Now that spring has officially sprung, some Oklahomans may be planning graduation parties or vacations, while others may be shopping for some new summer clothes. However, with the gardening season just around the corner, now is a great time for canning enthusiasts to check over their supplies to get ready for canning season.
For those who love to plant a large vegetable garden or purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at the local farmers market, preserving these foods is a great way to ensure great taste all year long. First and foremost, proper equipment in good working condition is a must for safe, high-quality home-canned food.
A boiling water canner is needed for canning foods such as fruits, pickles, jellies and jams. A pressure canner is essential for preserving low-acid vegetables but also is used to preserve meats, fish and poultry.
No matter what you’re canning, safety is of utmost importance. Checking all of your equipment before you’re ready to use it will help ensure not only a safe product but also makes the process easier. You might have inherited your grandmother’s canning equipment and are excited to give it a try this summer, but it’s imperative to ensure everything is in proper working order.
A boiling water canner should be deep enough to allow at least 2 inches of water to boil over the tops of the jars. There are two basic types of pressure canners, including one with a dial gauge and one with a metal weighted gauge. The dial gauge must be tested for accuracy before each canning season. If you have questions about this, contact your local OSU Cooperative Extension office for assistance.
Be sure to check the rubber gasket if your canner has one. It should be flexible and soft, not sticky or cracked. Also, make sure any small pipes or vent ports with openings are clean and open all the way through. Both types of canners should have a rack in the bottom to keep jars off the bottom of the canner.
Now is a good time to inventory your jar collection and determine if you need more. Supplies may be limited once canning season is in full swing. Inspect the jars for any nicks, cracks or chips, especially around the top sealing edge. These can prevent the jars from sealing properly.
Even if the jars appear to be in good shape, consider replacing them if they are old. Very old jars can weaken with age and repeated use and can break under pressure and heat. Also, make sure any jars you purchase are specifically designed for home canning. The USDA recommends mason-type jars that use two-piece, self-sealing metal lids. While you can reuse the metal rings if they are not bent or rusted, the flat lids must be new every canning season.
It’s also a good time for up-to-date canning instructions. Publications and information are available at your local OSU Cooperative Extension office.
Food safety and food quality are the top priorities when it comes to home food preservation. Although some electric, multi-cooker appliances do come with instructions for pressure canning, the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service doesn’t support the use of the USDA canning processes in these appliances. The guidelines were developed for stovetop pressure canners, which hold four or more quart-size jars standing upright. We don’t know at this time if proper thermal process development work has been done in order to justify canning advice that’s distributed with these multi-cooker appliances, and we don’t recommend using them for home canning at this time.
To get the most out of your canning time, read the instructions for what you want to can before you are ready to prepare the food.
You may need to purchase some ingredients or other needed items in order to prepare the foods exactly as the directions indicate. Planning ahead can save time, money and perhaps a little frustration before harvest and canning season arrives.