Get Ready for Canning Season

By Kate McCarty, Food Systems Professional, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Canning season is just beginning in Maine with some of the summer’s best produce appearing in our gardens and at farmers’ markets: cucumbers and beans for pickling, tomatoes for salsa, and fruit for jams. Now is also a great time to make sure you’re ready for canning and preserving by checking that your equipment is ready to use. Take a few minutes to sort through your canning supplies, identify what you may be missing or need to replace, and pick up some replacements the next time you’re out.

Jars and Lids

First, check your supply of canning jars and lids. Jars can be reused, as long as they are not chipped or cracked, as can screw bands (the ring that holds the lid on the canning jar). Just toss or recycle any bands that are dented or rusted. The dome lid is only recommended for using once, as it may not seal the next time it’s used. We know lids have been difficult to find during the last year due to pandemic-related shortages, so check places like small hardware stores, craft stores, natural food stores, and farm supply stores in addition to big box stores or chain supermarkets.

Inspect Your Canners

Give your boiling water bath canner a once-over and make sure it is free of rust that could lead to weak spots. And did you know that pressure canner dial gauges need to be tested annually for accuracy? UMaine Extension offers a free testing service by appointment, so contact your local Extension office to ensure your dial gauge is helping you to create safe and delicious canned vegetables this year.

Canning Ingredients

Other canning supplies like pectin, canning and pickling salt, vinegar, and spices may be in short supply again this year. Keep an eye out when you’re shopping for these ingredients and grab one or two extra for the season. Try to purchase only what you need, as overbuying will create a shortage for other canners. Most pectins expire after one year, so be sure to check the expiration date before you purchase it and only buy what you plan to use in a year. And remember, you can always freeze your fruits and vegetables if you can’t find the proper supplies for canning.

Utensils and Recipes

Lastly, check to see that your canning utensils (a funnel, headspace measurer, and jar lifter) are still in good working order. And make sure you have your research-based resources on hand so you know your canning recipes have been tested for safety. See below for our recommended food preservation resources. With a little preparation, you’ll be ready for a successful season of capturing our favorite summer flavors for year-round enjoyment.