Canning versus freezing: What’s the best preservation technique for you?

Deciding what is best for you is the first step in preserving food; read on to explore the two techniques and to learn about resources offered by Michgan State University Extension.

Do you wish you could take advantage of the summer harvest or great specials at the grocery store? You can! Have you ever thought of putting up a bounty of tomatoes, weekend fishing catch or a bushel of apples? You can! However, you should answer some questions beforehand:

  1. Have you been trained in the proper/safe way to can meats and low-acid foods?
  2. Do you have jars, lids and rings to can acid foods?
  3. Is there a water bath or calibrated pressure canner at your disposal?
  4. Do you have adequate freezer space?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, you no doubt, have a pantry rich in home-canned foods waiting to be enjoyed. If not, there are steps you can take to can and freeze to save money.

If you are in need of training, first decide which preservation method you would like to use. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension offers training in freezing, pressure canning, hot water bath and drying. If you do not have freezer space, you may want to invest in a pressure canner for vegetables and meats or a water bath kettle for acid foods, like tomatoes.

After you have decided on a method and have the training, the next step is purchasing the supplies. Many people buy jars and lids at yard sales – that is fine, as long as the rims are not chipped and the jar is made for canning. Reused mayonnaise jars are not safe! Lids can be used only once, but many times you can purchase them at the end of the canning season at a discount. 

Freezer containers and bags are easy to find anywhere. Remember that bags should only be used once, so consider that when shopping the first time for freezer supplies. The more expensive plastic containers may be a better buy as they can be used more than once. Used margarine tubs are one-use items and should not be used.

If you do have a pressure canner or the training to use it, the dial gauge can be checked for accuracy at most Extension offices. If you have the weighted gauge, it is calibrated. The gasket should be checked as well. If you haven’t had your gauge tested, please call your local extension office for information on where to take it.

If you have freezer space and wish to take advantage of seasonal goods, learn the proper way to put up the foods to maintain quality. If you have herbs and wish to dry them for later use, there is information on that as well.

Information on safely preserving food can be learned by visiting the Food Preservation page on the MSU Extension website; on the right column of the webpage, you’ll find links for food preservation lectures and training workshops, as well as descriptions of the various programs offered by MSU Extension.

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