Preserving your own food offers rich rewards, from the satisfying “pop” of jar lids sealing to restocking your shelves with jars filled with food. Keeping canned food on hand is super convenient. However, canning can be time-consuming and sometimes costs more than we would have liked. Here are some time and money-saving tips for a successful canning season this year.
If you’re just starting to can, check out these canning books for beginners:
Tip #1: Plan Ahead & Get Organized
Planning and staying organized are essential factors in a successful canning season. It’s a good idea to plan your shopping list ahead of time. Look at your recipe and the total yield you plan to make, then decide how much of each ingredient you will need. This way, you can avoid buying an excess amount of ingredients.
Keep an inventory of your canned foods throughout the year. Keep records of what you made and how much you and your family eat. If you have an excess of something, don’t make as much this year. Then, you won’t have wasted products, and you can make more of what your family likes to eat.
Tip #2: Only Make What You Can Eat
By keeping track of what your family eats in comparison to what you made, you not only get a better idea of how much to make this year but also have the opportunity to use fewer canning jar lids. Most canning equipment is a one-time purchase, and canning jars are fairly long-lasting. But canning lids are an expense you will have each time you do canning. So, try using fewer amounts of jars to use fewer amounts of lids. For example, if you’re making jelly, try using half-pint jars instead of small quarter-cup jars. Or if you usually make applesauce in half-pint jars, put it in pint jars instead. However, it is important to keep in mind how much you can eat once the jar is opened. You wouldn’t want to incur more waste by having spoiled or moldy unused food.
Tip #3: Take Care of Your Canning Supplies
Because most canning supplies can be used again and again, it is important to take good care of your jars, pressure canners, and rings, to prolong their life.
Store your canning jar rings in a dry place to prevent rusting. Unscrew them after canning once the jars have cooled down. They are no longer necessary once the lids have been sealed, and unscrewing them gives you a chance to check that they have been sealed. Once you have unscrewed the rings, wash and store them in a cool, dry place.
Check out these plastic rings that will never rust.
Be careful with your canning jars, because any knicks around the rim will keep the lids from successfully sealing. Carefully inspect your jars to prevent unsealed lids and wasted food. It is also a good idea to warm up your jars before canning to prevent them from breaking when coming in contact with heat or pressure.
Tip #4: Skip the Unnecessary Steps
According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, if you are processing food in a canner for more than 10 minutes, you do not need to sterilize the jars (if your elevation is at or below 1000 feet). You should still clean your jars by washing them in hot, soapy water, but if your processing time is at or above 10 minutes, sterilizing the jars beforehand is an unnecessary step.
Another step that you could skip is heating your jar lids to activate the seal. The Ball® company determined that the sealing compound works equally as well at room temperature as it does pre-heated by simmering in water. All you have to do to prep the lids is clean them by washing them with hot, soapy water.
Tip #5: Find Ingredients at Great Value Prices
You can save a good amount of money by buying your ingredients in bulk. Check around at local markets and produce stands, and compare prices to find the best deal. Or even better, use produce that you have grown yourself in your garden.
Tip #6: Break Up Canning Tasks
If possible, try to do some canning tasks ahead of time. It doesn’t always have to be done in one day. For example, if you are planning to make salsa, chop up your peppers, onions, and garlic a day or two ahead. This will save you some time on the day you make the salsa and process it in the canner.
Tip #7: Keep Extra Parts on Hand (Just in Case)
It would be discouraging to discover that your rubber gasket is worn out just as you’re ready to start processing your food. You can be proactive about this situation by keeping a spare gasket on hand, just in case. It’s also a good idea to keep spare jars and lids on hand if a need for them arises.
Tip #8: Get Some Helpers
Many hands make light work. Get some helpers to make the job go more quickly. Canning with your family or friends can also make the time more enjoyable, which always seems to make time go by more quickly.