Safely preserving food starts now

Start your planning in the spring for a safe and successful canning season.

The popularity of home preserving food is on the rise. For those who will be preserving the bounty of summer fruits and vegetables now 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 are reliable and current canning instructions.

Using up-to-date canning instructions is critical to the safety of the food you preserve. It is recommended to only use recipes from reliable sources featuring recipes that are tested for safety. Food preservation publications and bulletins are available at your county local MSU Extension office, 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 types of home food preservation.

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 county 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 buy new jars this year. Inspect those you have 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 break under pressure and heat. Consider investing in new jars if you need to. 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 best. Jars that use two-piece self-sealing metal lids are the recommended container in USDA guidelines. Using other miscellaneous jars found around your home are not safe for canning food. An essential for every canning season is new flat lids. Used lids should be thrown away. The screw bands are re-usable if they are not bent, dented or rusted.

Plan ahead for summer food preservation to ensure you have success while canning and healthful eating for the rest of the year.

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