It’s spring and preservers are chomping at the bit in anticipation of canning season. Here are a few tips and ideas to ready yourself for the task.
Check your Canners:
Whatever canner you use, it needs to be checked over once a year. For water bath canners and atmospheric steam canners, check for rust and ensure they are clean. Pressure canners need to be inspected to ensure the gaskets are still clean and pliable. Remember that dial gauge types need to be pressure tested once a year.
Check Canning Equipment:
Do an inventory check of equipment. A funnel, bubbler, implement to measure headspace, jar lifter, cooling rack, and general kitchen utensils. Assess your jar collection and lids. Only Mason-style jars are recommended for home canning and new lids are required for each batch unless you are using Tattler lids which are reusable. The least expensive canning jars are Country Classics (Home Hardware) and Golden Harvest (sold at Canadian Tire and Walmart). Large volumes of lids can be purchased at Misty Meadows in Conn.
Make a Plan:
I know deciding what to preserve depends on what the gardens provide. Being flexible is important but having a plan doesn’t hurt. Check your pantry. Canned goods are good for 2 years if the seal has remained. Sort through what you have, removing items that are old, moving items to the front that should be soon used. Note what remains and where the gaps are. You might start a journal to record what you make, recipe sources, and dates. Finally check your resources. Use recipes that are developed in test-kitchens. There are many internet sites that should not be relied on for safe recipes. Use Bernardin, Ball, Test Kitchens of America, Canadian Living and digital resources like The National Centre for Home Food Preservation or Healthy Canning. One of the best parts of preserving is reading recipes!
Check Your Altitude:
Altitude is critical to proper, safe canning practice. Altitude affects boiling point. The higher the altitude the lower the boiling point which means it takes longer to properly process your preserves. High quality reference books and online resources will indicate how to adjust processing times based on altitude. I live in Kimberley where the altitude is 843 ft. Most recipes give processing times for altitudes between 0 and 1000 ft. Therefore, I can use the processing time as published. But if you live in the Dundalk Highlands your altitude is 1735ft. At this altitude you would need to increase the processing time by 5 minutes. This applies to pressure canning too where pressure needs to be increased (10 to 15 lbs for example). So, google your altitude or put your address into mapdevelopers.com and consider this part of preparedness for canning this season.
We are all looking forward to dusting off the canners and getting into the kitchen with fruits and vegetables from our gardens. This is the time to take stock of your gear and make a plan to fill your pantry for family and friends!