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Check Canning Equipment Before Harvest Begins

By Ms. Susan M. Collins-Smith, MSU Extension Service

RAYMOND, Miss. -- Gardeners who want to preserve their abundant harvests by canning should make their list and check it twice -- now, before it’s time to begin canning.

Home canners should be sure they have the right recipes and equipment for the foods they intend to preserve. They should also make sure they inspect all their equipment.

“The canning process is a lot easier when you have the right equipment, plenty of supplies and research-based recipes,” said Janet Jolley, agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Marshall County. “Canning season will go a lot smoother.”

First, check for all needed equipment:

  • boiling-water canner

  • pressure canner

  • canning thermometer

  • approved, threaded, home-canning jars with two-piece lids

  • canning lids and rings

  • canning utensils

  • jar lifter for removing hot jars from a canner

  • big-mouth funnel to help pack foods into jars

  • headspace gauge to ensure the proper distance between the surface of food and underside of the jar lid

  • clean cloth or paper towels to wipe the rims of jars before putting lids on

  • narrow spatula for removing air bubbles from jars

  • magnetic lid wand to help remove metal lids from hot water

Second, inspect all equipment to ensure it is safe to use and that canned items will reach the pressure and temperature to properly seal and kill harmful bacteria that could cause food spoilage or foodborne illness.

Take these steps to check or replace equipment:

  • Inspect the canner:

  • Check the gasket for cracks. Replace if cracks are present.

  • Ensure that petcocks, vents and safety valves are not clogged.

  • Have dial gauge canners tested to make sure they are accurate. Check with the local Extension office for testing availability.

  • Check jars on hand for cracks, and note the sizes available to ensure there are enough.

  • Buy new lids. Never reuse canning lids.

  • Check ring bands for dents and rust. Replace if either or both are present.

  • Check the jar lifter, bubble freer and headspace gauge to ensure they are in proper working order.

  • Ensure there are enough pots and pans for blanching.

  • Check other needed equipment, including knives, vegetable peelers and long-handled spoons.

Jolley points out that some equipment is an absolute necessity to preserve foods properly. Home canners cannot do without a boiling-water canner, a pressure canner, a jar lifter, jars, lids and rings, and a clean cloth or paper towels.

However, some equipment may not be necessary but does make the process easier.

Nonessential items include a canning funnel, a bubble freer and a magnetic lid wand. A plastic knife can be used to release bubbles. Do not use a metal knife. It could damage the jars.

Fran Brock, Extension agent in Oktibbeha County, stressed the importance of using the correct type of canner with the right technique and research-backed recipe.

Boiling-water canners are used to process jams, jellies, preserves and high-acid foods, such as tomatoes and some fruits. A pressure canner is used when processing low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats and seafood.

“To store canned food at room temperature safely, foods must be sealed in an airtight container and must receive sufficient heat processing to kill all microorganisms that can cause spoilage and Botulism poisoning,” said Brock. “You need to use the right equipment, technique and recipe together to achieve this.

“You should always use research-based home canning recipes. These recipes have been tested in a laboratory to give the correct measurements of all ingredients, jar size, meas