Whether you are a veteran canner or brand new to home food preservation, get ready for this canning season by checking your equipment and supplies. Proper equipment in good condition is required for safe, high quality home canned food. A pressure canner is essential for canning low-acid vegetables, meats, fish, and poultry. Two basic types are available. One has a dial gauge to indicate the pressure inside the canner; the other has a metal weighted gauge. Dial gauges must be tested for accuracy before each canning season. Additionally, check the rubber gasket if your canner has one; it should be flexible and soft, not brittle, sticky or cracked. Also, make sure any small pipes or vent ports with openings are clean and open all the way through. For information on inspecting your pressure canner including dial gauge testing contact Tonya Short at Purdue Extension Knox County, 812-882-3509 or short43@purdue.edu.

A boiling water canner can be used for canning other foods such as fruits, pickles, jellies and jams. The canner should be deep enough to allow at least one to two inches of water to boil over the tops of the jars.

Both types of canners should have a rack in the bottom to keep jars off the bottom of the canner.

Inventory your jars and decide if you should buy new jars this year. Inspect jars for nicks, cracks or chips, especially around the top sealing edge. Nicks can prevent lids from sealing. Very old jars can weaken with age and repeated use and can break under pressure and heat. Consider investing in new jars if you need to, and be wary of buying used jars for the same reasons just listed.

Mason-type jars specifically designed for home canning along with two-piece self-sealing metal lids are recommended for optimal safety. A must every canning season is new lid flats. Lids should not be reused. Be aware not all lids are alike. Due to a shortage of lids, the market has witnessed a flood of off brand lids which may not provide the same compound sealant as name brand lids. Name brand manufacturers only contract with well-known, reputable retailers. To ensure you are getting quality, genuine materials be sure to purchase directly from the manufacturer or the store they contract with and not from a third-party vendor. The screw bands are re-usable if they are not bent, dented or rusted.

A final must is reliable, up-to-date canning instructions. Publications and information are available at the extension office, or on the Web site for the National Center for Home Food Preservation. The Purdue Extension Education Store also offers a series of free downloadable food preservation publications entitled Let’s Preserve. Visit edustore.purdue.edu and search keyword preserve. Planning ahead can save you time, money, and frustration with home canning. Make it a happy, successful canning season by getting prepared before your harvest is ready.

If you would like more information on home food preservation and upcoming programs, contact Tonya Short at Purdue Extension Knox County, 812-882-3509 or short43@purdue.edu.

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