Home canning equipment shortages

Tips to get your harvest safely preserved during peak preservation season.

Jars of home-canned pasta sauce on a kitchen counter.
Photo: Lisa Treiber.

Food preservation is beginning to peak in Michigan, and with that there is a demand for canning supplies. When facing some shortages on store shelves of necessary items, from basic lids to pressure canners, what is a home food preserver to do?

With some careful planning, you should still be able to safely preserve your harvest.  Like other shortages we have experienced this year related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, it appears to be a matter of supply and demand; manufacturers were not planning on this much demand for equipment, and there also has been a slowdown in creating supplies due to worker safety.

If you have been unable to locate a pressure canner to can your vegetables, consider asking a family member or neighbor if you can borrow theirs. If there is one within your family, you could even pool your resources and preserve your food together. If you need your dial gauge checked, you can either mail your gauge to Presto for testing, (if it is a Presto gauge) or purchase a new one to ensure you are within the safe range to process your foods.

If you cannot find lids, do not reuse previously processed lids, they are designed for one-time use.  The sealing compound forms an impression when it seals on the rim of the jar, forming the airtight seal. This may not happen again if you try to reuse it.  If lids are stored properly, in a cool dry environment, they may be used for up to five years from the date of manufacture. After five years, the compound will begin to dry out and may no longer seal correctly. Reusable lids are not recommended by the USDA at this time.

It is important to remember preserving food is a science, and you will need to continue following research-tested methods to safely store your produce for the safety of your family. Utilizing informational resources from MSU Extension, the USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation will give you access to find other ways to preserve if necessary. For example, if new lids cannot be found, consider giving freezing a try this canning season. Freezing is one of the simplest and quickest methods to preserve foods until you want to consume them. Refrigeration is another option for some items, such as salsa and pickles. Keeping these items in the refrigerator will extend the shelf life for several weeks and allow a little flexibility in storage containers if you are unable to find canning jars. Salsa can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, and pickle recipes can last up to one month.

Instead of canning your harvest, you may also be able to dehydrate it. Many fruits and vegetables can be safely dried using a food dehydrator. Follow directions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation for best results.

Reach out to friends, family and neighbors, and be resourceful to get through this year’s growing season. It is possible -- it will just take some creative, safe thinking to make it happen. Make sure you refer to MSU Extension’s Michigan Fresh fact sheets for safe processing times.

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