Five Ways To Prepare For Canning Season

Every year, as summer draws to a close I start gearing up for canning season. If you're new to the canning world, or an old pro, hopefully these tips help you enter preservation season calm.  It's super easy to get overwhelmed, believe me.  Hopefully this helps you be prepared to tackle those bushels of tomatoes, cucumbers and corn.

1. Set Goals

What are your goals for canning? You may want to save your family money or you may just enjoy the craft of it. You may have a garden and want to enjoy reaping the benefits of it all year long. You may enjoy canning because you have control over what goes into it (like no chemicals and preservatives).

You may have only one goal, or a few that I listed above. Think about your goals. Why do you want to do this and what do you want to get out of it?

I can for a few different reasons. I love that it saves our family money, it's super yummy, it's convenient and honestly I just really love canning. I love knowing that I can run downstairs and grab a jar of spaghetti sauce or chicken broth.

2.  Understand Canning Styles {there are two}

-Hot water bath canning: submerge canned foods in hot water and boil the jars for a certain length of time

-Pressure cooker canning: enclose canned foods in a pressure cooker and process them for a certain length of time. The temperature inside a pressure cooker is higher than is possible in a pot of boiling water.

3. Check Your Equipment

Even if you are a seasoned canner, you normally find that first canning session awkward.  Finding your rhythm takes a bit. Preparing ahead of time can make the process so much easier. An important step is taking the time to evaluate your canning equipment.

-Canning Tools: Gather together all your canning utensils including spoons {I prefer wooden}, your jar rack, magnetic lid lifter {a tool for picking up and placing just one lid at a time}, canning funnel {to get liquids into the jars without spilling all over} and jar lifter {essential for getting hot jars out of hot water safely}. WalMart carries a canning starter kit and a canning utensil kit.  I purchased a medium sized plastic tote also.  That is what I store all my canning items in.  I can just pull that tote out and know all my canning supplies are in it rather than searching all over for them.  Not to mention they are easier lost if they aren't stored together.

-Canners: If you're planning on canning anything that requires the water bath method, you'll need a pot tall enough to accommodate your jars. Make sure your pot has enough room for a couple inches of boiling water and a couple inches of head room above that is fine for boiling water bath canning. Your pot will also need to have a canning rack in it.

Some of the items you're planning to can may require pressure canning {green beans is one example}.  Wash and rinse your canner to start with.  Check the sealing rings and over-pressure plug. Replace if needed. These should be replaced every two to three years. Review your canner’s manual to refresh your memory of the canning procedure.

-Lids and Rings: Check over all your rings and discard the ones that are distorted, dented, or rusty as they could cause your jars not to seal properly.  If you're like me, you always have way more rings than you'll ever use. I'm not quite sure how that happens honestly. If you are buying new jars, a lot of times they will come with lids and rings.  Purchase plenty of new lids early in the season. You don’t want to run out when elbow deep in sauce.  

-Canning Jars: Check your jars carefully for cracks and chips. Hold on to the original boxes for storage. Let me say that again, hold on to the original boxes. When this girl started canning, she threw those boxes away. Big mistake! I store my canned food in the basement, and those boxes make life so much easier when you're carrying precious jars of amazingness down flights of stairs. Take inventory of your empty canning jars so you have an idea of how many you have on hand. Watch the local sale flyers, normally around canning season stores will have sales. The jars will need washed before use. I fill my dishwasher up and start the cycle when I start my canning. Not only are the jars clean, but they're normally still warm when I'm ready for them.

4. Buy Your Basics

Pull out all those recipes, read over them and make sure you have the ingredients on hand. Trust me, this is important. You don't want to get your spaghetti sauce nearly done and realize you're out of tomato paste. Been there, done that. 

There are some items that I already know I will use a ton of throughout canning season. Tomato paste, vinegar, salt, sugar and ketchup are my must-haves for canning season. Your basics might also include pectin and bottled lemon juice.

Stocking up also means you must sort out your recipes first and decide what you're canning. So before you begin, search out recipes in your favorite cookbook or look on Pinterest. Here is a link to my Pinterest board all about canning. There are so many amazing canning recipes there!

Check through your spices, too, and make sure you’re good for italian seasonings, cinnamon, pickling spice, or whatever spices you know will be used. I highly recommend buying your spices in bulk. Fresh spices mean tastier preserves!

5. Invite Your Girls Over

An important part of this process is not overwhelming yourself. And if this is your first time canning, trust me, you'll want all the help you can get. Especially if it's someone who has canned prior. Plus it's just more fun to do this kind of work with another person.  Chatting and laughing make the day go faster!

And there you have it. You're all ready for a fun-filled day of canning. And listening for that ping ping coming from your kitchen later in the day. 

Watch my blog for an upcoming post, my top 5 favorite canning recipes!