When summer bounty overflows, break out the canning gear, gather together some friends, and preserve your produce for the months ahead.
Make It a Party
When you make it a party, you’ve not only ensured a social scene, you’ve rustled up some helping hands. And you’ll be glad you did! Canning and preserving are labor intensive activities.
Clear plenty of kitchen counter and table space for people to work. Then divide the tasks: Two people can peel and slice fruit and veggies, one person can wash and sanitize jars, and another can set up a staging area next to the stove with utensils and towels for placing jars before and after filling.
If you’ve harvested so much fresh produce from your garden you don’t know what to do with it all, invite people over to help can, and then give them some jars as thank-you gifts.
Otherwise, invite people to bring their own, but limit the kinds of produce you’ll be canning to a manageable amount. “This Saturday we’ll be canning tomatoes,” for example. If you encourage everyone to bring their favorites, there might not be enough tools or time to get the job done.
You might also consider dividing responsibilities: One person brings the jars; another brings the tomatoes, green beans, or berries; another supplies the big boiling pot, etc. Everyone works together, and then, when the party’s over, the jars are divvied out fair and square.
Canning requires specific tools. Make sure you have the following items on hand:
- One extra-large pot for sterilizing jars and lids
- Five- or six-quart metal or glazed cast-iron pot
- Jar grabbers
- Metal funnel
- Several metal ladles of different sizes
- Jars, lids, and rings
- Paper or cloth towels
Tips for Home Canning
Read your canning recipe carefully to see if ingredients have to be prepped well ahead of time. For example, does your watermelon rind need to soak in brine overnight before you can move on to the pickling process? This essential bit of information could have a big impact on what you choose for your canning party.
Here are some additional tips:
- Use local fruits and vegetables picked at peak ripeness.
- Put lids back to back in the sterilizing pot so they’ll be easier to separate.
- Determine your altitude; processing times are dependent on altitude. For the most up-to-date canning information, contact your local agricultural extension office.
- Use a funnel to fill jars to prevent splashing hot liquids, and to measure fullness.
- Clean rims of filled jars with a towel dipped in hot water so the lids can seal properly.
- Make sure jar lids are tight. If not, return them to boiling water to reseal; if they still don’t seal, refrigerate and eat these first.
- Remove jars from boiling water one-by-one using the jar gripper.
- Date your jars; best to use canned foods within one year of preparation.
- Allow jars to cool 12 hours before storing in boxes.
- If in doubt, throw it out.