Getting Ready for the Canning Season

posted by Andrea | 06/2/2011

Once June rolls around, my mind immediately starts thinking about canning and preserving all the many fruits and vegetables that will soon be available across West Michigan.

My stockpile is running pretty low {the picture above is from last summer} so I’ll most likely be doing a good amount of canning this summer and fall — don’t worry, I’ll share my progress and the delicious recipes!

However, right now, I want to focus on gearing up and getting ready for the canning season — because as you probably know, canning and preserving does take a some organization. It’s not difficult or complicated, I guarantee you can do it, but planning ahead will make is SO much easier and more enjoyable.

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1. Decide what you want to preserve:

Do you love bread and butter pickles? Have you always wanted to preserve cherries, salsa, tomatoes, or a certain type of jam?  If so, then put those things at the top of your list.

I like to make my list from the most important to the least important. For example, I only have a few jars of applesauce left so I will definitely need to put that at the top of my list. I’m also running low on salsa, tomatoes, and raspberry jam. I would love to can cherries and apricots, but those are at the bottom of my list but we don’t “need them” this year.

NOTE: If you’ve never done any canning before, I would suggest starting with jam. It’s one of the easiest and cheapest foods to can… especially if you can get free berries!

Here are a few of my favorite jam recipes — and here’s a microwave jam recipe that you can make in just about 30 minutes!

 

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2. Figure out when the produce is available:

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you exactly when the produce in your area will be available because so much depends on the weather, the natural climate for your area, and even the actual farms.

One good suggestion is to look in your local paper’s Classified Ads because there is usually a “Food” section. Once you start seeing specific fruits and veggie popping up in the Classified Ads, you know it’s available!

Another idea is to search for local orchards or farms in your area and simply ask them when the produce will be available.

One reason it’s important to know when the produce is available is because some of the growing seasons are very short. Last year, the strawberry season in Michigan was only a few weeks, but I could get fresh apples well into the fall and winter months. So I made sure to do strawberries right away and saved apples for when I was less busy.

 

3. Research where you will get your produce:

Will you grow your own, buy from a farmer’s market, get it directly from the farm, or purchase it from the store?

Obviously, the cheapest option is growing your own and the most expensive option is purchasing it from a grocery store, but any form of produce will work.

Yesterday, I talked about all sorts of free summer activities for kids — and if you’re looking for one more, why not find a local U-Pick farm and head out for the morning to pick your own fruit. This is a very economical way to acquire mass amounts of produce and it really doesn’t take as long as you might think. Visit PickYourOwn.org to find U-Pick farms in your area.


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4. Make a date:

Once you know WHAT you want to preserve, WHEN that produce is available, and WHERE you will get it from; then you need to decide on a specific date…and make sure to set that date aside.

For example, I’ll be picking strawberries from a local U-pick farm in a few weeks and the plan is to come right home and start washing and mashing that same day! By the end of the day, I’ll have several of jars of fresh strawberry and strawberry-rhubarb jam.

One thing I really want to stress, is you want to preserve the fruit as soon as possible after you pick it — this locks in more flavor and nutrients.

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5. Enlist some help:

At first, the whole canning process can be a bit overwhelming — but I promise it’s a lot easier with some help.

When I first got married and started canning “on my own” I asked my mom to help me the first few times. Now, a few years later, I can easily do it by myself, but it’s still really nice to have  a little help. So thankfully between my mom, mother-in-law, my grandma, and even Dave {sometimes} I almost always have an extra set of hand to peel, stir, chop, fill jars, or whatever else I need.

 

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6. Gather your supplies:

If you’ve been canning for a while, you probably have everything you need {except the fruit}. If you’re just starting out, you might have to purchase a few things up front; but don’t worry, you’ll be able to reuse them over and over again.

Here’s a very basic list to get you started {and you might be able to find some of these things at garage sales}

  • Canning Jars — there are so many different sizes to choose from
  • Rings & Lids
  • A Canner
  • A few handy tools like a funnel, tongs, etc — I like this 7-piece kit
  • Large pans, bowls, spoons, spatulas, strainers, etc
  • Lots of towels and rags to clean up!

You may also want to ask a friend or relative if you can borrow some of their equipment before you make a large investment.

7. Be realistic:

Even if you are a seasoned “canner” it’s still wise to be realistic with the amount of time and resources you have available. Canning is definitely NOT as difficult or as time consuming as most people think, but it still requires a chunk of focused time — or many chunks of focused time, depending on how many different foods you want to preserve.

Every year I make my list of foods I want to preserve and every year, there are always a few things that I don’t follow through with. Life happens, we get busy, we go on vacation, or something else comes up and then it’s too late. Oh well, there’s always next year… right?

 

Here are some of the recipes and resource I’ve posted already:

I’ll hopefully be adding several more to this list over the next few months!

