Plan now to safely preserve this summer

Take the time to prepare now to preserve Michigan Fresh produce this summer.

Various canning jars and lids.
Photo: Lisa Treiber, MSU Extension.

If you intend to preserve the bounty of summer fruits and vegetables, now is the perfect time to start planning. Your garden is growing, so now is the time to evaluate your preservation equipment and supplies. Equipment that has been maintained and is used properly is critical for the success and safety of your home preserved foods. Equally important for preserving food at home is using only current, research-based recipes.

Using current, research-based recipes and resources is critical to the safety of the food you preserve. Michigan State University Extension recommends only using recipes from reliable sources that are research-based and have been tested for safety. Michigan Fresh food preservation fact sheets are available at your local county MSU Extension office as part of the Michigan Fresh program. Other approved resources include the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the 2015 edition of the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning or the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension’s So Easy to Preserve, which is a comprehensive resource book including information on all the recommended, safe methods of home food preservation.

As you consider what to preserve, start by identifying what type of canner you will need. A pressure canner is essential for canning low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats, fish and poultry. One type of 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 MSU Extension office. Check the rubber gasket if your canner has one; it should be flexible and soft, not brittle, sticky or cracked. A water bath or atmospheric steam canner can be used for canning high-acid foods such as fruits, acidified tomatoes, pickles, jellies and jams.

When assessing your canning supplies, start with the jars. Inventory your supply and decide if you need to purchase new jars. Inspect current jars for nicks, cracks or chips, especially around the top sealing edge. Nicks and chips can prevent lids from sealing. Older jars can weaken with age and repeated use; they may crack and break under pressure and extreme heat. 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 your best choice. These jars use two-piece self-sealing metal lids. Using other miscellaneous jars found around your home are not safe for canning food. An essential for every canning season is new canning lids. Used lids should be thrown away. The screw bands are re-usable if they are not bent, dented, or rusted.

Now is the time to plan for a safe and successful preserving season. Visit MSU Extension's website to find the food preservation class that's right for you, including our free, virtual Preserving MI Harvest food preservation virtual class.

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