Safely preserving food starts right now

Start your planning in the spring for a safe and successful canning season.

Are you thinking about home preserving this year? For those who will be preserving the bounty of summer fruits and vegetables, now is the time to start planning. Spring is the time to plan for the garden planting as well as evaluating your canning equipment and supplies. Current, safe equipment is critical for the success and safety of your home preserved foods. Also, equally important for preserving food at home are reliable and current canning resources and recipes.

Using up-to-date canning instructions is critical to the safety of the food you preserve. It is recommended to only use recipes from reliable sources as they are tested for safety. Research based recommendations for home food preservation are available by visiting Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan Fresh website or the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Other reliable sources to utilize include the 2015 edition of the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning or the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service’s So Easy to Preserve, a comprehensive book with resources for safely home preserving many types of food.

A pressure canner is essential for canning low-acid vegetables, meats, fish and poultry. One pressure canner has a dial gauge to indicate the pressure inside the canner. The other canner 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 county MSU Extension office. Check the rubber gasket if your canner has one. It should be flexible and soft, not brittle, sticky or cracked. A boiling water canner is needed for canning high-acid foods such as fruits, pickles, jellies and jams.

When assessing your canning supplies, start with the jars. Inventory your jars and inspect them for cracks or chips, especially around the top sealing edge. Cracks and chips can prevent lids from sealing. Older jars can weaken with age and repeated use, they break under pressure and heat. Consider investing in new jars since they are a better investment over time than buying used jars at yard sales or flea markets. Jars that use two-piece self-sealing metal lids are the recommended container in USDA guidelines. Using other miscellaneous jars found around your home  are not safe for canning food. An essential for every canning season is new lids. Used lids should be thrown away. The screw bands are reusable if they are not bent, dented or rusted.

Plan ahead now for summer food preservation to ensure you have everything you need to be successful and safe for your summer home food preservation.

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