Plan now for food preservation this summer

Important information before you reuse last year’s canning supplies.

If you intend to preserve the bounty of summer fruits and vegetables, April is the time to start planning. Spring is the time to plan for the garden planting as well as evaluating your canning equipment and supplies. Current, safe equipment is critical for the success and safety of your home preserved foods. Also, equally important for preserving food at home is reliable, current canning instructions.

Using current, reliable canning resources is critical to the safety of the food you preserve. Michigan State University Extension recommends only using recipes from reliable sources that have been tested for safety. Food preservation fact sheets are available at your local county MSU Extension office as part of the Michigan Fresh program, or by visiting the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Other reliable sources include the 2009 edition of the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning or The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service’s So Easy to Preserve, a comprehensive book with information on all safe methods of home food preservation.

As you begin to consider what you will preserve, start by identifying what type of canner you will need. A pressure canner is essential for canning low-acid vegetables, meats, fish and poultry. One pressure canner has a dial gauge to indicate the pressure inside the canner; the other has a metal weighted gauge. Dial gauges must be tested for accuracy before each canning season. For information on testing a dial gauge, call your local MSU Extension office. Check the rubber gasket if your canner has one; it should be flexible and soft, not brittle, sticky or cracked. A boiling water canner is needed for canning other foods such as fruits, pickles, jellies and jams.

When assessing your canning supplies, start with the jars. Inventory your jars and decide if you need to purchase new jars. Inspect current jars for nicks, cracks or chips, especially around the top sealing edge. Nicks can prevent lids from sealing. Older jars can weaken with age and repeated use; they may break under pressure and heat. New jars are a better investment over time than buying used jars at yard sales or flea markets.

Mason-type jars specifically designed for home canning are good choices. These jars use two-piece self-sealing metal lids. Using other miscellaneous jars found around your home are not safe for canning food. An essential for every canning season is new canning lids. Used lids should be thrown away. The screw bands are re-usable if they are not bent, dented or rusted.

Spring is the season to begin planning for a safe and successful canning season. MSU Extension staff will be offering food preservation classes all around the state, visit our website to find a class near you, www.msue.msu.edu.

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