Spring into home food preservation

Get a head start on the summer food preservation season by getting your equipment ready and learning how to preserve your favorite foods.

It is exciting to see the signs of spring in Michigan; trees blooming, flowers growing and green grass. Soon the farm markets will be teaming with locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables that home food preservers can’t wait to preserve for use during the long winter months. In anticipation of this local bounty, there are several preparatory items home preservers can do now prior to the busy summer months.

The first item on your to-do list should be to enjoy your last summer’s produce, including frozen and canned items. Check the seals prior to consuming. It is important to use up your home canned foods within a year of preserving. Enjoy those delicious tomatoes you preserved last year!

Your next plan should be to examine your equipment to make sure it is safe for use this year, starting with your canners. Boiling water canners are used for canning all high acid foods like fruits, pickles, jellies/jams and acidified tomatoes. There isn’t maintenance needed on this unit, but make sure you have all of the pieces of equipment; the canner, lid and rack. Your pressure canner is the only safe way to can low-acid foods like vegetables, meats, fish and poultry. Check the rubber gaskets for flexibility; it shouldn’t be brittle or cracked. If you have a dial gauge, it will need to be checked for accuracy. Contact your local Michigan State University Extension office to see where you can get it calibrated.

Another key piece of canning equipment is jars and bands. Examine your jars for any chips or nicks along the rim. Any damage to the glass may cause your jars to either break during processing or cause seal failures. Replace bands that are rusty or distorted from use or storage. Remember to replace your lids each year. You cannot reuse lids after any kind of use.

A final step in getting ready for food preservation season is to check your resources to make sure you are using up-to-date and research-based resources. The National Center for Home Food Preservation, The USDA Guide to Home Canning, and Michigan Fresh bulletins are available through MSU Extension. These are accurate resources for home food preservation. Double check your processing times and methods for the foods you wish to preserve with the resources listed above. Maybe you would like to try to preserve something new this year. If so, read the current recommendations to make sure you have the necessary ingredients and supplies.

Home food preservation is a wonderful way to preserve the local bounty to enjoy during the cold, winter months. If you are an experienced or novice food preserver, you can get a head start on a freezer or cupboard full of preserved produce by verifying your resources and checking out your equipment.

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