Proper storage of home preserved foods and equipment

With growing season coming to a close, it's time for a refresher on food preservation methods.

Three canned jars.

As our natural growing season comes to an end, it is important to properly store all of your home preserved foods correctly to maintain safety and quality over winter. Find a cool place between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, is dry and has some circulation to keep your jars filled with your home preserved foods. If contents are exposed to direct sunlight or stored in a warm place, the food may lose quality in a shorter amount of time.

Wash the outside of lids and jars to remove any residue that may have leaked out. Remove ring bands and wash and dry the outside of lids, jars and the band to remove any residue that may have leaked out in order to prevent rusting. It is recommended that jars be stored without ring bands to allow for easier detection of broken vacuum seals.

Label and date each jar with the name of the contents and the date is was preserved. This practice will help ensure you are eating foods that have been preserved safely in a timely matter. For the best quality of food, preserve only the amount of food that you can use in one year. It is important to not taste food from jars with lids that have become unsealed or show signs of spoilage. As each jar is taken off the shelf for use, examine its lid for tightness and that the lid is still vacuumed.

Canning equipment should also be stored properly. For safe operation of your pressure canner for the next year, Michigan State University Extension recommends cleaning the vent and safety valve by drawing a clean string or narrow strip of cloth through the opening, remove the valve and follow the manufacturer’s directions. The rubber gasket that helps the edges of the canner and lid prevent steam from escaping should be cleaned or replaced if needed. Clean the equipment with hot soapy water and then rinse and dry.

If your pressure canner has a dial gauge, be careful not to immerse the gauge when cleaning. If the inside of your aluminum canner has darkened, it can be cleaned by filling the canner with a mixture of one tablespoon cream of tartar to a quart of water and boil until the dark deposits disappear.

Store the canner with crumpled clean paper towels in the bottom to help absorb moisture and odors. Place the lid upside down on the canner, remembering not to seal it. These same directions apply to a weighted gauge canner, except that the lid can be submerged in water for cleaning.

Following proper storage of your home preserved foods will help ensure the quality and safety of your canned food to be enjoyed all year. Giving your canning equipment special attention in cleaning and maintenance will make you ready for the next growing season of preserving.

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