NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Ready, Set, Can at Home

Ready, Set, Can at Home


            Considering most of us are just planting our gardens, home food preservation season may seem a long ways off but some small steps now can mean big savings later.

            Be sure to check your equipment and supplies before starting any canning project to avoid stopping in the middle and running to the store.

            Canners: Pull out your canners from storage and wash everything in soapy water and rinse well. Examine your sealing rings and over-pressure plug. Replace if needed. These should be replaced every two to three years.

            Canning Tools: Gather together all your canning utensils including your jar rack, magnetic lid lifter, bubble popper, canning funnel, and jar lifter. Wash in soapy water and rinse well. Store in your canner so they will be easy to find when you are ready to can.

            Organize Your Canning Jars: Sort through your empty canning jars and arrange by size. Check the jars carefully for cracks and chips. Hold on to the original boxes for storage or purchase totes to keep the jars safe. Take inventory of your empty canning jars so you have an idea of how many you have on hand. Keep an eye on sales flyers to make additional purchases of canning jars if needed. Wash jars in hot, soapy water and rinse well before using.

            Lids and Rings: Check over all your rings and discard the ones that are distorted, dented, or rusty. Purchase plenty of new lids early in the season. You don’t want to run out when elbow deep in tomato sauce.

            Review Your Canning Recipes: Pull out your canning books and check online for updated safe canning recipes. Familiarize yourself with the ingredients of the recipes and the amount of harvest needed for each procedure. Pick up new, up-to-date info on home food preservation from your NDSU Extension Service Office.

            Canning Ingredients: Assess your canning ingredients including vinegar, organic sugar, pectin, pickling spices, bottled lemon juice, and citric acid. Discard any old or outdated items and replace with fresh ones.

            Old canning equipment often turns up at garage sales and auctions. Though canners may appear to be in good shape, many need replacement parts before they can be safely used. In some cases, old brands of canners are no longer manufactured, which makes finding replacement parts virtually impossible.

            Is the gauge attached or with the canner?

             Is the petcock safety valve complete?

            Are the threads of the opening undamaged?

            Does the canner lid require a rubber gasket?

             Is the canner round? When looking directly into the canner, does it appear to be exactly round and not oblong or bulged in one place? If it is not round, do not use it for canning.

            Is the bottom of the canner flat and level? A canner with a recessed or rounded bottom should not be used for canning.           

            When considering the purchase of a new canner, you will be able to choose between models with either a dial gauge or weighted gauge. A gauge is essential to control pressure and to let you know how much pressure is built up inside the canner. Dial gauges are visual, indicating the amount of pressure inside the canner with a pointer that moves around the dial face. The benefit of canners with dial gauges is also their drawback: You can more closely control their pressure, but dial gauges should be checked every year as well as after any mishap, such as being dropped, or after potential mishandling, such as after a household move.

            Weighted gauges will rock gently or frequently make a “jiggling” noise, indicating maintenance of the correct pressure. Follow manufacturer’s instructions to know how a specific weighted gauge should rock or jiggle. When pressure is released too frequently or constantly, liquid is pulled from the jars inside.  Dial pressure gauges can be checked at your local NDSU Extension Office – free of charge!

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