cause seal failure.
Wands and Jar lifters
A jar lifter is essential as is a funnel. A bubble wand is better than a metal knife for removing bubbles from the food. A magnet lid lifter will help you get the lids out of the hot water before putting them on the jars. I bought a lid rack recently that keeps the lids separate in the hot water – makes it a lot easier to take one out and put it on the jar.
5 Tips for Planning Your Canning Season
Read Shirley’s tips on freezing early spring vegetables and fruits