One of the delights of summer is the abundance of fresh, organic, homegrown vegetables that are available. The advantage of growing your own garden is that you can harvest and enjoy your vegetables when they are at peak flavor and nutrition.
My goal each year is to try to grow enough food for fresh eating and to preserve for winter. Since our growing season is short, this means that the majority of the harvest all comes in around the same time.
Some of the harvest can be cured and stored on shelves in our cool basement over winter. The garlic and onions are cured and stored in baskets, the potatoes and other storage crops are still in the garden and will be harvested later in the fall.
This time of the year finds the kitchen counters piled high with tomatoes waiting to be turned in to tomato sauce and salsa, the refrigerator’s crisper draws are crammed with string beans and carrots ready to be pressure canned, and cucumbers waiting to be turned into pickles. Yup, it is officially canning season.
It can be overwhelming at times but here are some strategies to prepare for canning season:
Evaluate Your Canning Equipment:
Even though I have canned for years, I always find the first canning project of the season awkward and clumsy. It takes me a few sessions to find a rhythm. Preparing ahead of time can make the process so much easier. Take the time to evaluate your canning equipment with these tips:
Canners: Pull out your canners from storage and wash everything in soapy water and rinse well. Examine your sealing rings and over-pressure plug. Replace if needed. These should be replaced every two to three years. If you use a dial gauge, have it tested to be sure it is accurate. Most extension offices will offer this service (look yours up here). Review your canner’s manual to refresh your memory of the canning procedure.
Canning Tools: Gather together all your canning utensils including your jar rack, magnetic lid lifter, bubble popper, canning funnel, and jar lifter. Wash in soapy water and rinse well. Store in your canner so they will be easy to find when you are ready to can.
Organize Your Canning Jars: Sort through your empty canning jars and arrange by size. Check the jars carefully for cracks and chips. Hold on to the original boxes for storage or purchase totes to keep the jars safe. Take inventory of your empty canning jars so you have an idea of how many you have on hand. Keep an eye on sales flyers to make additional purchases of canning jars if needed. Wash jars in hot, soapy water and rinse well before using.
Lids and Rings: Check over all your rings and discard the ones that are distorted, dented, or rusty. Purchase plenty of new lids early in the season. You don’t want to run out when elbow deep in tomato sauce.
Review Your Canning Recipes: Pull out your canning books and check online for updated safe canning recipes. Familiarize yourself with the ingredients of the recipes and the amount of harvest needed for each procedure. Bookmark these two websites: The National Center for Home Food Preservation and Ball Fresh Preserving. The canning recipes on these websites are up to date and rigorously tested to be safe.
Canning Ingredients: Assess your canning ingredients including vinegar, organic sugar, pectin, pickling spices, bottled lemon juice, and citric acid. Discard any old or outdated items and replace with fresh ones.
Hopefully, these tips will help you prepare for the bulk of canning season and soon your shelves will be filled with jars of homegrown goodness.
I have partnered with some remarkable bloggers to bring you an entire month long celebration of National Organic Harvest Month including harvesting tips, recipes, preserving, sharing, and how to prepare your garden future harvests.
Please be sure to check out their tips and more: Kathie from Homespun Seasonal Living – Teri from Homestead Honey – Chris from Joybilee Farm – Susan from Learning and Yearning – Shelle from Preparedness Mama – Angi from SchneiderPeeps – Janet from Timber Creek Farm