Will you do any canning this year? What items are on your list?

Visit my virtual recipe box for more simple, delicious, family friendly, recipes!

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Filed under: FoodPreserving

 
 

18 comments

  1. Dorothy

    06/02/2011

    I just started canning last summer, but my mom & g’ma both canned extensively =) I plan on canning dill pickles, applesauce, salsa, pears, peaches, tomato sauce, pizza sauce, and freezing green beans/corn/peas. Whew! Thanks goodness we live in MI to have access to great local produce!!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Wow — that’s quite a list, but I’m confident you can do it!! There is nothing better than opening up a fresh jar of home-canned produce on a cold winter day.

    [Reply]

  2. Cassie

    06/02/2011

    I so want to learn how to can. Maybe I will do that this summer. Great post! :)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Just start small — with ONE thing. Jam is pretty easy and also tomatoes are almost fool proof {here’s my tomato recipe}

    [Reply]

    Cassie Reply:

    I think I will try Jam. I’ve heard that’s what alot of people start with. Wish me luck. :)

    [Reply]

  3. Tammy

    06/02/2011

    I want to learn to do this but I’m not sure I’ll start til the fall, we just moved across the country a couple of months ago so I have a list of summer goals already. I’m so glad you shared though, definitely coming back to this.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, definitely wait until you have more time — and there is TONS of produce available in the fall. Also, if you really want to preserve jam, you could alway get the berries now and just freeze them until you’re ready to can them in the fall. http://www.simpleorganizedliving.com/wp-admin/edit-comments.php#comments-form

    [Reply]

  4. Kristen

    06/02/2011

    I just started canning last year – blackberry jam and salsa – so am ready to add something new to my canning list. Applesauce, I think it will be, in addition to more salsa. Perhaps green beans if the ground ever dries enough for me to get them planted. You’ve done a great job with all your canning resources!

    [Reply]

  5. Janet

    06/02/2011

    I have a canning question. I made jam and pickled beets last year. Want to try more this year. I just read something online about canning on a glass flat top stove not being a good idea. I saw it while looking for canning supplies. When I searched for more information it had to do with the pan not being more than 2 inches bigger than the burner and the weight. Do you know anything about this? Anyone have any experience with this?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Janet,
    Gas stoves are better for canning, but only because they boil the water faster. In our old house, I canned with a flat glass-top stove for 5 summers. It takes a little longer for the water in the canner to come to a boil, but once it’s boiling you process it for the same time as you would on a gas stove.

    My mom has actually been canning on a glass-top stove for over 10 years now and she’s never had one problem. I wouldn’t worry about it at all!

    [Reply]

    Melissa Reply:

    I don’t mean to scare you but I wanted you to know that I have a friend who has been canning for a lot of years and had to replace his stove because it was a glass top. I don’t know how many years he used it before it happened but I know that was not his first year with it. Andrea and her mom’s experience sounds encouraging so you may be fine but I wanted to say this so you could take it all into account.

    [Reply]

  6. Dawn

    06/02/2011

    Thanks for the great info! I want to learn to preserve food but it all seems so overwhelming. This list really helps break it down. I dehydrate and freeze a lot but have to learn to do this.

    [Reply]

  7. Jen @ BigBinder

    06/03/2011

    I love canning!! Strawberry season was so short last year and we were out of town for 1 weekend and missed it – my husband said that we cannot take vacations until I have “a bunch of jam on the shelves” because he is not eating that store bought stuff for another year :)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Seriously — it WAS such a short strawberry season last year. I was able to get one batch of strawberry and one batch of strawberry ruhbarb canned before the season “stopped” and that’s definitely enough for use…but I’ll be doing more this year!

    And your husband is right, store-bought jam is nasty compare to the homemade stuff :)

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  8. Emily

    06/05/2011

    Yay for Michigan berries! I’ve been watching our farmers market for strawberries to appear. We go through strawberry freezer jam around here so fast! Happy canning!

    [Reply]

  9. Elysia

    08/01/2012

    I really REALLY want to learn to can stuff, and make jam, plus maybe even extra for christmas presents! but it all depends on if my chronic pain settles down long enough. For now I’ll imagine it in theory :)

    [Reply]

  10. Michaela

    08/01/2013

    Andrea, may I ask if you have a recipe for your salsa? and since I’m still new to canning are you able to can any type of salsa? I’m thinking about sweet corn and pepper salsa.

    [Reply]

  11. Sarah

    08/02/2013

    You didn’t mention if these are for pressure cookers or water baths. I can all sorts of tomato products with my water bath. Are the other fruits/veggies you posted for water baths too? Can’t wait to see your next post on canning! Now if only I had a better and larger pantry for all my canned goods, things would be more organized for me too!

    [Reply]

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