The growing season is upon us and if you haven't already done so, now is the time to make sure you have the supplies you need to safely preserve your garden bounty. Proper equipment in good condition is required for safe, high-quality home canned food. Preserving your homegrown fruits and vegetables can be very satisfying and not as complicated as you might think.
Start by taking time to make sure you follow the best practices for canning your produce. This begins by inspecting your equipment and supplies on hand. Use only standard tempered glass home canning jars, not used mayonnaise, pickle jars or other jars that were used to commercially can food items. It's fine to reuse canning jars if they are not chipped or cracked. Always use two-piece lids; purchase lids new each year (the sealing compound will break down in storage) and sort through screw bands to make sure they are not rusted.
Other items that come in handy for home canning include jar fillers, tongs, air bubble removers, and lid wands. If you are making jelly or jam, you may need pectin as well as sugar. Be sure to check the expiration dates on any supplies that you already have on hand. Be sure to purchase any new lids, jars or even pectin early in the season, because your local stores can quickly run out of these seasonal items.
A pressure canner is essential for canning low-acid vegetables, meats, fish, and poultry. There are two basic types of pressure canners: one has a metal weighted gauge and the other has a dial gauge to indicate the pressure inside the canner. It is important to have the dial gauge tested every year. Call the Garland County Extension Office at 501-623-6841 or email [email protected] to schedule a test of your dial pressure gauge.
Here is an important note about pressure canning in electric multicookers, such as an InstantPot: Even if there are instructions for pressure canning in the manufacturer's directions, USDA does not support the use of USDA canning processes in the electric, multicooker appliances with "canning" or "steam canning" buttons on their front panels. USDA pressure process directions have not been developed for that type of appliance. Our recommendations were determined for stovetop pressure canners that hold four or more quart-size jars standing upright.
A boiling water canner (water bath canner) is needed for canning other foods such as fruits, pickles, jellies, and jams. The canner should be deep enough to allow at least 1 or 2 inches of water above the tops of the jars. A boiling water canner should have a flat bottom so that it fits nicely on the stovetop and a tightfitting lid. Both types of canners should have a rack in the bottom to raise jars off the bottom of the canner.
It is highly recommended to use up-to-date canning instructions and recipes. Grandma's favorite recipe or a recipe that is all over the internet are not good resources for reliable safe recipes. If the resource is older than 1994, consider it to be outdated and not following the most updated recommendations for safety.
Sources for reliable information, in addition to the county Extension office, are the website for the National Center for Home Food Preservation http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/ and the most recently revised edition of the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, also available online for free download at https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html. Current editions of books and publications from manufacturers of major canning supplies such as the Ball Blue Book published after 1994 are also reliable.
If you have questions or want to have more hands-on experience in home food preservation, call the county Extension office at 501-623-6841 for the most current workshops being offered near you or email [email protected] You can also join the Yes We Can Extension Homemakers club to learn more about canning while putting your skills to good use for community service.
Master Gardener information
Master Gardener meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month online. The meetings are open to the public, and guests are welcome. For more information, call the Extension office at 623-6841 or email Alex Dykes at [email protected]
Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC, call 623-6841 or email Alison Crane, family and consumer sciences agent, at [email protected] Follow Alison on Facebook @garlandEGF and @Garland FCS, and EHC on Facebook @GarlandCountyEHC.
There are several 4-H Clubs for Garland County youths who are 5 to 19 years old. For information about Garland County 4-H Club membership or program benefits, contact Carol Ann McAfee at the Extension office, call 501-623-6841, or email [email protected] More information is available at http://www.uaex.edu/garland.